Is wasei-eigo or wasei-kango looked down upon by Japanese language purists (as opposed to English or Chinese purists!) as informal, inauthentic, incorrect or the like?

  • 1
    What is ‘wasei-kago’? Did you mean ‘wasei-kango’ (和製漢語)? The word 華語 is not used in Japanese and is uncommon in Chinese.
    – Zhen Lin
    Aug 17, 2011 at 9:10
  • @zhen Li: Sorry, I meant wasei-kango. Aug 17, 2011 at 9:38
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    I usually look down on it (but I'm American). I often ask my friends "How do you say X in Japanese?" and they'll just tell me the wasei answer. I get kind of annoyed and say, "No, the REAL Japanese word." I think in some cases though, the wasei IS the only word that exists. Like for skunk.
    – istrasci
    Aug 17, 2011 at 14:27
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    @istrasci I think you are confusing wasei-eigo (words created out of Japanese words/morphemes of English origin) with gairaigo (Japanese words borrowed from non-Chinese) or a mere katakana transcription of a non-Chinese word.
    – user458
    Aug 17, 2011 at 16:01
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    @sawa - Yes, I was inadvertently overlapping the two. Thanks for pointing that out. Then I think I always look down on 和製英語 because it's usually very stupid and the meaning not close to the English meaning.
    – istrasci
    Aug 17, 2011 at 16:15

4 Answers 4


I think most people don't even know whether a word is wasei-eigo. Just to give you a sense, there are plenty of people who think パン, バイト, and アベック come from English. I think most won't care if they find that out (which they do because sometimes the TV discusses this. For most people it's just another trivia). Just think about how popular ルー大柴 was ;)

I'm sure there are "purists" who somehow look down on wasei-eigo, but you can find extremists for everything. It's certainly no where common.

I heard some teachers argue that the use of wasei-eigo is detrimental to learning English, but that's not "looking down" IMO.

  • I don't understand how English is relevant to your examples. パン comes from Portuguese, バイト from German, and アベック from French.
    – user458
    Aug 17, 2011 at 13:02
  • @sawa: same difference: aren't Portuguese, German and French just local dialects of English? / sarcasm (in fact, such a mish-mash would underscore the level of ignorance) Aug 17, 2011 at 13:46
  • @sawa: Yeah I know. Just as examples that ppl don't care about the origins. Aug 17, 2011 at 13:57
  • @Enno Wasei-eigo is a Japanese word created out of Japanese words/morphemes borrowed from English. If it cannot be decomposed to at least two parts, it would not even be a candidate for wasei-eigo. And, though the English origin of the component words are relevant, nothing is directly English.
    – user458
    Aug 17, 2011 at 14:07
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    @sawa: Yeah I know.. I deliberately gave a different example than wasei eigo to signify the fact how people don't care (not only do they not care whether the phrase is correct in that language, but they even don't care what language it is in the first place). I thought it was clever but looks like it was just confusing :( Aug 17, 2011 at 15:26

I agree with Enno Shioji that wasei-eigo is looked down upon by some people just as anything is looked down upon by someone. I just want to add that in some cases, the standard way to express some notion is by using wasei-eigo, and avoiding wasei-eigo is impossible.

For example, baseball terminology in Japanese is full of wasei-eigo: フォアボール (base on balls), デッドボール (hit by pitch), タッチアウト (tag out), ランニングホームラン (inside-the-park home run), and so on. If someone tries to avoid wasei-eigo and replaces, say, ランニングホームラン with “インサイドパークホームラン” or “インサイドザパークホームラン,” the word would mean nothing to most Japanese speakers.

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    Not to mention "leftover", which has a another meaning in English! Aug 23, 2011 at 2:18
  • What about wasei-kango, such as kagaku? Does wasei-kango being older make it less "looked down" upon? Aug 23, 2011 at 2:27
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    @Andrew: I guess so, but I am not sure. Even if someone wants to avoid wasei-kango, I guess that it is even harder to avoid them than avoiding wasei-eigo. Aug 23, 2011 at 2:33
  • During the World War II, most gairaigo and wasei-eigo were excluded. For baseball terms, especially in written form, the non-gairaigo words are still used.
    – user458
    Dec 4, 2011 at 15:58
  • I had no idea 'dead ball' was Wasei-Eigo (but then, I'm only familiar with Japanese baseball).
    – Angelos
    Jul 21, 2015 at 13:03

I think they look down on loanwords which replace the local words which were in normal usage. I don't think think they'd have anything against words like パン or バス (the vehicle one). Rather it's words like バス (the bathtub. 風呂) or マイカー (自分の車. 我が車? 我車?). It makes you want to exclaim "Why the heck are you using such fancy words when there is already a word to describe that? You want to look ナウい huh?"

If one is too exposed to such words to the extent it causes repugnance, it leads to extremism, rejecting even loanwords with no viable replacements, where they will create the replacement using local words. Thus, 「外来語」言い換え提案 (Gairaigo Iikae Teian) was born. Ooohhh, I'm so gonna get flak from them for labeling them extremists!

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    I googled "Gairaigo Iikae Teian", and got hits mentioning that the Kokuritsu kokugo kenkyujo were involved with it. That's a rather unforunate acronym! Aug 25, 2011 at 7:39
  • @Andrew OMG what have you done, now they're coming to get you too! wwww
    – syockit
    Aug 25, 2011 at 7:42

I look down on non-Japanese native people learning Japanese who think that, whenever they don't know how to say something in Japanese, they can transcribe the English word in katakana and will work. Sometimes it may work, but they should not rely on that.

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    How about the native Japanese speakers who think that way? (“コンテイジョン”? Seriously??) Nov 29, 2011 at 20:47
  • Are you annoyed because it's false, or are you annoyed because it's sometimes true? Also, was this answer triggered by my milk question? Nov 29, 2011 at 21:45
  • @Grimm I don't know why you are asking that, but I am not annoyed, nor is this related to the milk question.
    – user458
    Nov 29, 2011 at 21:58
  • @TsuyoshiIto I look down on native Japanese speakers doing the same, but I observe this with non-native speakers much more often. I don't get what you wrote inside the parentheses.
    – user458
    Nov 29, 2011 at 22:00
  • @sawa: I misinterpreted "look down upon" as "annoyed". WRT コンテイジョン, I assume Tsuyoshi Ito is referring to the movie. Nov 29, 2011 at 22:11

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