The word for a medical "mask" is borrowed from the English language. Does this infer that these types of masks did not exist in Japan before the arrival of the English? If these masks did exist in Japan in times of old, what was the native Japanese word for such a mask?

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    Aside from the history of masks, please note that loanwords can replace existing native words for various reasons. Just because マスク is a loanword does not necessarily mean something similar did not exist in the past. For example, we usually say トイレ, but it does not mean there had not been toilets in Japan. See this and this.
    – naruto
    Commented Jun 17, 2021 at 4:07

1 Answer 1


According to this article linked below, masks were introduced to Japan in the beginning of the Meiji period (1869) with coal miners to avoid inhaling harmful particles. At that time they were called 呼吸器(こきゅうき), essentially respirator. However they were not widespread until the Spanish Flu in 1918. In this picture you can see and advertisement for masks warning that not wearing a mask is reckless (not much has changed). According to this picture it seems that modern masks came along with their loaner word.

Spanish Flu Mask Poster

There are of course more words for mask in Japanese. The most common probably being 仮面, which is usually in the case of masks used for disguise or to alter ones appearance.



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    This article suggests Zojirushi called their products 呼吸器...
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Jun 17, 2021 at 1:10
  • Gotta read that yee old poster right to left
    – Ringil
    Commented Jun 17, 2021 at 20:03

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