Questions tagged [loanwords]

外来語. Words brought into Japanese from languages other than Chinese.

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Is the Japanese word "pan" (パン) related in its origins to the Spanish word "pan"?

"Pan", in both Japanese and Spanish means bread. Is this purely coincidental, or do they have the same origin?
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Are there any old loanwords from Korean, especially any not written in katakana?

Given the close proximity and long history of interaction of various kinds within East Asia, the great influence of Chinese in both Japanese and Korean, and the similar structures of Japanese and ...
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What's the original Japanese word for door, other than the loanword ドア?

I assume that ドア is a loanword from English, unless it's a big coincidence, yet, it's in the top 200 most used Japanese words by frequency, in a Japanese words by frequency list. What's the original ...
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24 votes
1 answer
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Why is the Japanese currency pronounced "yen" in English?

I'm wondering what the reason for the mispronunciation of 円 in English came to be "yen". I can understand how some words like 東京 became "Tokyo", but "en" to "yen" seems strange. On a side note, why is ...
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22 votes
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Who decides what katakana will be used to form English loan words?

I love katakana, mostly because of how the characters look. But I am constantly baffled by why certain loan words from English are constructed using certain katakana sounds. For example, if someone ...
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21 votes
4 answers
7k views

Since Japanese already had several words for rice why was "ライス" (raisu) borrowed from English?

Last night I had dinner in a ramen restaurant in northern Japan and was surprised to read the katakana "ライス" (raisu) on the menu. This is obviously the English word "rice" borrowed. But what kind of ...
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21 votes
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How did コンセント come to be used for an "electrical outlet"?

Saw this on a charger I bought online and was really perplexed. What foreign word does it represent? "concentric"? What does that have to do with electrical outlet and where did it come from?
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20 votes
2 answers
10k views

How to pronounce the English alphabet? (A, B, C, ...)

I just had to tell a long booking number over the phone, and realized that some characters like V/B can be hard to convey. So, I want to learn exactly how each letter is currently taught in Japanese ...
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19 votes
2 answers
3k views

When and how did USA and UK come to be written as [米]{べい}[国]{こく} and [英]{えい}[国]{こく}?

I know of four countries with a specific kanji besides Japan: China, the Netherlands, the USA and UK. The last two must be quite recent (I presume 19th century) but I wonder on the details and context ...
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18 votes
2 answers
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Where does the word ダイヤ come from that means "train schedule"?

For the longest time I've been hearing the word ダイヤ and just always assumed it meant "Diamond", but found recently it all means "train schedule". My question is, what word/language did this word ...
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18 votes
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What is the more common pronunciation for the r­ōmaji letter Z in Japanese?

I was on the phone with NTT the other day and things were going well (or as good as they could), until I had to spell some email address for the customer rep, and fell upon the letter 'Z'. ...
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17 votes
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Why doesn't Japanese have a special Katakana form for "hu"?

They have created many new Katakana words such as ファ フィ ヴァ ヴィ ティ テゥ to write foreign sounds. But why didn't they create a new combination for "hu" such as ハゥ or ホゥ? Instead they use the same kana for "...
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17 votes
9 answers
3k views

Are there any common Japanese words which were borrowed from Ainu or other indigenous languages?

I know plenty of Japanese words that came from English and a few from other European languages (obviously tons from Chinese), but what about words from Japan's indigenous languages such as Ainu? Also ...
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17 votes
2 answers
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How would I know whether a word existed and was commonly used N years ago?

Suppose I'm writing a novel that takes place N years ago, say N = 80. Given the dramatic increase of loanwords in the past century, especially from English, what would be the best way (if there is any)...
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16 votes
4 answers
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Are wasei-eigo and wasei-kango looked down upon?

Is wasei-eigo or wasei-kango looked down upon by Japanese language purists (as opposed to English or Chinese purists!) as informal, inauthentic, incorrect or the like?
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15 votes
2 answers
715 views

Why is debug デバッグ but bug is バグ?

I'm interested in why the extra small tsu in included in the word デバッグ but not バグ. Are there any rules governing voicing in words formed via reduplication? Lyman's rule may explain this, but does ...
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1 answer
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Why did オレンジ replace 橙【だいだい】?

This question about colours got me thinking: Why, and how, did オレンジ come to replace 橙【だいだい】 to refer to the colour orange? It seems weird to me that a word taken from a foreign language became ...
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14 votes
2 answers
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Do Japanese actually pronounce the "v" sound?

