Which Japanese words come from Dutch?

The Dutch were one of the first European nations to trade with Japan, starting in the 1600s. During Japan's closed period, from the 17th to 19th century, the Dutch were the only European nation allowed to trade with Japan. Because the Dutch introduced new goods like rubber, glass, cork, and nickel, and technologies, such as lamps, pistols, scalpels, and pens to Japan, the Japanese used the Dutch names of the new things. Words from Dutch such as kōhii (コーヒー) for coffee, and biiru (ビール) for beer are still used.

The following common modern Japanese words which come from Dutch. Some of these also have kanji, which were added to the Dutch pronunciations by the Japanese. See Why do some words have ?

arukōru 【アルコール】 from alcohol

Arukōru, which means alcohol, came from Dutch alcohol.

asubesuto 【アスベスト】 from asbest

Asubesuto, which means asbestos, came from Dutch asbest.

biiru 【ビール、麦酒】 from bier

Biiru, which means beer, came from Dutch bier.

bōruban 【ボールバン、ボール盤】 from boor-bank

Bōruban, which means drill press, came from Dutch boor-bank.

Although this is half katakana and half kanji, the kanji part is ateji.[1] See Why do some words have ?

buriki 【ブリキ、錻力、鉄葉、錻】 from blik

Buriki, which means tin, tin plate, came from Dutch blik.

dansu 【ダンス】 from dans

Dansu, which means dance, came from Dutch dans.

dokku 【ドック】 from dok

Dokku, which means dock, dry dock, came from Dutch dok.

This is commonly used in the expression ningen dokku (人間ドック), a health check.

garasu 【ガラス、硝子】 from glas

Garasu, which means glass, window glass, came from Dutch glas.

A glass is called koppu (こっぷ), also from Dutch.

gasu 【ガス】 from gas

Gasu, which means gas, came from Dutch gas.

gomu 【ゴム】 from gom

Gomu, which means rubber or gum, came from Dutch gom.

hisuterii 【ヒステリー】 from hysterie

Hisuterii, which means hysteria, came from Dutch hysterie.

hoppu 【ホップ】 from hop

Hoppu, which means hop (the plant), came from Dutch hop.

inki 【インキ】 from inkt

Inki, which means ink, came from Dutch inkt.

kaban 【カバン、鞄】 from kabas

Kaban, which means bag, came from Dutch kabas.

kanfuru 【カンフル】 from kamfer

Kanfuru, which means camphor, came from Dutch kamfer.

karan 【カラン、下欄】 from kraan

Karan, which means tap or faucet, came from Dutch kraan.

kiniine 【キニーネ】 from kinine

Kiniine, which means quinine, came from Dutch kinine.

kokku 【コック】 from kok

Kokku, which means cook (the person) or chef, came from Dutch kok.

konpasu 【コンパス】 from kompas

Konpasu, which means compass (drawing instrument), came from Dutch kompas.

The word konpasu was also used for the direction-finding compass.

kōhii 【コーヒー、珈琲】 from koffie

Kōhii, which means coffee, came from Dutch koffie.

koppu 【コップ】 from kop

Koppu, which means drinking glass, came from Dutch kop.

koruku 【コルク】 from kurk

Koruku, which means cork, came from Dutch kurk.

manto 【マント】 from mantel

Manto, which means cloak, came from Dutch mantel.

marariya 【マラリヤ】 from malaria

Marariya, which means malaria, came from Dutch malaria.

morumotto 【モルモット】 from marmot

Morumotto, which means guinea pig, came from Dutch marmot.

The guinea pig was first introduced to Japan by the Dutch in 1843.[2]

masuto 【マスト】 from mast

Masuto, which means mast (of a ship), came from Dutch mast.

mesu 【メス】 from mes (knife)

Mesu, which means scalpel, came from Dutch mes (knife).

moruhine 【モルヒネ】 from morfine

Moruhine, which means morphine, came from Dutch morfine.

nikkeru 【ニッケル】 from nikkel

Nikkeru, which means nickel, came from Dutch nikkel.

oburāto 【オブラート】 from oblaat

Oburāto by 西表カイネコ
CC licence

Oburāto may have come from Dutch oblaat.

An oburāto is a disc of thin starch used to wrap sweets or medicine. The origin of the Japanese word is disputed. It may also have come from German Oblate. See Which Japanese words come from German?

orugōru 【オルゴール】 from orgel

Orugōru, which means music box, came from Dutch orgel.

The Dutch word "orgel" means "organ".

otenba 【オテンバ、お転婆】 from ontembaar

Otenba, which means a tomboy, may have come from Dutch ontembaar.

The Japanese word "otemba", meaning a tomboy, is suggested to have come from the Dutch word "ontembaar", meaning untameable. However, this may just be a coincidence.

pen 【ペン】 from pen

Pen, which means pen, came from Dutch pen.

penki 【ペンキ】 from pek

Penki, which means paint, came from Dutch pek.

The Dutch word "pek" means "pitch", a substance like tar used for coating ships. Penki originally referred to coating used to protect and waterproof wooden ships. It now means paint.

pinsetto 【ピンセット】 from pincet

Pinsetto, which means tweezers, came from Dutch pincet.

pisutoru 【ピストル】 from pistool

Pisutoru, which means pistol, came from Dutch pistool.

pompu 【ポンプ】 from pomp

Pompu, which means pump, came from Dutch pomp.

rampu 【ランプ】 from lamp

Rampu, which means lamp, came from Dutch lamp.

randoseru 【ランドセル】 from ransel

Randoseru, which means knapsack, came from Dutch ransel.

In modern Japanese, randoseru is used only for the leather school satchels worn by Japanese elementary school children. See How is Japanese writing taught to Japanese children? for more about the Japanese education system.

ransetto 【ランセット】 from lancet

Ransetto, which means lancet, came from Dutch lancet.

renzu 【レンズ】 from lens

Renzu, which means lens, came from Dutch lens.

retoruto 【レトルト】 from retort

Retoruto, which means retort, a container used for heating, came from Dutch retort.

In Japanese this is often used in the form retoruto shokuhin (レトルト食品), which are foods stored in containers called "retort pouches".

safuran 【サフラン】 from saffraan

Safuran, which means saffron, came from Dutch saffraan.

shiroppu 【シロップ】 from siroop

Shiroppu, which means syrup, came from Dutch siroop.

supoito 【スポイト】 from spuit

Supoito, which means pipette, came from Dutch spuit.

This originates from a misunderstanding of the Dutch word "spuit", which actually means "spout" or "syringe" rather than "pipette".

sukoppu 【スコップ】 from schop

Sukoppu, which means spade or shovel, came from Dutch schop.

zukku 【ズック】 from doek

Zukku, which means canvas cloth; plimsolls, came from Dutch doek.

In modern Japanese, zukku (ズック) usually refers to a kind of shoe worn by school children, also known as uwabaki (上履き).

Canvas cloth is called hanpu (帆布) or kyanbasu (キャンバス).

External links


Thanks to Ger de Groot, Gert Kok, Jim Breen, Rob Dieters, Tanaka Tomoyuki, and Jorg Entzinger for additions to this list


  1. ボール盤 in the Digital Daijisen
  2. Egakareta Ikimono-tachi by Waseda University Library, 2001

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