My book lists a number of kinds of fishes and sea creatures.

The names are given in hiragana for all except that for squid for which it is given in katakana. イカ

Does the word ika come from another language and if so what language ?

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    Animal names are very often written in katakana.
    – Angelos
    Jul 20, 2019 at 12:14
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    @AeonAkechi I know but that is the only one in the list written in katakana. The others are all written in hiragana.
    – Kantura
    Jul 20, 2019 at 12:15
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    So wouldn't your question be "why aren't the other animals names written in katakana?" if you know that animals names are often written in katakana?
    – Leebo
    Jul 20, 2019 at 12:21
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    @Leebo No , my question wouldn't be that. As I stated in my post In my book the names are given in hiragana. The book emphasises hiragana. Yet a word shows up in katakana.
    – Kantura
    Jul 20, 2019 at 13:10
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    @Leebo Ok well let me ask you my question another way. Does the Japanese word for squid (ika) come from another language or not ?
    – Kantura
    Jul 20, 2019 at 13:43

2 Answers 2


Does the word for squid (ika) come from another language?

Adding on to kimi Tanaka's answer, I see in the 日本国語大辞典 entry here that the word ika appeared in the 播【はり】磨【ま】風【ふ】土【ど】記【き】 of 715. There aren't many long-form Japanese texts older than this, so we can say with some certainty that, if this were a borrowing, it would have been borrowed during the Old Japanese or Proto-Japonic stages of the language.

Why is ika written in katakana?

This question arises from your comments.

There are various terms that are written in katakana despite being native-Japanese terms. Another example is アリ ("ant"). Years ago when on a university homestay in Japan, a friend of mine was asked by her hostbrother what English word アリ came from. He was convinced that it was a borrowing, since it was written in katakana so often. However, it's a native-Japanese term -- it's only written in kana because the kanji is unusual and hard to remember, and it inconveniently has a lot of strokes: 蟻.

I suspect that 烏賊 might be written as イカ for similar reasons.


I understand squid written in hiragana like いかのレシピ|キッコーマン|ホームクッキング.

According to the explanation of 由来・語源辞典 below, there are several theories and its etymology is still not clear. It may come from the idea that squid seem to be solemn : "厳{いかめ}しい", or seem to be angry : "怒{いか}っている".

I see it is also written in kanji : 烏賊{いか}. The dictionary says of why they are written like that that there exists Chinese Proverb like so : Since the squid is always floating on the water and the crows think he is dead, as they are about to eat him, the squid reaches with his arms, and the crows become his prey on the contrary.

So the 烏:crow + 賊:enemies. I am not sure whether it is also used for squid in Chinese.

イカの語源については諸説あり、はっきりしない。いかめしい形をしているからとする説や、怒った形をしているからとする説、「い」は白で「か」は堅い意とする説などがある。 なお、漢字で「烏賊」と書くのは、イカはいつも水面に浮かんでいて、それを死んでいると思ったカラスが捕らえようとすると、腕を伸ばして鳥が逆にイカの餌食になってしまうという中国での言い伝えによる。

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