What is the etymology of the word バレる, and why is it often written with katakana?

ばれる(P); バレる (v1,vi) to leak out (a secret); to be exposed (a lie, improper behaviour, etc.) (behavior)

その秘密はついにばれた。 The secret came to light at last.

2 Answers 2


The verb bare-ru is a 下一段 verb, so you can expect that it was 下二段 bar-u before that, hence bar-u > bar-uru > bare-ru. It is noteworthy in that it begins with a voiced consonant (b), which essentially does not happen in words of Japanese origin. Rather, it is more likely that it is a recent contraction of another word, which I assume was abare-ru (暴れる). And in fact, it is a recent verb with early citations from the mid 17th century. Reasons to write it in katakana are 1) lack of kanji, 2) emphasis, 3) colloquial. Hiragana works just as well, though.

  • I was looking into it as being the intransitive (自動詞) of ばらす. Can you derive ばらす from 暴く? Does it matter with regards to your theory? Jun 30, 2012 at 4:03
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    That is an interesting suggesting. And indeed, one meaning of bara-su is to expose a secret. However, this is a very recent sense (early 20th century). Note though that the primary sense of bara-su is to dissemble an object into many pieces. This is surely more related to barabara, which is much more natural to derive the verb from. barabara is attested in 16th century, while bara-su is 18th century, so the timeline is plausible. I cannot say for certain, but I do have my doubts on bara-su and bare-ru being directly related, at least initially.
    – Dono
    Jun 30, 2012 at 4:22
  • Oh okay. Anyway, interesting answer. Wish I could upvote for that reason. Jun 30, 2012 at 4:32
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    Not all Japanese verbs are inherited. Despite the widespread belief that verbs are a closed class, there are in fact new coinages...
    – Zhen Lin
    Jun 30, 2012 at 7:31
  • @Louis: Chronologically, I suspect the derivations proceed from 暴{あば}る > 暴{あば}れる > ばれる > ばらす, with バラバラ arising probably from earlier 暴る and / or related adjective 荒{あばら}, given that the oldest cites I'm currently finding for ばれる are in the late 1700s. Though it is also plausible that ばらす may have arisen directly as an abbreviation of hypothetical transitive / causative verb 暴{あば}らす, just by dropping the initial あ. Jun 17, 2014 at 19:16

The accepted answer to this question on chiebukuro suggests that there is no sure answer to the origin of バレる. Some of the suggestions given include 暴く/暴かれる, 破{ば}れる, and 晴れ晴れ.

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    I am surprised by the fact that the answer essentially saying “It is unknown” is chosen as the best answer on the linked page. I had the impression that in Yahoo Chiebukuro, the answer which states speculation and nonsense with the most confident tone is chosen as the best answer, but I have to change my opinion. Jul 9, 2012 at 1:20

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