In English, if I want to talk about my Irish heritage, I would say "I'm Irish". I have an American passport, and I've never set foot in Ireland, but I still consider myself Irish. Both sides of my family have ancestors who came from Ireland, my name is Irish, etc.

In Japanese, could I use アイルランド人 to the same effect?

On a related note, how could I talk about partial bloodlines? For example, I'm mostly Irish, but I have some Native American and French blood, (and who knows what else) etc.

PS I suppose technically the "correct" English term would be "Irish-American", but we don't always say that.

  • Possibly related: japanese.stackexchange.com/q/898/264
    – Pacerier
    Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 0:54
  • @Pacerier: I'm not sure how it's related, unless you're saying it's too subjective... Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 1:32
  • It's related to "bloodlines".. just I'm putting the link there in case a visitor found this page and is interested.
    – Pacerier
    Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 5:27
  • @Pacerier: Oh, good call :) Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 22:31
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    I think it's worth mentioning that this is, to my mind, quite an American way of speaking. I'm South African, and if someone tells me they're Irish, I will most likely literally assume that they're Irish (nationality, birth, etc.) unless it's clear from the context that they mean of Irish descent. So as stated in the answers, just saying アイルランド人 would probably be pretty ambiguous in Japanese, :)
    – zakvdm
    Commented Jun 13, 2012 at 12:56

2 Answers 2


What you are trying to express is a concept that is actually fairly unusual around the world in how the concepts of nationality, heritage, and identity are used. In America, Canada, Australia, and maybe other places with similar large immigrant populations, each of these concepts are options that can be combined to suit individual tastes.

In countries with longer, continuous histories and more homogeneous people, these concepts are merely different aspects of the same thing.

Japan is one of those places where culture, heritage, nationality, language, and "race" are generally understood to be the same thing. Even as Japan has become, and continues to become, more and more internationally aware, you need to appreciate that Japanese culture on the whole is still relatively early in the process of transitioning into the understanding that these things can be separate. A lot of people you encounter will be unfamiliar with the concept of what you are trying to convey.

In short, what you are trying to express isn't a matter of merely finding the right words. The concepts that drive the meaning behind the words are different between your culture and Japanese culture, and so you need to navigate that divide if you want to be understood.

Starting with your proposal of telling people you are アイルランド人{じん}, this will make Japanese people think you are from Ireland, full stop. Adding 人{じん}, in the context we are talking about, expresses "person from".

What you're trying to say, I think, is アイルランド系{けい}アメリカ人{じん}. An American of Irish descent. This gets across the point that you come from an Irish family, but I think you need to appreciate how this gives the impression that you feel quite separate from America. In Japan, as you may know, there are groups of people in Japan called "zainichi" (在日{ざいにち}). The term usually is shorthand for Koreans born and raised in Japan, but it can apply to other nationalities under similar circumstances. It is a huge political issue, so I don't want to get into it too deep, but the main point is that these people aren't merely seen as being Japanese of Korean descent, even though they may only speak Japanese and have never been to Korea. They are seen as Koreans who are in Japan, but for a variety of politically heated reasons, are not really people of Japan. Similarly, you might be seen as an Irish person who, for some reason, was in America, even born there, but not really American by either your own declaration or that of other Americans.

Going further, to express your Native American, French, or any other heritage, you could start splitting down to fractions to express how your family is delineated by ethnicity, but that would sound as overly specific and obnoxious in Japanese as it does in English. Also, I'm guessing, you are looking for a more offhand way to throw it into the conversation, not how to describe a whole family tree.

To say you are "descended from", I believe the correct verb to use is 引{ひ}く, which means "pull", so, in essence, you are "pulled from a blood line". So to say your family was of French and Native American descent, you could say 家族{かぞく}はフランスとネイティブ・アメリカンの血{ち}を引{ひ}く. "My family is of French and Native American heritage." But that makes it sound like your family is entirely French and Native American. What you want to say is that you just happen to have a little of that mixed in with your predominantly Irish bloodline. In that case, you want to use 入{はい}る, to mean the blood was "put in". 家族{かぞく}はフランスとネイティブ・アメリカンの血{ち}が入{はい}っている You can throw in a ちょっと to make it sound even more like there was just a little bit.

Bringing it all together:


I'm an Irish American with some French and Native American heritage.

Having said that to the Japanese person you're speaking to, you still might have to contend with the fact that impression you are trying to give might be different from the impression your Japanese listener gets. That's a function of the cultural divide I've outlined above, and that can't be helped. You'll almost certainly have to have that conversation no matter what words you use to start with, but I think that at least the ones I've provided start you at the most accurate place possible given the language options.

Just as a pointer for further learning, other words you might look at are 血筋{ちすじ}, which means "lineage", but I believe is more about hierarchy, as in coming from an elite family. There's also 混血{こんけつ}, which means "mixed heritage", but literally means "mixed blood", and since it's in opposition to 純血{じゅんけつ}, "pure blood", can be used in a derisive sense.

Hope that helps.

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    It does help a lot actually :) I know this is an odd and sometimes hot-button issue in Japan, and that's one of the reasons why it's been bugging me for so long. Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 22:49
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    This is a nice explanation.
    – Chris
    Commented Jun 14, 2012 at 17:03
  • @silvermaple: Bounty much appreciated! Cheers for that!
    – Questioner
    Commented Jun 16, 2012 at 13:34
  • @DaveMG: Cheers :) Commented Jun 16, 2012 at 15:04
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    Are Ainu regarded as a 人 by the Japanese?
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 13:00

In Japanese, could I use アイルランド人 to the same effect?

The suffix 系{けい} ("lineage") is probably better suited for describing heritage. 人 more commonly indicates nationality, in my experience.

However, I feel it is necessary for Americans to specify nationality in addition to heritage when identifying themselves in Japanese. For example, I think it would be better to say アイルランド系アメリカ人, similar to 日系{にっけい}アメリカ人 (Japanese American).

On a related note, how could I talk about partial bloodlines? For example, I'm mostly Irish, but I have some Native American and French blood, (and who knows what else) etc.

I am not a native speaker of Japanese, but I might say something like 「私は4分の3がアイルランド系で8分の1がネイティブ・アメリカン系で8分の1がフランス系です」 ("I am three-quarters Irish, one-eighth Native American, and one-eighth French").

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    Better in which way? I think that saying アイルランド系アメリカ人 (just like “Irish-American”) is better in the sense that it is unambiguous, but I do not think that avoiding ambiguity is the point of the question. Commented Jun 10, 2012 at 0:01
  • @TsuyoshiIto Thank you for the correction and input.
    – con5013d
    Commented Jun 10, 2012 at 21:26
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    (1) Just to make sure, I did not correct anything; I just asked for clarification. I do not have an answer to the question myself. (2) I would like to point out that ~人 is not always used to describe nationality. For example, many mass media in Japan reported in 2008 that 日本人物理学者3氏がノーベル賞を受賞 (three Japanese physicists won the Nobel Prizes), counting Yoichiro Nambu as 日本人 although his nationality was American. Commented Jun 10, 2012 at 21:36
  • @TsuyoshiIto By correction, I was referring to your earlier revision of 「アイランド人」, an embarrassing mistake!
    – con5013d
    Commented Jun 10, 2012 at 22:00
  • Oops, I see. I had forgotten that I edited that part already. Commented Jun 10, 2012 at 22:01

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