Japanese has lots of reduplication and some say it is a trademark of Japanese. It occurs in all kinds of parts of speech, which in English it does not. It is used for some plural, intensity, and more complicated stuff.
But one particular usage exists in English and some other languages, which uses reduplication to "emphasize" that a (citing wikipedia) prototypical usage of the word is intended: To make the true meaning of a used word clear after most likely a misunderstanding happened.

I didn't eat egg salad, I ate salad salad.

"Contrastive" is related to both intonation of the first word, but also to express that "salad salad" is in contrast to all other kinds of salad.

But is there such a usage of reduplication in Japanese? I could not find one.

UPDATE: This question has received multiple valuable answers that each contribute some different aspect to answer the question. All answers answer the question. Therefore, I will not pick a "most helpful" answer myself. Please read all of them if you are interested in the answer.

  • This is actually a phenomenon pretty limited in scope. That Wiki article mentions its occurrence in German but also suggests it is not understood by some speakers. Also, it seems more cultural than it is linguistic. In the U.S. people use it all the time. I think the UK as well? But I think in some English speaking countries (there are many countries where English is the official or one of the official languages or a major language) this construct is barely used and possibly unintelligible to many. I wouldn't expect it in most languages. A better question may be: how do you say it in Japanese?
    – Eddie Kal
    Commented Nov 17, 2022 at 19:52
  • 1
    I do agree that "how do I say it in Japanese" is a good question, but I was particulary interested if there was reduplication with the same purpose. So the question was phrased this way intentionally. Okay, then it seems to be mostly English, got it Commented Nov 17, 2022 at 20:12
  • 2
    This turned out to be a very interesting question. Few questions attract as many answers as this has here.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 6:22
  • My comment is not about Japanese, more about English. It looks like in your example there is no reduplication at all. In "salad salad" those two words mean completely different things: first is a kind of plant (salad leaves), and second is a kind of meal (a mixture of different chopped ingredients, mostly fresh vegies). So that example is just a word play. It would not work with "soup", for example.
    – C-F
    Commented Nov 20, 2022 at 6:09
  • @C-F I am afraid you misunderstood the usage a bit. I recommend to read through the Wikipedia or any other entry online to get a better feel for how it's used Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 1:49

4 Answers 4


A similar pattern does exist. Here are some examples I found on the internet:

  • 机をあまり仕事仕事した空間にしたくなくて…
    I didn't want to make my desk look like a typical office-ish place...
  • 学校学校しているカチッとしたところだと、ついていけるか不安でした。
    I was worried that I wouldn't be able to keep up at an ordinary strict school.
  • もっと筋肉筋肉した人が、ミューズの理想なのだ。
    Muse's ideal is a stereotypical macho / muscular muscular guy.
  • すっぱいドレッシングとかサラダサラダしたものが苦手な私
    I'm not good at things like sour dressing and typical (green) salad.
  • スマホスマホしたスマホが欲しいなら…
    If you want a smartphone smartphone...

Note that:

  • This pattern always requires している/した, but you can use サラダサラダしたサラダ or サラダサラダしたもの to say salad salad as a noun.
  • This pattern does not work with verbs. I can't think of an equivalent of "Do you like-like him?"
  • This pattern does not necessarily have to work contrastively. If I understand correctly, an expression like salad salad normally works in English when it's clearly contrasted with some atypical salad (hence the name contrastive reduplication), but NNしたN can work on its own.

Also note that this is a fairly rare pattern. Whenever I encounter this pattern (say, once in every three years), I recall a certain episode of Nichijou, which goes like this:

A: このコーヒー、あんまりコーヒーコーヒーしてない。 Oh, this coffee isn't being very coffee coffee.
B: え、コーヒーコーヒーしてない? 何いってんの? Not coffee coffee? What are you talking about?
A: 自分でもよくわかんないんだけど、なんていうか、コーヒーコーヒーしてないんだよ。いいからちょっと飲んでみ、ほれほれ。 I don't really understand what I'm saying, but well, it's "not coffee coffee"! Just try it yourself, here you go.
B: まったく、コーヒーコーヒーしてないってなんなのよ… (drinking) あ……コーヒーコーヒーしてない。 Come on, what the heck is not being coffee coffee! (drinking) Oh...this isn't coffee coffee.

The fact that this perfectly works as comedy to native Japanese speakers means コーヒーコーヒーしてない lies on the narrow borderline between "funny but understandable" and "almost incomprehensible".

There are a number of fixed expressions like 黒々とした, 寒々とした or みずみずしい, but these are words with their own meanings (they do not mean "prototypical black/coldness/water") and can be explained as ordinary examples of Japanese reduplicated words and phrases.


Besides the adjective form NN-しい in sundowner's answer, there is also a verb form NN-する. It's often used in the form of NN-している or NN-した to modify another noun which may be the same as the repeated one, as in:


These particular phrases tend to be used in a negative way, often by women to describe other women they consider to be "too girly" in their choice of clothes, their way of behaving, etc., especially when they are with men.


In addition to the other fine answers already on this thread, I'd like to point out a wrinkle in the English construction that might be confusing the original poster somewhat.

The question post includes two examples of kinds of "salad" that I'd like to point out:

  • egg salad
  • salad salad

What we have here in both cases is a first noun used attributively to indicate a characteristic or quality of the second noun, the head noun. In terms of the syntactics at work here, that first noun functions more as an adjective.

English as a language is more towards the "analytic" end of the "syntheticanalytic" spectrum, and as such, it plays pretty fast and loose with parts of speech.

Japanese is more "synthetic" than English, and as such, we cannot do some of the same things as in English and still wind up with a grammatic and intelligible utterance.

While both languages allow attributive use of nouns in certain cases, such as "egg salad" / 玉子サラダ or "tomato salad" / トマトサラダ, reduplication as in "salad salad" is not one of the allowed constructions for Japanese. I suspect this comes down to usage patterns and expectations. This might be due to the existence of reduplication in so many other aspects of Japanese, something that doesn't happen quite so much in standard English.

The need to be more specific grammatically about the attributive nature of the first noun in reduplicative constructions is what gives rise to the suggestions in the other answers, such as 東京[ら]{●}[し]{●}[い]{●}東京 (probably the most likely and commonly understood), サラダ[の]{●}サラダ, or possibly [NOUN][と]{●}[し]{●}[て]{●}[の]{●}[NOUN] or [NOUN][な]{●}[り]{●}[の]{●}[NOUN].


If you mean repeating a noun twice, it is not really possible (サラダサラダ won't work).

But kind of similar to onomatopoeias/adjectives that contains reduplicates, similar constructs do exist, at least in recent usage. One common enough phrase is 肉肉しい which means very meaty. This does not extend a lot, but I guess NN-しい is understood with enough contexts, as a kind of one-time word (e.g. when talking about high cacao chocolate, チョコチョコしい. I don't mean this is common).

More normal phrases would be something like 東京らしい東京 (referring to 新宿, say), or N然{ぜん}とした.

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