I was trying to find house vocabulary and found multiple (from my perspective) synonyms (where the synonyms sounded like English). For example, ベッドルーム and 寝室, as well as キッチン and 台所, as well as バスルーム and 風呂場, etc.

What is the difference between the katakana and the kanji versions? Which ones should be used? Why do the English-sounding versions exist? (<-- for that question I assumed the kanji versions of the words came first)

  • 3
    Why is there cubiculum when there's already bedchamber when there's already bedroom? Asking "why" might not be the right question. People like variety, and so we have synonyms. Your follow-on question for when to use each and in what context is more on-target for this site, and I believe that @EddieKal's link should help answer that. Commented Feb 26, 2021 at 21:42
  • This is only my opinion. 寝室 is more used than べっドルーム.
    – カラス
    Commented Feb 26, 2021 at 21:49
  • @EddieKal yep, thanks, that does, though I was looking for a sort of blend between that answer and the one given by naruto
    – Lans
    Commented Feb 27, 2021 at 22:43
  • @EiríkrÚtlendi I was wondering why these synonyms are from another language. I get that foreign words are often assimilated into other languages, but there seemed to be a lot for just normal everyday terms that already existed in Japanese that had katakana that only sound like they came from English. So something along the lines of why is this the case in the Japanese language?
    – Lans
    Commented Feb 27, 2021 at 22:49
  • 1
    @Lans Things like this have happened all over the world. In the past, English speakers were also very eager to learn and adopt words from foreign cultures, often needlessly, to the point where they have almost forgotten which were loanwords (see this and this).
    – naruto
    Commented Feb 28, 2021 at 0:50

1 Answer 1


Sometimes, loanwords sound simply cool and modern, and traditional words are too mundane or too direct. English speakers also have imported many new loanwords from foreign languages (café, siesta, kaizen, ...), but generally speaking, the influence that English has on other languages is much stronger than that in the opposite direction.

Semantically, キッチン, ベッドルーム and バスルーム are synonymous with their traditional (kanji) equivalents. However, these modern katakana versions tend to be preferred:

  • when the room is western-style (洋室),
  • by young speakers,
  • in metropolitan areas, and
  • in business scenes, especially in ads.

The more of the above conditions are met, the more the katakana versions are chosen. On the other hand, older speakers living in traditional Japanese-style houses still usually use 台所, 寝室 (or 寝間) and 風呂場 in daily conversations.

There is another Japanese-specific reason to prefer katakana over kanji for some words. See my previous answer.

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