sci.lang.japan FAQ / 5. Japanese and English

5.5. What English words come from Japanese?

The following table gives some English words which have origins in Japanese. In some cases, the English word has a different meaning, spelling, or pronunciation from the original Japanese.

English word Romanized Japanese word Kanji/kana Notes
Adzuki azuki 小豆 A kind of bean. In Japanese, the word is pronounced a-zu-ki without any "d" sound. The "d" in "adzuki" is a relic of a non-standard system of romanization where づ is romanized as "dzu". See What is the "kwa" in "kwaidan"? for more of these kinds of romanizations.
Anime anime アニメ Anime is a contracted form of animēshon (アニメーション) (from English "animation"). The word "anime" is now used in English to mean "Japanese animation". See also 8.3. What are contracted words like for more on contracted words.
Bokeh boke ぼけ A photographic term meaning deliberately out of focus. The "h" at the end of "bokeh" is used to indicate the pronunciation "boh-keh" rather than "boak". See also 6.12. What does mean?
Bonsai bonsai 盆栽 The art of growing miniature trees.
Bukkake bukkake ぶっかけ A sexual practice. In Japanese, this just means "splash on", without necessarily any sexual connotations. See 6.10. What does mean?
Edamame edamame 枝豆 Soy beans. See also soy.
Emoji emoji 絵文字 Literally "picture characters".
Futon futon 布団 The Japanese term means either a foldable mattress (shikibuton (敷き布団) or a duvet (kakebuton (掛け布団). The wooden framed sofa-bed called a "futon" in Western countries is not related to the Japanese futon, which is usually laid on the floor on top of tatami.
Ginkgo ginkyō 銀杏 A kind of tree and its nut.
Go igo 囲碁 A game played with black and white stones.
Haiku haiku 俳句 Although "haiku" has become a kind of poetry in English consisting of seventeen English syllables, the meaning in Japanese is a seventeen-syllable poem which contains a seasonal word or phrase, kigo (季語). The meaning of "syllables" is also different from English, since the seventeen "syllables" are moras ("beats") rather than true syllables. See 7.7. What is the difference between a mora and a syllable?.
Hibachi hibachi 火鉢 A kind of grill.
Honcho hanchō 班長 According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
Origin of HONCHO
Japanese hanchō squad leader, from han squad + chō head, chief
First Known Use: 1955
Ikebana ikebana 生け花 A Japanese style of flower arranging.
Karaoke karaoke カラオケ The Japanese term originates from kara (空), "empty" and oke (オケ), an abbreviation for "orchestra" (see 8.3. What are contracted words like ). It is usually written all in katakana.
Kimono kimono 着物 A "kimono" is usually made of silk and worn with an obi. The dressing gown called a kimono in the west is closer to the Japanese yukata (浴衣) than a Japanese kimono.
Kudzu kuzu The English word is used for the root of the plant. The Japanese word means the plant itself, a kind of climbing vine which grows as a weed.
Manga manga 漫画 Manga just means "comics" in Japan but has come to mean "Japanese comics" in English.
Mirin mirin みりん A flavouring.
Miso miso みそ, 味噌 A flavouring.
Moxa mogusa This is usually called kyū (灸) in modern Japanese.
Nashi nashi A fruit which looks like an apple and tastes like a pear.
Noh A kind of Japanese drama.
Origami origami 折紙 The art of paper-folding.
Rickshaw jinrikisha 人力車 A taxi pulled by a human.
Sake sake Rice wine. This is sometimes styled saké in English with an acute accent above the e to indicate the Japanese pronunciation, "sah-keh". See also What is the "kwa" in "kwaidan"?
Sashimi sashimi 刺身 Fish served raw. See also 1.2.1. What are the origins of the for ?.
Satsuma Satsuma 薩摩

In English this means a kind of orange. However, this orange is called mikan in Japanese. The English name "satsuma" comes from the name of the province of Japan where the oranges were grown. The province "Satsuma" no longer exists. It was located in present-day Kyushu. Japanese people associate the word "satsuma" with a kind of sweet potato, satsuma-imo (薩摩芋), rather than oranges.

Satsuma-ware is also the name of a kind of pottery.

Sensei sensei 先生 "Teacher", often used in karate classes.
Shiatsu shiatsu 指圧 The finger massage technique.
Shiitake shiitake しいたけ
A kind of mushroom.
Shoji shōji 障子 A paper and wood partition.
Sika shika シカ
A kind of deer. Pronounced like "seeker" in English, although the Japanese word is pronounced "she-ka".
Soy shōyu 醤油 A kind of bean, made into soy sauce. The English "soy" originates from the Japanese name of the sauce, shōyu, rather than the bean itself, which is called daizu (大豆), literally "large bean".
Sudoku sūdoku 数独 See 3.9. What is the origin of the name of the number puzzle "sudoku"?
Sushi sushi すし See also 1.2.1. What are the origins of the for ? e: Tempura jr: tempura jk: 天ぷら, 天麩羅 The Japanese word tempura originates from Portuguese. See also 4.2. Which Japanese words come from Portuguese?.
Teriyaki teriyaki てりやき A form of cooking with a glaze.
Tofu tōfu 豆腐 Bean curd. The Japanese word tōfu is from the Chinese, but the English word copies the Japanese form.
Umami umami うまみ A flavour.
Yakitori yakitori 焼き鳥 Grilled chicken.
Zori zōri 草履 A kind of sandal with an upper part which fits through the gap between the big toe and the other toes. This kind of footwear is also known as "flip flops".

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