List of English words of Japanese origin

List of English words of Japanese origin

Words of Japanese origin have entered many languages. Some words are simple transliterations of Japanese language words for concepts inherent to Japanese culture, but some are actually words of Chinese origin that were first exposed to English via Japan. The words on this page are words which are listed in major English dictionaries and whose etymologies include Japanese. The reverse of this list can be found at List of gairaigo and wasei-eigo terms.


; anime : アニメ "Audio|Anime.ogg|listen", Japanese animation; refers to animation in general in Japanese (derived from either the English "animation" or French "dessin animé"); bonsai : 盆栽 "Audio|Bonsai.ogg|listen", "tray gardening"; the art of tending miniature trees (see the unrelated word "banzai" below); bokeh : (from ぼけ, boke), subjective aesthetic quality of out-of-focus areas of an image projected by a camera lens; bunraku : 文楽, a form of traditional Japanese puppet theatre, performed by puppeteers, chanters, and shamisen players; chanoyu : 茶の湯, Japanese tea ceremony; haiku : 俳句 "Audio|Haiku.ogg|listen", a very short poem consisting of three lines of 5, 7, and 5 morae (not syllables as commonly thought) each; see also tanka below; ikebana : 生花, flower arrangement; imari : 伊万里, Japanese porcelain wares (made in the town of Arita and exported from the port of Imari, particularly around the 17th century); kabuki : 歌舞伎, a traditional form of Japanese theatre; kakemono : 掛け物, a vertical Japanese scroll, of ink-and-brush painting or calligraphy, that hangs in a recess on a wall inside a room; kakiemon : 柿右衛門, Japanese porcelain wares featuring enamel decoration (made in Arita, using the style developed in 17th century by 酒井田 柿右衛門 "Sakaida Kakiemon"); karaoke : カラオケ "Audio|Karaoke.ogg|listen", "empty orchestra"; entertainment where an amateur singer accompanies recorded music; katsuramono : 鬘物, in Noh, the "3rd Category" play (三番目物 "sanbanme mono") of a "5 Category" play series (五番立 "goban date"), where the "leading role" (仕手 "shite") is a beautiful woman; kirigami : 切り紙, similar to origami, but involves cutting in addition to folding; koto : 箏, a traditional stringed musical instrument from Japan, resembling a zither with 13 strings; kutani : 九谷, Japanese porcelain wares, made originally in the town of Kutani of the ancient Kaga Province (current day Ishikawa); makimono : 巻物, a horizontal Japanese hand scroll, of ink-and-brush painting or calligraphy; manga : まんが or 漫画 "Audio|Manga.ogg|listen", Japanese comics; refers to comics in general in Japanese; netsuke :根付, a toggle use to tie the sash of a kimono also to attach small items such as inro and kinchaku: sometimes beautifully carved.; noh : 能, a major form of classical Japanese music drama; origami : 折り紙, artistic paper folding; otaku : オタク or おたく or ヲタク, a geeky enthusiast, especially of anime and manga; renga : 連歌, "renged poetry"; a form of Japanese collaborative poetry ; Satsuma : 薩摩焼 "satsuma-yaki" pottery from southern Kyushu ; senryu : 川柳, a form of short poetry similar to haiku ; shakuhachi : 尺八, Japanese bamboo flute; shamisen : 三味線, a three-stringed musical instrument, played with a plectrum; shunga : 春画, erotic pictures; sumi-e : 墨絵, Japanese black ink painting; taiko : 太鼓, a big drum; tanka : 短歌, "short poetry"; an older form of Japanese poetry than haiku, of the form 5-7-5-7-7 morae (not syllables; see also haiku above); ukiyo-e : 浮世絵, a type of woodblock print art or painting; waka : 和歌, a genre of Japanese poetry, often refers to "tanka"

