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

5.4. 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 4. Words from other languages. The Japanese have also given new meanings to existing English words. See 5.6. What "false friends" are there between Japanese and English?

Here is a partial list of wasei eigo
Wasei-Eigo Romanized Japanese Katakana Meaning Notes
all back ōru bakku オール バック swept back hair
American coffee amerikan kōhii アメリカン コーヒー weak coffee Note that "koohii" is from Dutch (see 4.4. Which Japanese words come from Dutch?).
American dog amerikan doggu アメリカン ドッグ corn dog (frankfurter on a stick dipped in batter and deep-fried)
baby car bebii kā ベビー カー pram/stroller
ball pen bōrupen ボールペン ballpoint pen
bed town betto taun
beddo taun
ベット タウン
ベッド タウン
commuter town
bottle keep botoru kiipu ボトル キープ 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 starter motor
cheer girl chiagāru チアガール cheerleader
change lever chenjirebā チェンジレバー gear stick, gearshift
cooler kūrā クーラー air conditioner
cuffs button kafusu botan カフス ボタン cuff link
decoration cake dekorēshonkēki デコレーションケーキ decorated cake
deep kiss diipu kisu ディープ キス tongue kiss
doctor stop dokutā sutoppu ドクター ストップ doctor's instructions to slow down or give up tobacco, alcohol
dump car dampukā ダンプカー dump truck, dumper
freeter furiitā フリーター Permanent casual worker May be formed from English "free" and German "arbeiter".
free size furiisaizu フリーサイズ one size fits all
front glass furonto garasu フロント ガラス windscreen/windshield
fruit beer furūtsubiiru フルーツビール cider "Cider" is used to refer to a fizzy drink. See 5.6. What "false friends" are there between Japanese and English?.
g-pan jii pan ジー パン jeans An abbreviated combination of "jeans" and "pants". See 8.3. What are contracted words like for more of these.
game centre gēmu sentā ゲーム センター video game arcade
gasoline stand gasorinsutando ガソリンスタンド gas station, petrol station
golden hour gōruden awā ゴールデン アワー `prime time' television
golden week gōruden wiiku ゴールデン ウィーク First week of May, which contains several national holidays
guardman gādo man ガード マン Security guard
health meter herusu mētā ヘルス メーター bathroom scales
hello work harō wāku ハロー ワーク job centre
high miss hai misu ハイ ミス spinster This word is not used much any more.
jet coaster jetto kōsutā ジェット コースター roller-coaster
list up risutoappu リストアップ select, make a selection
live house raibu hausu ライブ ハウス A bar with live music
love hotel rabu hoteru ラブ ホテル An hourly-rate hotel Used by couples for short stays.
magic tape majikkutēpu マジックテープ Velcro
mail magazine mērumagajin メールマガジン e-mail newsletter
mug cup magukappu マグカップ A mug
minus driver mainasu doraibā マイナス ドライバー A usual (not phillips) screwdriver. See also "plus driver".
miss contest misu kontesuto ミス コンテスト beauty contest
morning service mōningu sābisu モーニング サービス cheaper than usual breakfast combination
my pace mai pēsu マイ ペース doing things at one's own pace
my car mai kā マイ カー owning one's own car
my home mai hōmu マイ ホーム owning one's own home
new half nyūhāfu ニューハーフ drag artist, shemale, ladyboy, or transsexual
nighter naitā ナイター nighttime baseball game
one piece wan piisu ワン ピース A woman's dress
one-pattern wan patān ワン パターン repetitive
only one ōnrii wan
onrii wan
オーンリー ワン
オンリー ワン
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 a couple wearing similar clothes
paper driver pēpā doraiba ペーパー ドライバ person with a driving licence who rarely drives
pipe cut paipu katto パイプ カット vasectomy
play guide purē gaido プレー ガイド ticket sales office
plus driver purasu doraibā プラス ドライバー A phillips screwdriver. See also "minus driver".
pocket bell pokettoberu or pokeberu ポケットベル or ポケベル pager
push phone pusshu hon
pusshu fon
プッシュ ホン
プッシュ フォン
touch-tone phone
salaryman sarariman サラリマン male office worker
sharp pencil shāpu penshiru シャープ ペンシル mechanical pencil Originates from the company "Sharp".
side brake saido burēki サイド ブレーキ handbrake
sign pen saimpen サインペン felt-tipped pen
silver seat shirubā shiito シルバー シート A seat on buses and trains reserved for elderly passengers. The "silver" refers to the hair colour of seniors.
skinship sukinshippu スキンシップ close relationship
soap land sōpu rando ソープ ランド brothel A previous euphemism was Toruko from "Turkish baths".
soft cream sofuto kuriimu ソフト クリーム soft ice cream Ice cream from a nozzle, rather than scooped.
speed down supiido daun スピード ダウン slow down False formation by analogy from "speed up".
stop the sutoppu za ストップ ザ stop Often used in slogans where "stop" would be normal in English.
symbol mark shimboru māku シンボル マーク logo
T-back T bakku T バック thong
table centre tēburu sentā テーブル センター centrepiece of a table
table speech tēburu supiichi テーブル スピーチ speeches at parties
three-size surii saizu スリー サイズ Female body measurements (bust, waist, hip)
title back taitoru bakku タイトル バック film credits This seems to be an abbreviation of "title background".
two piece tsūpiisu ツーピース A woman's garment with matching top and skirt.
up appu アップ 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 video recorder
viking baikingu バイキング buffet Often used to mean an "all you can eat" buffet.
virgin road bājin rōdo バージン ロード The aisle of a church at a wedding
white shirt waishatsu ワイシャツ A dress shirt, a white shirt.
wide show waido shō ワイド ショー `variety' television show

External links


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


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