Warning! This question contains at least one, possibly, derogatory word. I apologise if readers are offended.

A friend of mine asked me to translate a passage from a poem in British English into Japanese, and I'm having a little trouble with slang and phrases used in it, particularly the words Dyke and Femme. I asked the friend I'm translating it for, and she confirmed that these words are used in the following contextual meaning:

Dyke "masculine lesbian"
Femme "feminine lesbian"

Are there any specific words or phrases that I can use to convey the contextual meaning of these words in my translation? I'm aiming for informal Japanese in my translation. I figured that it would be easier to translate from informal English into informal Japanese. Plus, I doubt that there are any formal derogatory terms for the words I'm stuck on.

I'm using Oxford Japanese-English Dictionary and the dictionary built into JWP-ce. I realise that some words and phrases are difficult to translate from one language to another, and I also realise that some things aren't going to translate at all.

  • You may find a few clues here: ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – Dono
    Mar 2, 2012 at 9:56
  • Thanks for the link. I have no idea why I didn't check Wikipedia *first. I was going to use ダイク before posting the question on here, but thought there might have been a better way to put it across (rather than just, for want of a better word, Katakana-ising "Dyke"). Mar 2, 2012 at 11:12
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    The normal words to use would be 「ねこ」 and 「たち」, but they indicate the dominant partner in the relationship rather than the gender roles. Mar 2, 2012 at 14:17
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    I'm not an expert, but isn't "butch" more specifically a masculine lesbian, whereas "dyke" is more any kind of lesbian?
    – Golden Cuy
    Mar 3, 2012 at 11:27
  • @IgnacioVazquez-Abrams, they don't necessarily indicate "gender roles" in English, either. I know a few lesbians who would bristle at the suggestion of applying "gender roles" to their relationships. Mar 6, 2012 at 10:08

2 Answers 2


I haven't talked to my lesbian friend in a long time, but I'll offer some words from my memory and from "Japanese Street Slang," by Peter Constantine.

レズ - This corresponds to the English dyke, or lesbian. I think it has more of a "dyke" butch feel to it than just plain old lesbian.

おたち - "The Japanese equivalent of 'bull dyke', used in lesbian circles, and originally deriving from a term from Kabuki theater たちやく, which designates the sturdy, masculine role".

ねこ、ねんね - "Cat" and "Girly", both derived from homosexual male street slang, meaning passive homosexuals or femme lesbians. (last two answers paraphrased from "Japanese Street Slang")

I am not familiar with the proper spelling or usage of the last three words, so any other information provided would be appreciated.

  • 1
    Is it (お)たち as in 太刀? That implies some rather violent sexual imagery o_O Mar 6, 2012 at 10:12
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    @KarlKnechtel I believe so, but this slang originally referred to a the dominant role in male homosexual relations, so it's not so much violent imagery as a direct physical metaphor, if you know what I mean.
    – ジョン
    Apr 27, 2012 at 0:48
  • @KarlKnechtel The English word "vagina", which was originally designed to be a polite replacement of existing words, is from the Latin for "sheath".
    – Golden Cuy
    Dec 3, 2012 at 12:11

I can only offer this:

  • レズビアンの男役 literally meaning "male role" in a lesbian pair

I suppose we could synthesise レズビアンの女役 for the "female role" but I'm not sure if 女役 is a recognized compound. Either that or レズビアン is by default referring to the female role, and the male role has to be specified. (I am entirely unsure on this so it'll be good if someone could confirm this)


  • ダイク

  • フェム/ファム

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