Military and martial arts terminology

; aikido : 合気道, a "blending" art similar to judo; banzai : 万歳 "ten thousand years"; a blessing for Emperors and in modern usage a word of congratulation (see the unrelated word "bonsai" above); budo : 武道, Japanese martial arts (lit. "martial way"); bushido : 武士道, "way of the warrior"; Dan : 段, a Japanese mark of level, used in several cultural activities of Japanese origin; in budo arts the dan rank distinguishes which level of black belt one has; dan is also used in go, shogi, ikebana, chanoyu, and other arts; dojo : 道場, a training hall for the martial arts; hara-kiri : 腹切り, ritual suicide (see also seppuku); honcho : (from 班長, "hancho", team leader or class chairperson); judo : 柔道, a martial art, a sport and a philosophy developed from "jujutsu" (see below), lit. "soft way"; jujutsu : 柔術 "Audio|jujutsu.ogg|listen", a variety of close combat fighting systems (see article), lit. "soft skill" (also commonly called "jiu jitsu"); kamikaze : 神風 "Audio|kamikaze.ogg|listen", refers to Japanese World War II suicide pilots in English; in Japanese, refers to strong winds that twice scuppered Mongol attempts to invade the archipelago in the 13th century; karate : 空手 "Audio|Karate.ogg|listen", lit. "empty hand": a Japanese weaponless martial art which emphasises striking techniques (i.e. punching and kicking); kata : 型, detailed patterns of defense-and-attack movements used by many traditional martial arts; katana : 刀, the Japanese longsword (or Japanese swords in general); kendo : 剣道, the martial art of Japanese swordsmanship, lit. "sword-way"; kuzushi : 崩し, in Judo, a method of unbalancing one's opponent; ninja : 忍者, a stealthy warrior and assassin, lit. ""shinobi" practitioner" or people who practice "ninjutsu" (sometimes transliterated as ninjitsu 忍術). ; nunchaku : ヌンチャク "Audio|Nunchaku.ogg|listen", a martial arts weapon consisting of two sticks connected at their ends with a short chain or thong ; randori : 乱取り, in martial arts, free-style practice or sparring, often specifically multiple-attacker freestyle, lit. "messy striking"; ronin : 浪人, a name given to masterless samurai during the feudal period of Japan, lit. "wave man" i.e. as if tossed about on a stormy sea; Sai : 釵, a dagger, with two long, unsharpened projections attached to the handle; samurai : 侍, a common term for a warrior in pre-industrial Japan (see also bushi, above); seppuku : 切腹, ritual suicide by disembowelment (lit. "cutting the abdomen"; see also harakiri, above); sumo : 相撲, a form of wrestling; wakizashi : 脇差, a traditional Japanese sword, similar to but shorter than a katana, together with which it was often worn

Writing system

* The 4 Japanese writing systems are comprised of: kanji, hiragana, katakana, and romaji. ; hiragana : 平仮名, a Japanese syllabary, one of the four Japanese writing systems ; kana : 仮名, a general term for hiragana and katakana; kanji : 漢字, Chinese characters used in Japanese, one of the four Japanese writing systems ; katakana : 片仮名, a Japanese syllabary, one of the four Japanese writing systems ; romaji : ローマ字 "rōmaji" "Audio|Romaji.ogg|listen", the Roman alphabet; the writing of the Japanese language in Roman characters (similar to Chinese Pinyin)

Domestic items

; fusuma : 襖 or ふすま, sliding vertical rectangles which redefine spaces within a room, and act as doors; futon : 布団 "Audio|Futon.ogg|listen", a type of mattress that makes up a Japanese bed (Japanese futons are thinner than the Western variety and do not use frames); hooch : (from うち or 家 "uchi"), a thatched hut; shoji : 障子 "shōji", a translucent rice paper screen with a wooden frame, used as a room divider or door; tatami : 畳, traditional Japanese flooring, made of woven straw; tokonoma : 床の間, a small raised alcove in a washitsu (a Japanese style room with a tatami floor) where kakemono (decorative scrolls) are hung, and ikebana may be displayed


; geta : 下駄, a pair of Japanese raised wooden clogs worn with traditional Japanese garments, such as the kimono; happi (coat), Happy coat : 法被 or はっぴ a traditional Japanese workwear (uniform) overcoat.; inro : 印籠, a case for holding small objects, often worn hanging from the obi; (traditional Japanese wears didn't have pockets); kimono : 着物, a traditional full-length robe-like garment still worn by women, men and children; Obi : 帯, a wide belt which is tied in the back to secure a kimono; tabi : 足袋, traditional Japanese socks, with a separation between the big toe and other toes; yukata : 浴衣 or ゆかた, a kind of casual kimono, literally "bath clothing", consisting of one big piece of cloth with two wide sleeves; zori : 草履, sandals made from rice straw or lacquered wood, worn with a kimono for formal occasions