Do Japanese actually pronounce the "v" sound? They do have a kana character (ヴ) dedicated to transcribing foreign "v" sounds, but do they actually pronounce them like the English phoneme /v/ (using ...
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14 votes
4 answers
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外来語 (gairaigo) replaced by Japanese word?

Are there cases where gairaigo used in every day speech (パン, アイスクリーム, etc...) have been ousted by native Japanese words?
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What is the meaning and root of 意味くじピーマン?

Recently a friend of mine threw the term 意味くじピーマン (imi kuji pi-man) into a story she was telling, and it totally threw me off. At first I thought, because I wasn't sure how to parse the くじ part, it ...
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14 votes
1 answer
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Did the Japanese have a concept of "Asia" apart from the Eurocentric definition?

Japan had contact with China, India and the Mongols, among others. Is there a term they used for Asia (in the sense of "land mass where China is" or such) before "アジア"?
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2 answers
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Are foreign adjectives always な adjectives?

Sitting in a restaurant yesterday I saw a sign advertising a mango flavoured bagel. It was described as トロピカルな味. That just got me wondering... whenever a 外来語【がいらいご】(word taken from a foreign language ...
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14 votes
2 answers
593 views

does 「なう」have effeminate connotations?

I often get text messages from people who use the twitter-derived slang 「なう」 to mean "now." As in 「電車なう」meaning "(I am on the) train now." However, these mainly come from women, and one gay dude. Is ...
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3 answers
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Is パートナー likely to be interpreted as a same-sex partner?

When I talked about a relative and his パートナー visiting for Christmas, the person I was speaking to asked if his パートナー was male. Is this a common interpretation of パートナー? Is there a better word than ...
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13 votes
6 answers
293 views

ユーザ or ユーザー, which is more in use or is there no difference?

ユーザ or ユーザー, which is more in use or is there no difference? I see both of them in use, but is there one that is more correct than the other or is at least the prevailing standard? a similar word is ...
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13 votes
3 answers
2k views

Why is "Xy" pronounced as "Ki Shi" in Xylitol「キシリトール」?

Why is "Xy" pronounced as "[Ki Shi]{キ シ}" in [Xylitol]{キシリトール}? I believe "Xy" can pronounced as "Zai", which is probably a valid sound in Japanese. I would like to know its etymology too, if there ...
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13 votes
3 answers
4k views

Does ガス also mean gasoline in Japanese?

What are the meanings of ガス in Japanese? I'm asking because in English it can be used for either "a substance in a form like air that is neither solid nor liquid" or, for gasoline, the liquid fuel. ...
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13 votes
2 answers
574 views

Transitive English words becoming intransitive 外来語

While reading naruto's answer to Difference in sentences (と and に), I realized that although キス is an intransitive verb in Japanese, the English kiss is almost always used as a transitive verb. Some ...
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13 votes
2 answers
22k views

Would I have 牛乳 or ミルク with my cereal?

I've just found out that there's a couple of words for milk, and that they have slightly different meanings. Which one would I have with my Weetbix in a "viking style" breakfast in Niseko? Based on ...
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13 votes
1 answer
420 views

Why is デレる ichidan? (Etymology of デレる and デレデレ)

I thought modern slangy verbs coined from onomatopoeia and loanwords were all godan verbs (for example, ググる, コピる, ピヨる, ボコる). This has been asked several times: What are the principles behind turning ...
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12 votes
5 answers
6k views

Chinese words in Japanese

I have heard that Japanese has the largest number of words of any language because every Chinese word can also be a Japanese word. Is there any truth to this statement?
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12 votes
5 answers
849 views

Less-approximate and more-approximate forms of loan words

When Japanese incorporates a Western word, especially English, often the spelling rather than the pronunciation is respected in the transcription, thus, ending up with a transcription that is not the ...
12 votes
2 answers
740 views

What is the breakdown of countries where loan words originate?

Is there any general idea of what percentage of loan words come from which languages? I always thought the majority of them came from English, but I keep seeing more and more that originated in ...
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12 votes
1 answer
2k views

Why is 犬 used to refer to "dog" in Japanese?

