from what i can tell, it shares the same meaning in chinese. shouldnt a phone be written in katakana?

  • Yes, you are right, it has the same meaning. Could you tell us why do you think it should be written in katakana? And when?
    – macraf
    Oct 6, 2015 at 6:06

1 Answer 1


電話 is a Japanese word, and really, it's not でんわ - it's 電話. I'm assuming that you are referring to how the word would be written when not using kanji. Yes, it uses the same characters as modern Chinese and the pronunciation is similar, but it's not considered 外来語, a foreign loan word. By your logic any word that has the same kanji as Chinese should be written in katakana. I suppose a case could be made for this, and it is true that 音読み in reference materials are written with katakana, but this distinction in normal use is more reserved for words that would traditionally be considered foreign in origin. For example, you can write 拉麺 but usually it will be ラーメン.

There are also words that use the 音読み of kanji that are of Japanese origin. Would you say they should be written in katakana as well?

  • Arent phones foreign in origin? I get how ラーメン is in katakana so phones should be foreign as well?
    – russell
    Oct 6, 2015 at 6:26
  • 4
    @russell 電話 is 和製漢語. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wasei-kango#Meiji_Restoration
    – chocolate
    Oct 6, 2015 at 6:34
  • @russel There are hundreds of places where ramen is written in hiragana google.co.jp/…
    – macraf
    Oct 6, 2015 at 6:37
  • 1
    @russell While telephones themselves might be foreign conceptually, we are more concerned with the origin of the word itself.
    – ssb
    Oct 6, 2015 at 6:42

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .