Wasabi and wakame seem to have different Japanese characters and also different Chinese ideograms. My first guess is that the 'wa' in wasabi and wakame is coincidence. But.

Are they related words? Mountain mustard / sea mustard? Is the wa of these words a particle or something similar?

  • 1
    This has nothing to do with the 'particle-は'. It is not even は, it is わ. Besides, just because two words share one common sound does not imply that there is any other connection.
    – BJCUAI
    Mar 23, 2019 at 5:19
  • 2
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is caused by a basic misunderstanding of the language.
    – BJCUAI
    Mar 23, 2019 at 5:20

1 Answer 1


There are a few points of confusion here.

  • You've chosen the particle-は tag for your question.
    That particle is used (mainly) to mark the topic of a sentence. Particles in general are not parts of other words.
    As you can see in the tag itself, the particle is spelled with the "ha" hiragana は. Meanwhile, both wasabi and wakame are spelled with the "wa" hiragana わ.
    → Ultimately, neither the wa in wasabi nor the wa in wakame has anything to do with the "wa" particle spelled は.

  • Derivationally, it's reasonable enough to ask whether the two words wasabi and wakame might be related. Digging around in the histories of the terms can be informative.

    • No one seems to know where the word wasabi comes from. It appears in a dictionary from 918 with the phonetic kanji spelling [和]{wa}[佐]{sa}[比]{bi} (as detailed in the Japanese Wikipedia), so we know the name is old. However, no plausible derivation has been found. Many of the various native-Japanese proposals such as those forwarded at Gogen-Allguide and at Nihon Jiten, for example, strain credibility, considering known patterns of sound change in Japanese.
      One likely-sounding theory is that the wasa- portion is [早]{wasa}, counterpart to wase with a sense of "early-ripening", while the -bi ending is a shift from mi with a sense of "fruit, seed, nut". However, the portion of the wasabi plant that we use most is the root, and the plant isn't particularly quick to ripen, so this theory doesn't fit the facts very well. Suffice it to say that we must consider this term as an integral whole.
    • The origins of wakame are also a bit murky, but comparatively much clearer. There appears to be broad agreement among the sources I've checked that the -me ending is an ancient term referring to certain types of seaweed, probably cognate with the similar ancient term mo.
      The waka- beginning, meanwhile, may refer either to young growth (as in [若い]{wakai}, "young") or to the way the tendrils split (as in [分かれる]{wakareru}, "to split up", from ancient root verb waku).
      See also Gogen-Allguide, the Japanese Wikipedia, and the English Wikipedia.

Separately, neither food is mustard. Mustard in Japanese is karashi (a noun derived from the adjective meaning "hot, spicy"). Wasabi bears a resemblance to horseradish in some ways, but the flavor is distinct from mustard. Wakame may have a strong flavor, but not anything that's ever struck me as "spicy" or "mustardy" in any way.


  • Are wasabi and wakame related words?
    → No, it does not appear that they are.

  • Is the wa of these words a particle or something similar?
    → No, the wa is not a particle.

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