I have seen かたつむり and でんでんむし and ででむし listed as "snail." What are the differences between these words?

1 Answer 1


They are dialectal forms, but it could be said that three synonymous forms かたつむり, でんでんむし, and まいまい have gained more or less nation-wide recognition today. The situation is somehow similar to that "soda/pop/coke" tripartition in USA.

The name of snail has been a signature of Japanese dialectology since the pioneering work 『蝸牛考』 written in 1930 by Kunio Yanagida. The summary of this book is that dialectal forms distribute in concentric circles from Kyoto, so that the remotest place maintains the oldest form.

(newer/nearer to Kyoto → older/farther)
デデムシ > マイマイ > カタツムリ > ツブリ > ナメクジ (source)

A very detailed survey on word forms of "snail" conducted by 国立国語研究所 was compiled into three atlas (No. 1, 2, 3) if you seek further understanding. (Tons of local forms recorded.)

I (and most people living in Tokyo) would use かたつむり most often.

  • broccoli forest: >dialectal forms distribute in a concentric circle from Kyoto, so that the remotest place maintains the oldest form.--Very interesting and clever method to infer the fact by going back in time just like one in search of what was just after the Big Bang.
    – user20624
    Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 7:23
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    the same sort of reasoning is widely used in dialectology worldwide, and it has been used to argue that Kyoto-type pitch accent is actually newer than Tokyo-type, not older as commonly claimed (so-called "Kantō-type" is also present west of Kansai, spreading outwardly in concentric circles, going as far as Kyūshū and Tōhoku; even certain isolated mountain villages within Kyoto use it). Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 8:16
  • 3
    I think I just understood why my wife calls me a "コタツムリ"... Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 0:16

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