Most etymologies I've come across for "ベビーカー" assume that it's wasei eigo based on a combination of "baby" (ベビー) and "car" (the "カー" part of "マイカー"). For example, the Japanese edition of Wikipedia says this in a footnote on its article.

Could it instead be derived from a contraction of the English phrase "Baby carriage"? I suspect that "carriage" is distantly related to "car", for what it's worth.

  • 2
    Carriage and car are indeed from the same PIE root, but unless you have extremely compelling evidence for why it would come from carriage instead of the accepted etymology, I don't see why you think this. – Kurausukun Jun 10 '18 at 9:08
  • 2
    In my experience, Japanese always tends to preserve phonetics over spelling when importing words and the first "a" in "carriage" is pronounced more like an え than an あ, contrary to the "a" in "car". E.g. the names "Cary"/"Carey" are typically transliterated as キャリー or ケリー, not カリー. – a20 Jun 10 '18 at 9:38
  • yes, @bjorn, that's what's been bugging me, I couldn't put my finger on it! carriage in katakana is キャリッジ. Thank you! I knew something was off about the idea of カー coming from carriage but it wasn't coming to me. – ericfromabeno Jun 10 '18 at 11:30
  • 1
    I’d be careful assuming katakana loanwords (gairaigo) are from English. Many come from Dutch, German, or Portuguese and can be a bit different than their English cognates. – Tom Kelly Jun 10 '18 at 22:55
  • @bjorn A very large number of loanwords were borrowed via writing rather than directly via sound, so while I agree with you, I would suggest that in many cases the pronunciation that is represented is whatever pronunciation the Japanese speaker imagined the word having, fitting the patterns of existing loanwords they've already learned. – snailplane Jun 11 '18 at 4:25

Several dictionaries (大辞林, 大辞泉, 明鏡, 日本大百科全書) list ベビーカー specifically as wasei-eigo from "baby" and "car", e.g.

ベビーカー baby+car〕

(I also checked 現代カタカナ語辞典 by 旺文社, but this doesn't have an entry for ベビーカー!)

Moreover, as @bjorn & @ericfromabeno say in the comments, "carriage" is usually キャリッジ and a loan of "baby carriage" would more likely have been something like ベビーキャリー.

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.