What is the etymology of the word バックシャン? I understand it commonly refers to a woman beautiful only from behind. See this definition-

女性のうしろ姿が均整がとれて美しいこと。また、その女性。多く、前から見ると失望するような 場合にいう。

I understand the back/バック part, but is the シャン a version of ちゃん? When did it come into common usage?


It is a compound of English "back" and German "schön" ("beautiful").

  • that's interesting- do u know how old it is?
    – yadokari
    May 27 '12 at 1:31
  • 1
    Around 1927. It was popular during early Shōwa. Not used much anymore and many younger people will not understand it. By the way, an even older word is 一石六斗 (ikkoku rokuto), c. 1681.
    – Dono
    May 27 '12 at 1:41
  • Could you explain that one as well? I have no idea ~
    – yadokari
    May 27 '12 at 1:57
  • 3
    Sure. When one is surprised, they say hatto (八斗) "oh". This 八斗 is 当字 (ateji) and also serves as unit of volume, or "8 to". A man sees a woman from behind and says hatto, surprised by her beauty. He then sees her face and again says hatto, this time surprised by the ugly face. Two hatto (8 to) is 16 hatto, which is equivalent to 1 石 (koku, a unit) and 6 斗 (to). Hence 一石六斗.
    – Dono
    May 27 '12 at 2:18
  • @yadokari, compare recent English slang term "butterface". Jun 17 '14 at 19:26

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.