Most of the time, I can guess correctly how to write an english Gairaigo word in katakana. When I am mistaken, I understand the correct writing and learn from it. Some feel a bit odd, but with time I get used to it. I find it very interesting how the english sounds are twisted to fit in the japanese style.

But this one got me puzzled. For the word "boyfriend", the transliteration of choice is ボーイフレンド, which feels very awkward for me. I was expecting ボイフレンド instead, but that gets only 34 thousand hits on Google Japanese, while the former has about 8 million hits.

As a comparison, I am fine with the long vowels in the following examples:

  • Girl: ガール
  • Answer: アンサー
  • Ball: ボール
  • Party: パーティー
  • Elevator: エレベーター

My question is, is it just my intuition that is wrong, or is there something else behind this? Maybe some sort of linguistic phenomenon such as Metathesis or Malapropism? Maybe someone misspelled it at the first time and people ended up using it anyway?

If it is just my intuition that is wrong, that would totally be a valid answer, although quite embarassing... I am expecting something else for this specific word because it seems weirder than usual. By the way, English is not my first language (nor Japanese, of course).

  • 1
    I think stressed vowels in English words tend to have long vowels in the borrowed Japanese word, but there are no rules to follow so the answer might be just because it is.
    – Blavius
    Commented Aug 1, 2016 at 23:30
  • 1
    Related, but for the opposite sex: japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/15752/…
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Jun 15, 2017 at 11:11

2 Answers 2


There are not strict correspondences of phoneme between the original English words and Katakana in Japanese.

You can often see these examples as below.
- joy -> ジョイ (not *ジョーイ)
- toy -> トイ (not *トーイ)

So it is no wonder you think boy is written as ボイ.

However, ボイ appears much less than ボーイ.
That is because ボーイ is recognized as just a Japanese word.


Keep in mind that some words that you may think come from the english language, can have been borrowed from languages like german, french, italian or dutch. In sweden we have lots of imported words that sound very similar in english, but that actually come from french and german roots. I'm sure there are plenty of similar cases in the Japanese language, where you have words that have been adopted by both the japanese and english language, and they both end up sounding different from the original language.

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