Sometimes, a single foreign word or etymologically related words from different dialects/related languages is/are incorporated into Japanese with different transcriptions/pronouncations and often different meanings. The most obvious and systematic ones are the different on-yomi's assigned to a single kanji, which came from different ancient dialects of Chinese.

明 (みん, めい, みょう)

Besides kanji, there are some with gairaigo:

ガラス < glas (Dutch) 'glass, glass window'
グラス < glass (English) 'glass cup'

コップ < kop (Dutch) 'cup'
カップ < cup (English) 'trophy cup'

Are there any other examples of gairaigo groups like this?

I would like to exclude those that are due to 平板化 (deaccentation) such as the following:

クラブ (KUrabu) < club (English) 'club activities before/after school'
クラブ (kuRABU) < id. 'host(ess) club'

ゲーム (GEemu) < game (English) 'game'
ゲーム (geEMU) < id. 'video game'

  • 1
    Just personal speculation: Pizza → ピザ (via English maybe?), ピッツァ (via Italian) Commented Sep 26, 2011 at 5:26
  • kuRABU. Now that I think of it, it makes sense :)
    – Axioplase
    Commented Oct 10, 2011 at 4:25

6 Answers 6


Here are a few:

  • truck → トロッコ (on rails), トラック (lorry)
  • English → イギリス (via Portuguese "Inglez"), イングリッシュ
  • letter → レッテル ("label", via Dutch), レター (letter, e.g. love letter)
  • gear → ギヤ (gear, mechanical), ギア (gear = equipment [and less often, mechanical gear])
  • chocolat(e) → ショコラ (via French), チョコレート (via English)
  • curry → カレー, カリー
  • 1
    +1 for making me realise that イギリス comes from Inglez. I never realised Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 13:13

I was recently told about a word with three different transcriptions with three different usages, which I cannot help sharing!

かるた (usually a specific kind of playing cards) < carta (Portuguese)
カルテ (a medical record) < Karte (German)
カード (a card; a rectangular sheet, usually of paper) < card (English)


Yay! Fun question (and I'm like half a year late)! I thought of a couple

ゴム rubber, from Dutch gom
ガム chewing gum, from English gum

ストライク strike as in baseball
ストライキ strike as in workers refusing to work

アイアン iron as in golf
アイロン iron as in ironing shirts


ビール Beer (English?)
ビアガーデン Beer garden (English via German)


dainichi's answer アイアン and アイロン reminded me of this:

マシン 'machine' as in マシン語 'machine language' < machine (English)
ミシン 'sewing machine' < machine (English)

メリケン 'American' as in メリケン粉 'flour' < American (English)
アメリカン 'American' < American (English)


Buffet, which is usually バイキング (baikingu = viking), is sometimes represented as ビュッフェ (usually in on-train buffets) or as バフェ (in Okinawa only, which has a large US military presence), according to Katakana Mysteries: 6 loan words Japan got wrong.

Wiktionary gives キャラメル and カラメル for caramel.

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