What are these pseudo English words like salaryman?

Many words written in katakana may seem to be English to Japanese people, but English speakers don't know what they mean: they only exist as pseudo-English Japanese words. This may seem odd, but it is similar to the way that many pseudo-Chinese words have been invented by the Japanese. In the same way that `walkman' is now part of English, many of the Japanese-made Chinese words have been adopted by the Chinese.

In Japan, these words are called wasei eigo. Wasei means `made in Japan', and eigo means English. So wasei eigo (和製英語) means `English made in Japan'. One well-known example of this is `walkman' for portable tape player.

Note also that a lot of Japanese gairaigo words actually come from languages other than English. See Words from other languages. The Japanese have also given new meanings to existing English words. See What "false friends" are there between Japanese and English?

Here are some well-known wasei eigo words.

all back

Ōru bakku (オールバック) means 'swept back hair'.

American coffee

Amerikan kōhii (アメリカンコーヒー) means 'weak coffee'.

Note that "koohii" is from Dutch (see Which Japanese words come from Dutch?).

American dog

Amerikan doggu (アメリカンドッグ) means 'corn dog'.

A frankfurter on a stick dipped in batter and deep-fried.

baby car

Bebii kā (ベビーカー) means 'pram/stroller'.

ball pen

Bōru pen (ボールペン) means 'ballpoint pen'.

bed town

Betto taun (ベットタウン) or beddo taun (ベッドタウン) means 'commuter town'.

bottle keep

Botoru kiipu (ボトルキープ) means 'The practice of buying a bottle of spirits at a bar which is then kept there for the customer'.

cell motor

Seru mōtā (セルモーター) means 'starter motor'.

cheer girl

Chia gāru (チアガール) means 'cheerleader'.

change lever

Chenjirebā (チェンジレバー) means 'gear stick, gearshift'.

Konsento (コンセント) means 'electric socket'.

From "concentric plug". See What is the origin of for electric sockets?


Kūrā (クーラー) means 'air conditioner'.

cuffs button

Kafusu botan (カフスボタン) means 'cuff link'.

The Japanese word botan (ボタン) originates from Portuguese. See Which Japanese words come from Portuguese?

decoration cake

Dekorēshonkēki (デコレーションケーキ) means 'decorated cake'.

deep kiss

Diipu kisu (ディープキス) means 'tongue kiss'.

doctor stop

Dokutā sutoppu (ドクターストップ) means 'doctor's instructions to slow down or give up tobacco, alcohol'.

dump car

Dampukā (ダンプカー) means 'dump truck, dumper'.


Furiitā (フリーター) means 'Permanent casual worker'.

May be formed from English "free" and German "arbeiter".

free size

Furiisaizu (フリーサイズ) means 'one size fits all'.

front glass

Furonto garasu (フロントガラス) means 'windscreen/windshield'.

fruit beer

Furūtsubiiru (フルーツビール) means 'cider, perry'.

"Cider" is used to refer to a fizzy drink. See What "false friends" are there between Japanese and English?.


Jii pan (ジーパン) means 'jeans'.

An abbreviated combination of "jeans" and "pants". See What are contracted words like for more of these.

game centre

Gēmu sentā (ゲームセンター) means 'video game arcade'.

gasoline stand

Gasorinsutando (ガソリンスタンド) means 'gas station, petrol station'.

golden hour

Gōruden awā (ゴールデンアワー) means '`prime time' television'.

golden week

Gōruden wiiku (ゴールデンウィーク) means 'A week around the end of April and beginning of May'.

This week contains several national holidays, Showa Day, Shōwa no Hi (昭和の日) on April 29, Constitution Memorial Day, Kenpō Kinenbi (憲法記念日), on May 3, Greenery Day Midori no Hi (みどりの日) on May 4, and Children's Day Kodomo no Hi (こどもの日) on May 5.

gravure idol

Gurabia aidoru (グラビアアイドル) means 'glamour model, bikini model'.

The word "gravure", gurabia (グラビア), originates from a form of printing used for photography. The "gravure" pages of magazines were the pages containing photographs, thus "gravure idol".


Gādo man (ガードマン) means 'Security guard'.

health meter

Herusu mētā (ヘルスメーター) means 'bathroom scales'.

hello work

Harō wāku (ハローワーク) means 'job centre'.

high miss

Hai misu (ハイミス) means 'spinster'.

This word is not used much any more.

jet coaster

Jetto kōsutā (ジェットコースター) means 'roller-coaster'.

list up

Risutoappu (リストアップ) means 'select, make a selection'.

live house

Raibu hausu (ライブハウス) means 'A bar with live music'.

love hotel

Rabu hoteru (ラブホテル) means 'An hourly-rate hotel'.