In Chinese there are two words that refer to "dog" - 狗 and 犬. In most use cases 狗 is more frequently used, as it refers to a specific dog. In Japanese however, 犬 is used exclusively. Did 狗 exist in ...
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11 votes
7 answers
10k views

Why are the katakana important to learn?

I've just started, and everything says learn your hiragana and katakana first. The hiragana, very clear. I guess you can say an awful lot of things in Japanese with hiragana. But everything I've been ...
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11 votes
2 answers
1k views

Meaning of イメージ in context of disclaimer

I saw a disclaimer at the bottom of a tourist brochure about ryokans, which in English was "The photo on this page is an image", and in Japanese "掲載の写真はイメージです。" At the end of the brochure, they had "...
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11 votes
1 answer
2k views

Is かわいい wago or kango?

かわいい is sometimes spelled in kanji as 可愛い. This seems to be an 音読み reading which points to a Chinese loan, and Chinese does have this word. However, the meaning of 可愛 as "cute" in Chinese seems to ...
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11 votes
3 answers
1k views

What differences are there between the English word "memo" and the Japanese word "メモ"?

What differences, if any, are there between the English word "memo" and the Japanese word "メモ"? Does the Japanese word "メモ" have connotations to do with memorisation or memory that don't exist with ...
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11 votes
1 answer
2k views

What special kana are used to write foreign words?

How does Japanese handle sounds outside the 五十音図【ごじゅうおんず】? Are there ways of distinguishing sounds such as V or L in katakana renderings of foreign words? How are the missing sounds in the ワ column ...
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11 votes
3 answers
718 views

Why is this katakana not reversed?

Just saw this image about Nintendo on Kotaku: Clearly the company name, description, and location are written in traditional right-to-left orientation. Even かるた is right-to-left. So why is トランプ ...
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11 votes
1 answer
885 views

Katakana words with Kanji. How did that happen?

Some words are written with katakana, but also have kanji. For example: コーヒー 珈琲 ページ 頁 How did this happen? They are loanwords, but no doubt had Japanese equivalents before these variants were ...
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10 votes
5 answers
13k views

Native word for "pen"

Is there a native, non-loanword for "pen" (the writing instrument)? Or is there only 「ペン」? There is one for "pencil" (鉛筆), one for "ruler" (定規), one for "paper" (紙) and even though the one for "...
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10 votes
4 answers
1k views

What went wrong when I asked for a 衡器{こうき}?

I was in Bikku Camera earlier today, and I wanted to buy a small kitchen scale for measuring small amounts of food. I looked up the word "scale" in the dictionary, and it said 衡器{こうき}. So I found a ...
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10 votes
4 answers
1k views

What changes are made to the pronunciation of gairaigo?

What changes are usually made to the pronunciation of gairaigo? I notice that vowels are often added between multiple consonants and to the end of words (eg "programmer" => "puroguramaa" (プログラマー)), ...
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10 votes
4 answers
516 views

ブラウザ or ブラウザー? Words borrowed from English which end with -er

I noticed that some (most? all?) words that were borrowed from English and end with -er in English can have either short or long vowel at the end: browser - can be ブラウザ or ブラウザー driver - can be ドライバ ...
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10 votes
1 answer
1k views

What is the small tray called when paying for something in person?

When I pay for something I don't hand the money over directly. I put it in a small tray.
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10 votes
1 answer
368 views

question about kanji sports names 蹴球, 籠球, 庭球, and 野球

A few questions about these words. The words [蹴球]{しゅうきゅう}, [籠球]{ろうきゅう}, and [庭球]{ていきゅう} mean football, basketball, and tennis, respectively. But I have only seen them in a dictionary, and in practice ...
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10 votes
2 answers
894 views

Attempts to distinguish English "L" and "R" sounds using (extended) katakana

Katakana can represent many foreign sounds that do not exist in native Japanese words, either by using special characters such as ヴ or by using special katakana combinations such as フュ. They are ...
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10 votes
1 answer
413 views

Term for multiple foreign words sharing the same loanword in Japanese?

Is there a term that describes multiple foreign words sharing the same Japanese-language loanword? For example, Wikipedia's disambiguation page for フォーク (Romaji: foku) covers both the English word "...
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10 votes
1 answer
257 views

Is there any gairaigo based on Australian English?

Has any Australian English become incorporated into Japanese as gairaigo? Or would most Japanese people only be exposed to Australian English from Australian-made shows such as "The Crocodile Hunter"?
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