I'm trying to figure out where the term イギリス for the United Kingdom came from.

I suspect 英国【えいこく】 because they sound similar, but that seems a bit odd as Katakana words are usually loan words.

  • 2
    Related: イングランド vs. イギリス vs. 英国
    – blutorange
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 8:06
  • @blutorange not just related, but the question is also answered there
    – Kimball
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 8:45
  • @Kimball Hmm, that's an interesting case. The question is not a duplicate (it's asking about the usage between these words), but one answer addresses the etymology as well. To make it even more complicated, the question body contains it as a bonus question... :< I'd still say this shouldn't be closed as a duplicate of that answer because it's probably not as easy to find when searching for the etymology of イギリス. (?)
    – blutorange
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 9:06
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    Opened a discussion on meta.
    – blutorange
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 11:05
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    I would argue that this question is more specific and does provide some semblance of a source (as the question is specifically etymology). I don't intent to imply that my answer has anything to do my opinion, just that I feel this is asking a more focussed question. Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 0:06

1 Answer 1


After further research I can say that in fact, イギリス actually came from Portuguese and first appeared in the 日葡辞書【にっぽじしょ】 (Vocabulario da Lingoa de Iapam) compiled by a Jesuit Missionary in Nagasaki in 1603, the start of the Edo Period. It came from the Portuguese word inglês which would have been pronounced イグレス and after interactions with Great Britain, the word changed from イグレス to イギリス.

Sometimes you can hear an alternative explanation, such as here on chiebukuro (Japanese). According to this link, イギリス came from the Dutch word (knowing no Dutch I assume to be a variant of Engels) which in Japanese was for some reason pronounced エゲリス. The interactions with the Dutch when discussing England happened during the Edo Period (AD1603 - AD1868) and after interactions with Great Britain, the word would have changed from エグリス to イギリス。

However, reflecting my research above, the person responding to the question at chiebukuro appears to be wrong.

For reference, the original explanation from chiebukuro:


  • It is considered that the word "イギリス" came from the Portuguese word "Inglez", not Dutch. dictionary.goo.ne.jp/leaf/jn2/10524/m0u
    – marasai
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 6:18
  • Your link only expressly defines English Bread (イギリスパン) as taken from Portuguese not the actual word イギリス on it's own. In fact, the first definition on the page states a Dutch connection whereas the English Bread article features no distinct time as to it's introduction. Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 6:28
  • You should read a bolded headword. It clearly says "イギリス【(ポルトガル)Inglêz】".
    – marasai
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 6:33
  • I did, the bolded 'headword' is イギリスパン. The definition (without a date as to it's first use) is 《(和)Inglêz(ポルトガル)+pão(ポルトガル)》. But nowhere does it say that was the ORIGIN of the word イギリス. It could be coincidental that words match when written in カタカナ like home ホーム and form ホーム. Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 6:37
  • I'm afraid you have not. You've only read an example. imgur.com/m3862KO And this is the loanword manual of the dictionary. It says 「外来語については、日本に直接伝来したと考えられる原語を【 】内に掲げ、その言語名を付記した。」.
    – marasai
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 7:28

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