What "false friends" are there between Japanese and English?
Japanese has many loanwords from English. Many have gained meanings
different from the original. Words which seem similar but are actually
different in two different languages are called "false friends".
For example, some English words are used as substitutes for a similar
existing Japanese word. For example the Japanese word charenji,
from English "challenge", is used as a substitute for the word
chōsen (挑戦), even when this does not fit the English
Here are some common examples.
"About" has taken on the meaning vague, lazy, or sloppy. For example,
an abauto na hito (アバウトな人), literally "about person" is
someone who is lazy or not punctual.
Charenji suru is used as a substitute for
chōsen suru (挑戦する), to attempt a difficult task.
Kurēmu suru means complain or make a complaint about,
particularly one requiring compensation, possibly derived from
"Cunning" means cheating in an exam.
"Dash" in Japanese means a rush or a hurry.
Any kind of weight-loss regimen, including exercise-based, is called a
"diet". However, daietto is not used to mean diet in the sense of
"things eaten", which is jōshoku (常食) in Japanese.
Don't mind ドンマイ
Donmai means "Never mind!".
A man who pampers women.
Fried potato フライド ポテト
Rōmaji: furaido poteto
"Fried potato" or just poteto means chips (UK) or french fries.
"Glamour" is used in Japan as an adjective to describe large-breasted
The mysterious word "goo" is actually an abbreviation of "good", hence
the shop name "Wonder Goo".
The word "half" is used as a noun to mean a person who is mixed-race
A car's steering wheel.
"Happening" means an unexpected occurrence or a surprise.
High tension ハイ テンション
Rōmaji: hai tenshon
A person who is "high tension" in Japanese is not someone who is tense
or nervous, but excited, excitable, or hyperactive. The Japanese comes
from the use of "tension" to mean "voltage", thus a "high tension"
person in Japanese is like a "live wire" in English.
An "image" is an artist's impression. Imēji is used for, for
example, artist's impressions of as-yet-unconstructed buildings.
"Juice" in Japanese is used not just for fruit juice, but as a word
for soft drinks in general, including Coca-Cola or even green tea.
A "mansion" in Japan is a block of flats or condominium.
Present プレゼント する
Rōmaji: purezento suru
Purezento suru means "give a present".
An advertising flyer or a handout at school.
House redecoration, refurbishment, or repair is called "reform" in
Japanese, possibly from a false construction "re-form".
To have good taste may be referred to as sensu ga aru "to have sense" in Japanese.
Slim, not fat.
A sweat shirt.
"Unique" is used in Japanese as a substitute for
koseiteki (個性的), "individual", "unusual".
See also What are these pseudo English words like salaryman? about pseudo-English created in Japan, and
What are contracted words like rimokon? about pseudo-English made by contracting words
together. What words have the same kanji in China and Japan but different meanings? covers kanji words which have
different meanings in Chinese and Japanese.
References and links
Copyright © 1994-2018 Ben Bullock
If you have questions, corrections, or comments, please contact
or use the discussion forum / Privacy