Which Japanese words come from Portuguese?

Many Portuguese words entered Japanese when Jesuit priests from Portugal introduced Christian ideas and things to the Japanese during the Muromachi period (1337-1573). Here is a list of some of them which have survived until the present day. Although these words are all gairaigo, some of them have kanji. See Why do some words have ?.

(Arigatō does not come from Portuguese. See Is related to Portuguese "obrigado"?)

Here are some words from Portuguese which have survived until the present day.

bateren 【伴天連、▽破天連、バテレン】 from padre

Bateren, which means priest, father, came from Portuguese padre. (In modern Portuguese, this word is padre or pai.)

biidoro 【ビードロ】 from vidro

Biidoro, which means glass, came from Portuguese vidro.

Although modern Japanese uses gurasu from the English for "glass", the word biidoro survives in Japanese in the word biidama (ビー玉) for "marble" (the child's toy rather than the stone material).

birōdo 【ビロード 、天鵞絨】 from veludo

Birōdo, which means velvet, came from Portuguese veludo.

The kanji 天鵞絨 may also be read as てんがじゅう, the on'yomi reading (Daijirin, Kōjien). It may also have come from the Spanish velludo (Kōjien lists both possiblities.)

bōro, bōru 【ボーロ、ボール】 from bolo

Bōro, bōru by 山岡 広幸
Used under a Creative Commons licence.

Bōro, bōru, which means a type of cake or biscuit, came from Portuguese bolo.

botan 【ボタン、釦、鈕】 from botão

Botan, which means button, came from Portuguese botão.

buranko 【ブランコ】 from Balanço

Buranko, which means swing (suspended seat), may have come from Portuguese Balanço.

charumera, charumeru 【チャルメラ、▽哨吶、▽チャルメル】 from charamela

Charumera, charumeru, which means a kind of woodwind instrument called a "shawm", came from Portuguese charamela.

chokki 【チョッキ】 from jaqueta

Chokki, which means waistcoat (UK English) or vest (US English), may have come from Portuguese jaqueta. (In modern Portuguese, this word is colete.)

The source language and exact source of this word are uncertain.

furasuko 【フラスコ】 from frasco

Furasuko, which means flask, came from Portuguese frasco.

Igirisu 【イギリス】 from inglez

Igirisu, which means England/The UK, came from Portuguese inglez. (In modern Portuguese, this word is inglês.)

In Portuguese, inglês means English or Englishman. In Japanese, igirisu means 'The United Kingdom'.

jōro 【如雨露、▽如露、じょうろ】 from jorro

Jōro, which means watering can, may have come from Portuguese jorro. (In modern Portuguese, this word is jarro.)

Kōjien says this origin is one theory. Daijirin also gives the Portuguese jorro as a possible origin.

jiban, juban 【襦袢、ジバン、ジュバン】 from gibão

Jiban, juban, which means underwear, came from Portuguese gibão.

In Portuguese, the word "gibão" means "jerkin" (in some cases, "doublet"), rather than "underwear".

kapitan 【カピタン、▽甲比丹、▽甲必丹】 from capitão

Kapitan, which means captain, came from Portuguese capitão.

kanakin, kanekin 【かなきん、かねきん、金巾】 from canequim

Kanakin, kanekin, which means unbleached muslin/calico, came from Portuguese canequim.

The word canequim is not used in present-day Portuguese.

kappa 【カッパ、合羽】 from capa

Kappa, which means raincoat, came from Portuguese capa. (In modern Portuguese, this word is capa (de chuva).)

karumera 【カルメラ】 from caramelo

Karumera, which means caramel, came from Portuguese caramelo.

Daijirin but not Kōjien notes the Portuguese caramelo as a source for this word.

karuta 【カルタ、歌留多、▽加留多、骨牌】 from carta

Karuta, which means playing cards, came from Portuguese carta. (In modern Portuguese, this word is cartas (de jogar).)

kirishitan 【キリシタン、切支丹、▽吉利支丹】 from cristão

Kirishitan, which means Christian, came from Portuguese cristão.

kirisuto 【キリスト、基督】 from Cristo

Kirisuto, which means Christ, came from Portuguese Cristo.

kompeitō 【コンペイトー、金米糖、金平糖、▽金餅糖】 from confeito

Kompeitō by Midori
Used under a Creative Commons licence.

Kompeitō, which means a kind of star-shaped candy, came from Portuguese confeito.

