I've been told that number 1 wrong and number 2 is correct, but I'm wondering why exactly.

  1. 出身は何ですか。
  2. 出身はどこですか。

In English, what's your origin vs where's your origin has the same meaning to me and my first instinct is to use what instead of where for this. Does anyone have any insight on why this is exactly?

1 Answer 1


This is the difference between what a word means according to a bilingual dictionary and what a word means within its native language.

According to the 日本国語大辞典


So the word 出身 literally speaks of where a person has come "out of" or "from," it makes sense to use where instead of what because of this. Note also that it is not only in the sense of birthplace, but family size 「そんな彼女自身も、「5人きょうだいの末っ子」という大家族の出身。」, school 「関西大学出身の有名人をご紹介します。 」, and so on.

  • So it seems specific to this word, thanks!
    – shady
    Jul 2, 2019 at 14:47

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