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.
Ōru bakku (オールバック) means 'swept back hair'.
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?).
Amerikan doggu (アメリカンドッグ) means 'corn dog'.
A frankfurter on a stick dipped in batter and deep-fried.
Bebii kā (ベビーカー) means 'pram/stroller'.
Bōru pen (ボールペン) means 'ballpoint pen'.
Betto taun (ベットタウン) or beddo taun (ベッドタウン) means 'commuter town'.
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'.
Seru mōtā (セルモーター) means 'starter motor'.
Chia gāru (チアガール) means 'cheerleader'.
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 konsento for electric sockets?
Kūrā (クーラー) means 'air conditioner'.
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?
Dekorēshonkēki (デコレーションケーキ) means 'decorated cake'.
Diipu kisu (ディープキス) means 'tongue kiss'.
Dokutā sutoppu (ドクターストップ) means 'doctor's instructions to slow down or give up tobacco, alcohol'.
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".
Furiisaizu (フリーサイズ) means 'one size fits all'.
Furonto garasu (フロントガラス) means 'windscreen/windshield'.
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 rimokon? for more of these.
Gēmu sentā (ゲームセンター) means 'video game arcade'.
Gasorinsutando (ガソリンスタンド) means 'gas station, petrol station'.
Gōruden awā (ゴールデンアワー) means '`prime time' television'.
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.
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'.
Herusu mētā (ヘルスメーター) means 'bathroom scales'.
Harō wāku (ハローワーク) means 'job centre'.
Hai misu (ハイミス) means 'spinster'.
This word is not used much any more.
Jetto kōsutā (ジェットコースター) means 'roller-coaster'.
Risutoappu (リストアップ) means 'select, make a selection'.
Raibu hausu (ライブハウス) means 'A bar with live music'.
Rabu hoteru (ラブホテル) means 'An hourly-rate hotel'.
Used by couples for short stays.
Majikkutēpu (マジックテープ) means 'Velcro'.
Mēru magajin (メールマガジン) means 'e-mail newsletter'.
Magu kappu (マグカップ) means 'mug'.
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".
Misu kontesuto (ミスコンテスト) means 'beauty contest'.
Mōningu sābisu (モーニングサービス) means 'cheaper than usual breakfast combination'.
Mai pēsu (マイペース) means 'doing things at one's own pace'.
Mai kā (マイカー) means 'owning one's own car'.
Mai hōmu (マイホーム) means 'owning one's own home'.
Nyū hāfu (ニューハーフ) means 'drag artist, shemale, ladyboy, or transsexual'.
Naitā (ナイター) means 'nighttime baseball game'.
Nōto (ノート) or nōtobukku (ノートブック) means 'laptop'.
Wan piisu (ワンピース) means 'a woman's dress'.
Wan patān (ワンパターン) means 'repetitive'.
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".
Pea rukku (ペアルック) means 'a couple wearing similar clothes'.
Pēpā doraiba (ペーパードライバ) means 'a person with a driving licence who rarely drives'.
Paipu katto (パイプカット) means 'vasectomy'.
Purē gaido (プレーガイド) means 'ticket sales office'.
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".
Poketto beru or pokeberu (ポケットベルorポケベル) means 'pager'.
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'.
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.
Saido burēki (サイドブレーキ) means 'handbrake'.
Sain pen (サインペン) means 'felt-tipped pen'.
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'.
Sōpu rando (ソープランド) means 'brothel'.
A previous euphemism was Toruko from "Turkish baths".
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.
Supiido daun (スピードダウン) means 'slow down'.
A false formation by analogy from "speed up".
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".
Shimboru māku (シンボルマーク) means 'logo'.
T bakku (Tバック) means 'thong'.
Tēburu sentā (テーブルセンター) means 'centrepiece of a table'.
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)'.
Taitoru bakku (タイトルバック) means 'film credits'.
This seems to be an abbreviation of "title background".
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.
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.
Bājin rōdo (バージンロード) means 'the aisle of a church at a wedding'.
Waishatsu (ワイシャツ) means 'a dress shirt, a white shirt.'.
Waido shō (ワイドショー) means 'a television variety show'.
Thanks to Keiichiro Sugimoto for permission to use the information from his list in the above.
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