; adzuki, azuki bean : あずき or 小豆 "Audio|Adzuki.ogg|listen", type of bean grown in eastern Asia and the Himalayas, used in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese cuisines, usually served sweet; arame : 荒布, a type of edible seaweed; bento : 弁当, a single-portion takeout meal, box lunch; daikon : 大根, a kind of white radish; dashi : だし or 出汁, a simple soup stock considered fundamental to Japanese cooking; edamame : 枝豆, soybeans boiled whole in the green pod and served with salt; enokitake, enoki mushroom : えのきたけ or 榎茸, long, thin white mushrooms, used in Japanese, Korean and Chinese cuisines; fugu : 河豚 or フグ, the meat of the toxic pufferfish, must be prepared by specially trained chefs by law. Also means pufferfish itself.; ginkgo : 銀杏 or ぎんなん, a gymnospermous tree ("Ginkgo biloba") of eastern China that is widely grown as an ornamental or shade tree and has fan-shaped leaves and yellow fruit (the word is derived from 17th Century Japanese 銀杏 "ginkyō"); gyoza : ギョーザ or 餃子, Japanese name for Chinese dumplings, jiaozi (jiǎozi); may also be called pot stickers in English if they are fried; hibachi : 火鉢, a small, portable charcoal grill; used in North America to refer to a teppan or a small shichirin-like aluminium or cast iron grill; hijiki : ひじき or 鹿尾菜, a type of edible seaweed commonly found on rocky coastlines; kaki : 柿, Japanese persimmon; katsuo : 鰹, a skipjack tuna; katsuobushi : かつおぶし or 鰹節, dried and smoked skipjack tuna ("katsuo"), which is shaved and then used in dashi; Koji : 麹, a fungus which is the active agent in the fermentation processes, of producing miso and soy sauce from soybeans, and of producing sake and shōchū from rice.; kombu : 昆布, dried kelp, which can be eaten or used as dashi; matcha : 抹茶, powdered green tea used in the Japanese tea ceremony; matsutake : 松茸, a type of edible mushroom, with a magnificently spicy aroma similar to cinnamon, considered to be a great delicacy and the most coveted mushroom in Japan; mirin : 味醂, an essential condiment of the Japanese cuisine, a kind of rice wine similar to sake with a slightly sweet taste; miso : 味噌, a thick paste made by fermenting soybeans with salt; mizuna : 水菜, an edible plant, with flavor akin to the mustard plant; mochi : 餅, the Japanese variant of Chinese rice cake; nappa, napa cabbage : 菜っ葉, Chinese cabbage, (in Japan, it is a generic term for leaf vegetables.); nashi (pear) : 梨, a species of pear native to eastern Asia, which are juicy, round and shaped like apples; nori : 海苔, food products created from the seaweed laver by a shredding and rack-drying process that resembles papermaking.; panko : パン粉, Japanese white bread flakes. Panko is made from bread without crusts, thus it has a crisper, airier texture than most types of breading found in Western cuisine. ; ramen : ラーメン, the Japanese version of Chinese noodle soup, not limited to the instant variety; sake : 酒 "Audio|Sake (beverage).ogg|listen", an alcoholic beverage, brewed from rice. In Japanese, the word can also refer to alcoholic drinks in general; sashimi : 刺身, a Japanese delicacy primarily consisting of the freshest raw seafoods thinly sliced and served with only a dipping sauce and wasabi.; satsuma : (from 薩摩 "Satsuma", an ancient province of Japan), a type of mandarin orange ("mikan") native to Japan; shabu shabu : しゃぶしゃぶ, a meal where each person cooks their own food in their own cooking pot from an assortment of raw ingredients; shiitake mushroom : しいたけ or 椎茸 "Audio|Shiitake.ogg|listen", an edible mushroom typically cultivated on the shii tree; shoyu : Japanese soy sauce; soba : 蕎麦 or ソバ, thin brown buckwheat noodles; soy : from shoyu 醤油 ; sukiyaki : すき焼き or スキヤキ, a dish in the nabemono-style (one-pot), consisting of thinly sliced beef, tofu, konnyaku noodles, "negi", Chinese cabbage (bok choy), and enoki mushrooms among others; surimi : すり身 or 擂り身, processed meat made from cheaper white-fleshed fish, to imitate the look of a more expensive meat such as crab legs; sushi : 鮨 or 鮓 or 寿司, a dish consisting of vinegared rice combined with other ingredients such as raw fish, raw or cooked shellfish, or vegetables; takoyaki: たこ焼, たこ焼き, or 章魚焼き, literally fried or baked octopus; tamari : たまり, liquid obtained by pressing soybeans; tempura : てんぷら or 天麩羅, classic Japanese deep fried batter-dipped seafood and vegetables; teppanyaki : 鉄板焼き, a type of Japanese cuisine that uses a hot iron griddle ("teppan") to cook food; teriyaki : 照焼き or テリヤキ, a cooking technique where fish or meat is being broiled/grilled in a sweet soy sauce marinade; tofu : 豆腐 "Audio|Tofu.ogg|listen" bean curd. Although the word is originally Chinese, it entered English via Japanese.; udo : ウド or 独活, an edible plant found on the slopes of wooded embankments, also known as the Japanese Spikenard; udon : うどん or 饂飩, a type of thick wheat-based noodle; umami : 旨味 or うま味, the taste sensation produced by some condiments such as monosodium glutamate; a basic flavor in sea weed (昆布 kobu); umeboshi : 梅干, pickled ume; wakame : ワカメ or 若布, a type of edible kelp, often used in miso soup (Japan), and salads; wasabi : わさび or 山葵, a strongly flavoured green condiment commonly known as Japanese horseradish; yakitori : 焼き鳥 or 焼鳥, a type of chicken kebab


