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Normally meaning clean, seiso can also mean pure when applied to people in certain contexts. I've googled seiso and found some people claiming that the term originated with Vtubers, but obviously that's not true. Other sources claim seiso (meaning pure, as in a Seiso na onna no ko) is a long standing Japanese word.

So my question is, would an average Japanese person use seiso to refer to purity, and is this a rare occurence? And is it a long standing meaning?

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    For clarity, are you referring to 清掃{せいそう} , 清爽{せいそう}, or 清楚{せいそ}?
    – Eddie Kal
    Commented Oct 26, 2021 at 3:59
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    Do you have any examples? For me, 清楚 has practically only one meaning that is applicable to women, and it means neither “clean” nor “pure”.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Oct 26, 2021 at 5:25
  • @Eddie Kal 清楚 aguijonazo: Well I saw 飾りけがなく、清らかなこと as a defintion here - weblio.jp/content/%E6%B8%85%E6%A5%9A This video looks as the typical "clean" definition of seiso, and says that "clean" might be applied to the heart (hence pure), furthermore they mention beauty. youtube.com/watch?v=Oo4jJYgc974 The context is usually idols, I guess, but I'm wondering if it goes beyond that.
    – Kobu
    Commented Oct 26, 2021 at 9:03

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I doubt "pure" is the best word to describe 清楚, but it does mean something along the lines of "simple", "innocent", "clean", "plain", "tidy", and so on. Please refer to that YouTube video or Google Image Search for the connotation of the word. As a matter of fact, 清楚 is a common word that virtually every teenager understands, and it has been around at least for 100 years without any significant change in the meaning. I'm curious what page said this term is VTuber-derived. Recently, this word may be especially common as a category of the faces and personalities of young female people (including idols and VTubers), but it is not used in a different way from its original meaning.

EDIT: As pointed out in the comment section, the word 清楚 seems to be often used sarcastically in the VTuber community, and the word seems to have been imported to fans in the West along with the incorrect definition. See this article. This is a kind of local joke that only works in the VTuber community.

「清楚」の本来の意味は「飾りけがなく、清らかなこと」。今日では、慎ましく清潔感のある美しい女性を表す言葉として使われている。
Vtuber界隈においては、公式設定や自身の主張で「清楚」を標榜していてもおよそ清楚とは言いがたい言動がしばしば見られ、そうしたVtuberの形骸化した「清楚」設定は本来的な用法とは正反対とも言える新しい語義として受け入れられている。

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    I don't know the source either but I'd wager it being "VTuber-derived" is a misconception formed from "SEISO" being introduced into western culture solely from the recent popularity of Japanese Vtubers by English audiences. See https://hololive.wiki/wiki/Glossary#Seiso
    – vsundae
    Commented Oct 28, 2021 at 18:16
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    @vsundae Oh I didn't know that, thank you
    – naruto
    Commented Oct 31, 2021 at 22:24

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