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


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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    +1 for making me laugh – user3856370 Mar 16 '17 at 19:28
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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 Mar 17 '17 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 Mar 17 '17 at 5:43
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    @Tommy 手淫 is probably the most common Sino-Japanese synonym. – Casey Mar 17 '17 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. – SliderBlackrose Mar 17 '17 at 13:49

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

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