I stumbled again on a word that is labeled as sensitive.

This time it's 移民 which means:

Noun, Suru verb, No-adjective

emigration; immigration [sensitive] (only the suru verb is labeled sensitive)



The United States has long been known as a "melting pot" because most of its people are descended from immigrants.

I don't think that feels "sensitive" at all...

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Since this is already my 2nd question about sensitive word, I should cite some more credible source:

Sensitive Terms

As in any language, there are words and terms in Japanese which need to be used with care and sensitivity, as they may be blunt, cause offence in some contexts, etc. In JMdict there is a "sens" tag which may be associated with one or more senses of an entry to indicate that the term should be used with a degree of caution. Determining which terms should be regarded as sensitive is quite difficult. In general the major Japanese-English and English-Japanese dictionaries do not attempt to indicate them, probably because they are usually compiled for Japanese users who do not need to be told this.

A useful reference is a list of problem terms (放送問題用語) based on a 1983 publication by NHK. That list, for example, includes virtually every term which includes 盲/めくら (blindness), so for 盲窓/めくら窓 it advises that "外見だけの窓" be used instead. Some of the prohibitions seem extreme; for example 医者 is on the list, with the advice that 医師 or お医者さん be used instead, however foreign learners of Japanese are usually taught 医者 without any qualification. Note that the list is over 30 years old, and there are reports that it is not being followed completely now. The list is categorized according to whether terms are banned (×), have some reservations (△) or are uncertain (?), and the "×" tag is applied to 122 terms.

While there can be no hard and fast rules, it is suggested that people submitting or amending entries apply the following guidelines when considering whether the entry should include a "sens" tag.

If the term is already tagged as "derog" (derogatory) or "vulg" (vulgar", there is no need for any additional "sens" tag. In fact it is preferred that where appropriate "derog" or "vulg" tags be used; inclusion on the NHK list referenced above, particularly if it has an "×" tag, may indicate the need for a "sens" tag, however it needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. The list, for example, says that 新平民 should not be used, but since it is an archaism there is no need to state it is sensitive. The list includes 板前 (chef) and recommends 板前さん be used instead, but it is clear from word-frequencies that 板前 alone is much more widely-used; where appropriate consider a note indicating preferred alternatives, e.g. for 医者, a note "pref. 医師, お医者さん" may be appropriate.

So, in conclusion there are three tags: derogatory, vulgar, and sensitive.

Digging deeper into the subject:

(it's included in 禁止・差別用語とされる用語の一覧 [A list of prohibited and is considered discriminatory terms], actually there are hundreds of 'sensitive' words inside, but I just pick one here.)

There are three entries labelled as 'x' -> 'x' means banned according to the Editorial policy.




According this source, one of the usage where it's okay to use:


My questions:

  1. Why is this word 移民 considered sensitive? Why do you think these three words are "banned"?:




Is it correct to ban or even consider these words sensitive?

  1. I suspect that this source has already become obsolete mostly, it doesn't reflect modern Japanese usage anymore. So if it's true that it's obsolete, is there any 'more' credible source to show the real 'sensitive' Japanese word list that foreigner will not use it accidentally? (please differentiate this with 'vulgar' and 'derogatory' (even though this may overlap, probably you can make notes in your answer)

  2. About this 移民, there is a lengthy explanation and history about this word, can someone probably link this history with the word (my Japanese may not hold a candle to the standard, so I need help someone explain if there is correlation with the word being sensitive)

4.This might be asking too much, but If you're a native Japanese, what makes you think that a word is considered as:



sensitive to your ear

Thank you for all your answers!

  • related: japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/36225/…
    – Flonne
    Dec 20, 2018 at 5:34
  • The note you mentioned with 移民50年祭 is about exceptions of when its okay to use it, not an explanation of why it's sensitive.
    – Leebo
    Dec 20, 2018 at 5:37
  • Sorry, yes, I think you're correct. I'll change it ;). Thanks!
    – Flonne
    Dec 20, 2018 at 5:38

1 Answer 1


I personally do not see 移民 as a sensitive word, and I believe it's safe especially when the 移民 themselves are happy and proud of being 移民. But according to this article, a few people seem to believe it has a connotation of "abandoned/expelled from their homelands".



Political correctness is an ever-changing topic, and mass media is becoming more and more defensive. NHK's stance seems to be an overreaction at least to me, but 移民 does have long historical connotations and I understand if some people dislike it for whatever reason.

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