This recent question introduced me to the concepts of 外来語【がいらいご】, defined as foreign words not originating from Chinese, and 和製英語【わせいえいご】, which are English constructions that were made in Japan.

According to the above links, the word レンジ is considered a 外来語 because it is derived from the English word "range", which is an old-fashioned way of talking about a stove.

What happens when a 外来語 is combined with another word to form a compound word?

For example, ガスレンジ is a gas stove, not a "gas range" in English. Is this an example of 和製英語?

電子レンジ combines a 外来語 with a kanji-compound. Is this still considered 外来語? Or, is there some other classification for words like this?

2 Answers 2


After reviewing Wikipedia article 語種, which states that a word is either 和語【わご】, 漢語【かんご】, 外来語, or 混種語【こんしゅご】, I can safely answer that 電子レンジ belongs to 混種語 group.

A 混種語 (mixed type word) is a combination of two or more words (hence, is also a 複合語【ふくごうご】) of differing categories 和語, 漢語, 外来語.

  • 和語: native Japanese, which include most 動詞 and 形容詞. Includes 固有語【こゆうご】.
  • 漢語: borrowed from ancient China
  • 外来語: borrowed from other than above. Includes 和製外来語, which includes 和製英語.

There are two component words in 電子レンジ: 電子 and レンジ.

  • 電子: 漢語
  • レンジ: 外来語 which is corrupted to 和製英語 by usage, see my old answer below for my postulation.

Old answer:

Methinks it's classified as compound word (複合語). The words in a compound can be of any origin, and of any class (verb, noun), so it's difficult to say if a compound like 電子レンジ is 和製英語 or not. Maybe you can classify as:

  • "purely 外来語": ガスレンジ,高等学校
  • "purely 固有語": 夜明け, 旅立つ
  • can't think of pure compound 和製英語, because words like ボールペン in my opinion is considered as one word in Japanese. I don't know if ノートパソコン qualifies, as パソコン is a contraction rather than a 和製英語.
  • "mixed": 電子レンジ, ビニール袋

Interesting to note here is that although words like レンジ and ビニール are originally 外来語, their usage in such compounds may "corrupt" them into 和製英語 (e.g. レンジ in 電子レンジ is actually oven, and ビニール in ビニール袋 is just plastic). In that case, classifying ガスレンジ as "purely 外来語" might be controversial.

  • 2
    Why is 高等学校 a gairaigo? ノートパソコン is a wasei-eigo because the corresponding English is not note(book) (personal) computer but is rather laptop computer.
    – user458
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 12:33
  • 1
    @sawa I was mistaken about 高等学校 being 外来語, because I thought everything non-固有語 is 外来語. Then I just found out yet another category: 借用後 (which is a superset of 外来語), which has another subcategory 漢語 (which 高等学校 belongs to). BTW, ノートパソコン might be a compound, coming from the word ノート (和製英語) and パソコン (contraction of 外来語), assuming they made up the word without referring to the English word "notebook computer".
    – syockit
    Commented Aug 19, 2011 at 19:23

There is a disagreement between Troyen and Derek, and I am not sure to determine which is correct, so I will give two possibilities: If it is the case, as you suggest, that there is no (compound) word as gas range in English, then ガスレンジ would be an instance of 和製英語. If on the other hand, as Derek suggests, an English compound word gas range was incorporated into Japanese as one unit, then it would be 外来語.

Schema of complex gairaigo vs. wasei-eigo

  • gairaigo

    base (English) + ball (English) → baseball (English) → ベースボール (Japanese)

  • wasei-eigo

    American (English) → アメリカン (Japanese)
    coffee (English) → コーヒー (Japanese)
    アメリカン (Japanese) + コーヒー (Japanese) → アメリカンコーヒー (Japanese)

電子レンジ is not a 外来語.

  • 2
    Actually, "gas range" is perfectly valid in English. Both "range" and "stove" are used to refer to the same thing. There is probably a regional differentiation, much in the way people from different areas use "soda", "pop", and "coke" to refer to fizzy drinks. So ガスレンジ probably came directly from "gas range" and ストーブ got used to refer to a gas-powered space heater. The interesting bit in this question is why 電子レンジ is 電子レンジ and not something else, like エレキレンジ (a la エレキギター). Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 5:24
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    @Derek If that is the case, then my answer would be inappropriate. 電子レンジ is one of the strange examples; it is not directly related to electron, but it is called like that. Similarly strange example is ビニール袋 'plastic bag', whose first part comes from 'vinyl' even though it is actually made of low density polyethyrene or nylon, and seldom vinyl.
    – user458
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 5:38
  • Actually, if anything エレキギター is the odd one out -- outside of Edo/Meiji usage and some specialised fields, エレキ is so strongly associated with the instrument that the ギター is optional. My guess is that 電子 established itself as the default early, but was uniquely rejected for the instrument because English felt cooler than 漢語.
    – Matt
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 10:14

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