I know what the term means, just curious about the katakana spelling.

2 Answers 2


More specifically, オナニー is from German Onanie. Interestingly, German apparently borrowed the term from older English onania (per Duden's etymology here), which in turn was a derivation of the name Onan from the Biblical story mentioned by user Nothing at all. As a relatively recent non-native borrowed term, オナニー is thus written in katakana.

(Incidentally, Japanese learners quickly figure out the use of o- as an honorific prefix. Do not use this prefix when asking someone in Japanese, "what shall we do?")

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    This in turns makes me wonder.. What was the word used before this one was introduced? I believe what we're talking about here is way older than katakana! :D
    – Tommy
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 2:40
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    There are a few words for it, in fact. My high school teacher taught us one in particular, through telling a story about a Japanese teacher who was confused on hearing that someone was likely to be a "shoe in" in a sports event.
    – ConMan
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 5:43
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    @Tommy 手淫 is probably the most common Sino-Japanese synonym.
    – Casey
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 13:49
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    I asked this same question of my Japanese teacher this week, and I'm glad to (again) get a great answer. Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 13:49
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    A japanese person would distinguish from the intonation if it is an honorific prefix or not. Still, you made me laugh! ... And, still, it is better to avoid. It is, however, odd that the word is used in the modern way as Onans sin was coitus interruptus. He refused to make his brothers widow pregnant, which was his duty as his brother, at the time of his death, had no son. The whole story is quite intriguing.
    – Serafim
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 17:00

It's derived from the Biblical story of Onan, which would mean its origin is foreign.

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