This has been bothering me for a long time. I'm not sure which words are used in Japan in modern times for refering to things like sex, cursing, and going to the bathroom, and I don't know of a good source to learn these things from. I haven't been able to find any non-blog-esque sources.

Moreover, even if a source tells me that the word for sex or going to the bathroom are loan words, I'm left wondering what the words for these ideas were before the usage of the loan words.

The fact that these ideas must have existed before Western influence makes me think that I'm missing something.

  • I don't go looking for words like this typically, but there are labels in the Jisho dictionary system that tell you what words are used when. WARNING: VULGAR ENTRY Here are some examples of the first ones that came to mind: jisho.org/search/manko jisho.org/search/%E3%81%A1%E3%82%93%E3%81%A1%E3%82%93
    – Pleiades
    Jan 17, 2016 at 21:07
  • I don't see the labels you speak of. Where are they?
    – Bob
    Jan 17, 2016 at 21:14
  • They're in a lighter colored font beneath or on the side of the definitions of the words in question. On the マンコ entry, there's a grey colored notation that tells you this is a vulgar slang word.
    – Pleiades
    Jan 17, 2016 at 21:30
  • 1
    @Earthliŋ I'm not really quite sure how to- I understand it's vague but I only have a vague understanding of my lack of understanding. Specifically, why have I not heard words for going to the bathroom besides toire ni iku, and why have I not words for sex besides sekkusu? I can believe that these words are used most frequently, but certainly there must be other words not of Western influence that are used?
    – Bob
    Jan 18, 2016 at 20:13
  • 2
    隠語大辞典 Aug 20, 2016 at 6:01

2 Answers 2


Loaner words have definitely taken a big bite out of Japanese, but the tried-and-true original words are always around. Unless reference is being made to a concept that truly was not around in times before Western influence (like the television, or computer, etc.), there will always be an original phrase or word that was used first and may still be more polite or formal to use.

As far as understanding vocabulary with regards to more taboo (for lack of a better word) subjects, the solution for you is to go more scientific when you're searching for a word. There are absolutely words for using the restroom which may seem avoided simply because there is little reason to use them in daily conversation and they may cause discomfort.

I.e., imagine telling your friend very directly, "I am going to the bathroom to urinate." Most would rather say something vague like "I'm going to the restroom/the men's room/the ladies' room" or back in the day, the classic "I need to powder my nose." Some of us are more comfortable with directly expressing that we are going to "take a piss" or "have to pee" and the like, but in Japanese you will see that sort of directness in relation to vulgar topics only in the younger crowd or very, very close friends/siblings.

Curse words are of course very present, often the same as you can expect from the English language--vulgar references to people, excrement, and the like--and a few surprises that are perhaps a bit more ancient that involve corpses. But curse words are again more of the young in their use, or used in expressing solitary frustration. If you want to be rude, you might just go for a few subtle jabs by changing your conjugations. Or it's always fun to speak excessive keigo when you want to insult someone as it then comes off as sarcastic, "yes, your majesty"-esque. Honestly, rather than cursing at someone, it's more common to just speak more rudely to them, or just alter the way you say "you".

As for more sexual concepts, believe me the words are there. There will be more technical or scientific words, and there will be artistic innuendo-laced phrases that protect Japanese subtlety (usually involving sharing pillows), and there will be much more to-the-point verbs like penetration or whatnot.

Modern Japanese loves its loaner words but it also loves its subtlety and its tradition. The words are there if you get yourself a good dictionary and study up. I recommend the app "imiwa?" because it more than covers any and all of your questions about the versatility of the language and has a wide array of words and idioms spanning history.


I have no proper source to back this up, but what I've come to understand over time is that because of the respectful nature of Japanese culture, the language reflects this by not having straightforward words for these sorts of things. It's just sort of implied in context. For things like cursing, I believe people would just insult in a different way, rather than using a certain word set.

  • While indirection is a valid method for expressing vulgarity, that phenomenon occurs in English and other languages just as often. The Japanese lexicon has a host of vulgar, sexist, racist, and violent words, like any major human language. Just check 2chan if you want examples. Dec 24, 2016 at 19:56

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