Used by couples for short stays.

magic tape

Majikkutēpu (マジックテープ) means 'Velcro'.

mail magazine

Mēru magajin (メールマガジン) means 'e-mail newsletter'.

mug cup

Magu kappu (マグカップ) means 'mug'.

minus driver

Mainasu doraibā (マイナスドライバー) means 'a flat-bladed, flat-tip or slot-head screwdriver'.

A phillips screwdriver is called a "plus driver".

miss contest

Misu kontesuto (ミスコンテスト) means 'beauty contest'.

morning service

Mōningu sābisu (モーニングサービス) means 'cheaper than usual breakfast combination'.

my pace

Mai pēsu (マイペース) means 'doing things at one's own pace'.

my car

Mai kā (マイカー) means 'owning one's own car'.

my home

Mai hōmu (マイホーム) means 'owning one's own home'.

new half

Nyū hāfu (ニューハーフ) means 'drag artist, shemale, ladyboy, or transsexual'.


Naitā (ナイター) means 'nighttime baseball game'.

note, notebook

Nōto (ノート) or nōtobukku (ノートブック) means 'laptop'.

one piece

Wan piisu (ワンピース) means 'a woman's dress'.


Wan patān (ワンパターン) means 'repetitive'.

only one

Ōnrii wan (オーンリーワン) or onrii wan (オンリーワン) means 'unique'.

"Unique" has already been co-opted by the Japanese for the meaning of "unusual" or "original". Hence perhaps the invention of "only one".

pair look

Pea rukku (ペアルック) means 'a couple wearing similar clothes'.

paper driver

Pēpā doraiba (ペーパードライバ) means 'a person with a driving licence who rarely drives'.

pipe cut

Paipu katto (パイプカット) means 'vasectomy'.

play guide

Purē gaido (プレーガイド) means 'ticket sales office'.

plus driver

Purasu doraibā (プラスドライバー) means 'a phillips screwdriver.'.

This is named for the shape of the screw head. A slot screwdriver is called a "minus driver".

pocket bell

Poketto beru or pokeberu (ポケットベルorポケベル) means 'pager'.

push phone

Pusshu hon (プッシュホン) or pusshu fon (プッシュフォン) means 'touch-tone phone'.


Sarariman (サラリマン) means 'male office worker'.

sharp pencil

Shāpu penshiru (シャープペンシル) means 'mechanical pencil, propelling pencil'.

The name "sharp pencil" originates from a tradename for mechanical pencils.

side brake

Saido burēki (サイドブレーキ) means 'handbrake'.

sign pen

Sain pen (サインペン) means 'felt-tipped pen'.

silver seat

Shirubā shiito (シルバーシート) means 'A seat on buses and trains reserved for elderly passengers.'.

The "silver" refers to the hair colour of seniors.


Sukinshippu (スキンシップ) means 'close relationship'.

soap land

Sōpu rando (ソープランド) means 'brothel'.

A previous euphemism was Toruko from "Turkish baths".

soft cream

Sofuto kuriimu (ソフトクリーム) means 'soft ice cream'.

"Soft cream" in Japan means the kind of ice cream served from a nozzle, rather than scooped.

speed down

Supiido daun (スピードダウン) means 'slow down'.

A false formation by analogy from "speed up".

stop the

Sutoppu za (ストップザ) means 'stop'.

"Stop the" is often used in slogans. For example there is a radio show sutoppu za kōtsūjiko (ストップ・ザ・交通事故), "stop the road accidents".

symbol mark

Shimboru māku (シンボルマーク) means 'logo'.


T bakku (Tバック) means 'thong'.

table centre

Tēburu sentā (テーブルセンター) means 'centrepiece of a table'.

table speech

Tēburu supiichi (テーブルスピーチ) means 'speeches at parties'.


Surii saizu (スリーサイズ) means 'female body measurements (bust, waist, hip)'.

title back

Taitoru bakku (タイトルバック) means 'film credits'.

This seems to be an abbreviation of "title background".

two piece

Tsūpiisu (ツーピース) means 'a woman's garment with matching top and skirt.'.


Appu (アップ) means 'improvement'.

Used in various unlikely combinations such as "healthy up" or "slim up" to mean any kind of improvement.

video deck

Bideo dekki (ビデオデッキ) means 'video recorder'.


Baikingu (バイキング) means 'buffet'.

Often used to mean an "all you can eat" buffet.

virgin road

Bājin rōdo (バージンロード) means 'the aisle of a church at a wedding'.

white shirt

Waishatsu (ワイシャツ) means 'a dress shirt, a white shirt.'.

wide show

Waido shō (ワイドショー) means 'a television variety show'.

External links


Thanks to Keiichiro Sugimoto for permission to use the information from his list in the above.


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