sci.lang.japan FAQ / 4. Words from other languages

Which Japanese words come from German?

Japanese borrowed many words from German particularly medical words from the study of medicine in Germany by Japanese doctors during the Meiji period (1868-1912). Also common are words related to mountain climbing and skiing, such as gerende for "ski slope".

These German words often sound confusingly like the equivalent English word. For example, enerugii for "energy".

Japanese (katakana) Japanese (romanized) German Meaning of Japanese word in English Notes
アドレナリン adorenarin Adrenalin adrenalin
アレルギー arerugii Allergie allergy
アルバイト arubaito Arbeit Part-time work The original meaning of Arbeit is just "work", but in Japanese it signifies a casual part-time job.
アスピリン asupirin Aspirin aspirin
バウムクーヘン baumukūhen Baumkuchen Baumkuchen A cake in the form of tree rings, very popular in Japan.
ベクトル bekutoru Vektor vector
ビールス biirusu Virus virus
ボンベ bombe Bombe gas cylinder In modern German, the word "Bombe" means "bomb" rather than gas cylinder.
チフス chifusu Typhus typhus
ダックスフント dakkusufunto Dachshund dachshund (dog breed)
デマ dema Demagogie demagoguery
ディーゼル diizeru Diesel diesel engine The fuel is called keiyu (軽油) in Japanese.
デーモン dēmon Dämon demon
ドーベルマン dōberuman Dobermann doberman (dog breed)
エネルギー enerugii Energie energy
フォルクスワーゲン forukusuwāgen Volkswagen Volkswagen
ゲノム genomu Genom genome
ゲレンデ gerende Gelände ski slope
ギプス gipusu Gips plaster cast; cast Some sources also claim this word is from Dutch. Reference 1 gives it as from German.
グミ gumi gummi gumdrop
グルッペ guruppe Gruppe group
ガーゼ gāze Gaze bandages
ハルン harun Harn urine (medical)
ヘゲモニー hegemonii Hegemonie hegemony
ヘルペス herupesu Herpes herpes
ヘット hetto Fett tallow
ヒステリー hisuterii Hysterie hysteria
ホルモン horumon Hormon hormone
ヒュッテ hyutte Hütte mountain hut
ハーケン hāken Haken piton (climbing tool)
ハーケンクロイツ hākenkuroitsu Hakenkreuz swastika This refers to the Nazi swastika rather than the Japanese symbol. See What are the symbols on Japanese maps?.
イデオロギー ideorogii Ideologie
インポ impo Impotenz impotence
ウィンドヤッケ indoyakke Windjacke anorak
ジフィリス jifirisu Syphilis syphillis
カフェイン kafein Kaffein caffeine
カノン kanon Kanon canon
カプセル kapuseru Kapsel capsule
カリエス kariesu Karies caries, tooth decay
カルテ karute Karte medical records
キンダーガルテン kindāgaruten Kindergarten
コッヘル kohheru Kocher oven
コラーゲン korāgen Kollagen Collagen
クランケ kuranke Kranke (medical) patient
マイスター maisutā Meister master
マゾヒスト mazohisuto Masochist masochist
メルヘン meruhen Märchen fairy tale
メルヘンティック meruhentikku Märchen fairy tale-like This is a Japanese formation from "romantic" and meruhen, not a German word.
メルクマール merukumāru Merkmal characteristic
メッセ messe Messe trade fair
マーゲン māgen Magen stomach
ナチ nachi Nazi Nazi
ニコチン nikochin Nikotin Nicotine
ノイローゼ noirōze Neurose Neurosis
オブラート oburāto Oblate Thin disc of starch used for wrapping sweets or as a medicinal wafer. May originate from Dutch oblaat. See Which Japanese words come from Dutch?.
オナニー onanii Onanie masturbation
オペ ope Operation (surgical) operation
ピッケル pikkeru Pickel
ポルターガイスト porutāgaisuto Poltergeist
プルス purusu Puls pulse
プードル pūdoru Pudel poodle
レントゲン rentogen Röntgen X-ray
リート riito Lied German song
ルンペン rumpen Lumpen freeloader, tramp
リュックサック ryukkusakku Rucksack rucksack
リューマチ ryūmachi Rheumatismus rhematism
ローレライ rōrerai Lorelei
シャンツェ shantse Schanze ski jump
シュノーケル shunōkeru Schnorchel snorkel
シュプレッヒコール shupurehhikōru Sprechchor speaking in unison
シュラーフ shurāfu Schlafsack sleeping bag
シャーレ shāre Schale petri dish
スピッツ supittsu Spitz Pomeranian (type of dog)
ストック sutokku Stock
トラホーム torahōmu Trachom Trachoma The English-based term torahooma is now more common.
ツベルクリン tsuberukurin Tuberkulin
テーマ tēma Thema topic (of research, etc.)
テーゼ tēze These thesis
ウルトラー urutorā Ultra ultra
ワクチン wakuchin Vakzin vaccine
ワッペン wappen Wappen badge, name tag The German word Wappen means "armorial bearings, coat of arms, crest, emblem, escutcheon" but the Japanese word is used, for example, for the name tag borne by schoolchildren on outings.
ワセリン waserin Vaselin vaseline
ヨーデル yōderu Jodel yodelling
ヨード yōdo Jod iodine
ヨーグルト yōguruto Yoghurt yoghurt
ザイル zairu Seil climbing
ゼミ・ゼミナール zemi・zemināru Seminar seminar The word zemi is also used as part of the names of cram schools (juku), such as Yoyogi Zemi or Waseda Zemi.
ゾンデ zonde Sonde probe

External links


  1. Daijirin (大辞林) dictionary, second edition, published by Sanseido.


Thanks to Berthold Frommann, Martin Henke, and Roland Sieker for additions and corrections to this list. Some of the more specialized words given by Berthold have been removed for the sake of brevity or because they could not be verified; please contact the FAQ maintainer by email to the address below if you would like a fuller list.

sci.lang.japan FAQ / 4. Words from other languages

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