The modern Portuguese word "confeito" more commonly means "sugar-plum" or "comfit", though it also signifies a small candy made with hardened melted sugar, to which various dyes or ingredients are added, sold in wrapped paper. In this case, it is also called "rebuçado". "Confeito" is also related to the English word "confetti".

kurusu 【クルス】 from cruz

Kurusu, which means cross, came from Portuguese cruz.

The kiri in pin kara kiri made is said to be a corruption of クルス.

marumero 【マルメロ、木瓜】 from marmelo

Marumero, which means quince, came from Portuguese marmelo.

The kanji writing 木瓜 may also be read as ぼけ. See What does mean? for more on this word.

meriyasu 【莫大小、▽目利安、メリヤス】 from meias

Meriyasu, which means hosiery, knitting, came from Portuguese meias.

In Portuguese, meias means "socks".

miira 【ミイラ、木乃伊】 from mirra

Miira, which means mummy (embalmed human), came from Portuguese mirra.

In Portuguese, mirra means "myrrh".

oranda 【オランダ、和蘭、阿蘭陀、▽和蘭陀】 from Olanda

Oranda, which means Holland, came from Portuguese Olanda. (In modern Portuguese, this word is Holanda.)

pan 【パン、麺麭、▽麪包】 from pão

Pan, which means bread, came from Portuguese pão.

pin kara kiri made 【ピンからキリまで】 from pinta, cruz

Pin kara kiri made, which means completely, utterly, may have come from Portuguese pinta, cruz.

rasha 【羅紗、ラシャ】 from raxa

Rasha, which means felt, came from Portuguese raxa.

This is usually called feruto (フェルト) in modern Japan.

rozario 【ロザリオ】 from rosario

Rozario, which means rosary, came from Portuguese rosario . (In modern Portuguese, this word is rosário.)

sabato 【サバト】 from sábado

Sabato, which means Saturday, came from Portuguese sábado.

Kōjien also notes the Dutch sabbat as a possible source for this word.

saboten 【サボテン、シャボテン、仙人掌、覇王樹】 from sabão

Saboten, which means cactus, may have come from Portuguese sabão.

This may have originated from Portuguese sabão, meaning "soap" (see shabon), in a formation from sabontei (石鹸体) meaning "soap-like object".

sarasa 【サラサ、更紗】 from saraça

Sarasa, which means chintz, came from Portuguese saraça.

This word is not used in modern Portuguese.

shabon 【シャボン】 from sabão

Shabon, which means soap, came from Portuguese sabão.

Although the word sekken (石鹸) has replaced this in most uses, shabon is still used in the form shabon-dama, "soap bubble".

shōro 【ショーロ】 from choro

Shōro, which means weeping, came from Portuguese choro.

subeta 【スベタ】 from espada

Subeta, which means an ugly woman, a worthless card, or an uninteresting person, came from Portuguese espada.

This originally meant "sword" in card games. The word is not common in modern Japanese.

tabako 【タバコ、たばこ、煙草、▽莨】 from tabaco

Tabako, which means tobacco, cigarettes, came from Portuguese tabaco.

totan 【トタン】 from tutanaga

Totan, which means zinc, came from Portuguese tutanaga.

Totan means "galvanized sheet iron" such as corrugated roofing material in Japanese. In Portuguese, "tutanaga" is a whitish alloy made of copper, zinc and nickel to which bits of iron, silver or arsenium are added. It is considered a Chinese invention, though Portuguese inherited the word via Persian "tutia-nak", meaning "zinc oxide".

tempura 【てんぷら、天麩羅、天婦羅】 from têmporas

Tempura by Kanko*
Used under a Creative Commons licence.

Tempura, vegetables or fish deep fried in batter, may have come from Portuguese têmporas. (In modern Portuguese, this word is tempero.)

Tempero is Portuguese for spice or seasoning, but the Japanese word tempura means battered and deep-fried fish or vegetables.

zabon 【ザボン、朱欒、▽香欒】 from zamboa

Zabon, a kind of large citrus fruit called pomelo or shaddock (Latin name: Citrus maxima), came from Portuguese zamboa.

This fruit is also called buntan and bontan.

In the above lists, the symbol ▽ marks uncommon words, readings and variations.


This list was derived from posts by Christian Wittern, Tomoko Yamamoto, and Bart Mathias, and checked and compiled with help from Paul Blay.

Copyright © 1994-2015 Ben Bullock

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