Japanese loan words: a guide to speaking Japanese

Japanese loan words: a guide to speaking Japanese

Japanese loan words that trap or aid in translation

As lovers of anime many of us that take our anime watching to the next level. We take up books like Japanese for Dummies or we enlist in courses to familiarize ourselves with the language. Most of us just want to watch our anime in the original Japanese without reading the subtitles all the time. Some of us have that dream to go to Japan and we want to be fluent in Japanese or at least have the ability to communicate without a tourist Japanese Language guide clenched in our hand.

Today we focus on a few words that are called loan words or gairaigo, Japanese words originating or based on foreign language (generally Western) terms, including wasei-eigo (Japanese pseudo-Anglicism). We also look at words that can trap you as their meaning in Japanese are a lot different from the original meaning. Some of these words you may have heard in an anime before.

aisu kuriimu

aisu kuriimu

AisuAisu comes from the English word ‘ice’ and can mean Ice, or is a shortened for ice cream in Japanese. Most likely “Aisu” is short for “aisu kuriimu” (ice cream) as Ice, as frozen water, is known as koori in Japanese. Confusingly, “aisu” also means “cold, with ice” as in “iced coffee” as opposed to “hot coffee.” Be careful not to fall in the language barrier trap when using this word!

Arubaito/baitoArubaito comes from the German word ‘arbeit’ that means ‘work’, but in Japan the word means ‘part-time job’.

BāgenBāgen comes from the English word ‘bargain’, which means a sale at a store.

Baiku – Baiku comes from the English word ‘bike’ but in Japanese only refer to a motorcycle, not a bicycle.

Bīru – Bīru comes from the Dutch word ‘bier’, which means beer.

Chiketto – Chiketto comes from the English word ‘Ticket’ and means Ticket in Japanese.

Dekorēshonkēki – Dekorēshonkēki loosely translated into English is ‘decoration cake’ and it means it is a fancy cake.

Depāto – Depāto comes from the English ‘depart(ment store)’ and the word can be a trap because it does not mean to depart. So if you tell someone your friend departed from home and use the word ‘depāto’ for depart. You might confuse the poor Japanese person listening to you.

Donmai – Donmai has it’s origins in English ‘don(‘t) mi(nd)’ and means “don’t worry about it”, “don’t pay (that) any mind”, “it’s/I’m OK”, “no problem”. It is a term used often when something goes wrong.

Dorama – Dorama comes from the English word Drama and can mean either a TV drama or a soap opera.

Enerugisshu – Enerugisshu comes from the German word energisch and means energetic.

Faito – Faito is a word we hear often in Anime and it comes from the English word ‘fight’. In Japanese it is often used to mean, “Do your best!” or “I’ll do my best.”

Gibu(appu) – Gibu(appu) is from the English term to give (up) and also means ‘to give up’ in Japanese.



Gomu – Gomu is a word quite well known to One Piece fans thanks to Monkey D Luffy. The word comes from the Dutch word ‘gom’ and it means rubber, eraser or rubber band in Japanese.

Hippu – Hippu comes from the English word Hips and can mean the buttocks or butt.

Jūsu/Jyuusu – Jūsu/jyuusu comes from the English word ‘juice’, but it is often used to refer to soda or energy drinks, regardless of whether they contain any juice. This is another example of a word that can be a language trap!

Kōhī – Kōhī is also a word we are very familiar with in anime. It comes from the Dutch word Koffie and it means Coffee in Japanese.

Kokku – Kokku comes from the Dutch word Kok, which is a word in Japanese used for a cook.

Pan – Pan originates from the Portuguese and Spanish words ‘pão, pan’ and means bread. A nice anime filled with this word is Yakitate!! Japan, which is an anime about a boy trying to bake the perfect Japanese bread.

Sumaato – Sumaato comes from the English ‘smart’ but does not mean being intelligent. In Japanese, “sumaato” means someone with a slim physique.

These are but a few examples of hundreds if not thousands of words that sound similar in Japanese and may or may not have the same meaning. If you want to know more about loan words, feel free to follow this link, which have more explanations and examples. Enjoy the word hunt. http://bit.ly/Japanese_Loan_Words