; karoshi : 過労死, "death from overwork"; kaizen : 改善, literally "improvement"; kanban : 看板, literally a "signal" or "sign" signals a cycle of replenishment for production and materials and maintains an orderly and efficient flow of materials throughout the entire manufacturing process. Part of Six Sigma; keiretsu : 系列, a set of companies with interlocking business relationships and shareholdings; salaryman : サラリーマン (derived from English "salary" + "man"), a Japanese term for a white-collar worker; tycoon : (from 大君 "taikun"), "great prince" or "high commander", later applied to wealthy business leaders ; zaibatsu : 財閥, a "money clique" or conglomerate; zaikai : 財界, the grand combination of the business circle ("jitsugyōkai" 実業界), the economic circle ("keizaikai" 経済界), and the financial circle ("kin'yūkai" 金融界) of Japan; controlled by Tycoons with large capitals, who have big influence on the political circle ("seikai" 政界) and the society as well

Government and politics

; daimyo : 大名, "great names"; the most powerful Japanese feudal rulers from the 12th century to the 19th century; genro : 元老, retired elder Japanese statesmen, who served as informal advisors to the emperor, during the Meiji and Taisho eras; mikado : 帝, a dated term for "emperor"; specifically for the Emperor of Japan; shogun : 将軍 "Audio|Shogun.ogg|listen", the title of the practical ruler of Japan for most of the time from 1192 to the Meiji Era; tenno : 天皇, the Emperor of Japan


; bonze : (from 凡僧 "bonsō"), a Buddhist monk; kami : 神, the Japanese word for any sort of god or spirit; koan : 公案, a paradoxial story or statement used during meditation in Zen Buddhism; roshi : 老師, lit. elder master; an elder master or spiritual leader who leads a school of Zen Buddhism; satori : 悟り, enlightenment in Zen Buddhism; shinto : 神道, the native religion of Japan; torii : 鳥居, traditional Japanese gates commonly found at the gateway to Shinto shrines; zazen : 座禅, sitting meditation; literally "seated concentration"; zen : 禅, a branch of Mahāyāna Buddhism


; akita : 秋田 (from 秋田犬, akitainu or akitaken), the Akita Inu, a large breed of Japanese dog; aucuba : (from 青木葉 "aokiba", lit. "blue tree leaf"), a genus of flowering plants, (in Japanese "aucuba" translates to "aoki-zoku" アオキ属); domoic acid : (from ドウモイ "doumoi" in the Tokunoshima dialect of Japanese: a type of red algae); also called ; gaijin : 外人, a foreigner (Gaikokujin 外国人 is a more polite form) ; geisha : 芸者, traditional Japanese artist-entertainers; go : 碁, a strategic, two-player board game based on capturing territory; hanami : 花見, lit. "flower viewing"; hentai : 変態 "Audio|Hentai.ogg|listen", Western usage: pornographic cartoons, usually either Japanese in origin or drawn in a Japanese style; Japanese usage: metamorphosis, transformation, abnormality, or perversion; honcho : 班長, as in "the head honcho." The Japanese term means "squad leader"; juku : 塾, cram schools; katsura (tree) : 桂, large deciduous trees, native to eastern Asia; keirin : 競輪, a type of track cycling competition which originated and continues in Japan; keirin has also become a Summer olympics event and a world championships event sanctioned by the UCI; koi : 鯉, Western usage: ornamental varieties of the common carp (but in Japan this just means "carp" -- the ornamental variety are called "nishikigoi" 錦鯉); kudzu : 葛 or クズ, a type of Japanese vine; cultivated in Japan, viewed as a weed in the West; matsu : 松, pine tree; matsuri : 祭り, a local festival, typically sponsored by a local shrine or temple in Japan; medaka : めだか or 目高, a small fish found in fresh waters of Japan ; moxa : もぐさ or 艾, mugwort or cotton wool or other combustible material, burned on skin during moxibustion; moxibustion : (from "moxa + (com)bustion"), an oriental medicine therapy which involves the burning of moxa (see above); pachinko : パチンコ, a device used for gambling and is related to pinball machines; rickshaw : (from 人力車, jinrikisha), a human-pulled wagon; sakura : 桜 or サクラ, cherry blossom; sayonara : さようなら the Japanese term for "goodbye" (note, though, that in Japanese, it has formal and final connotations: you wouldn't say it if you expect to meet again soon); sensei : 先生, the Japanese term for "master", "teacher" or "doctor". It can be used to refer to any authority figure, such as a schoolteacher, professor, priest, or politician.; shiatsu : 指圧, a form of massage; shiba Inu : 柴犬, the smallest of the six original and distinct Japanese breeds of dog; shinkansen : 新幹線, high speed rail in Japan; shogi : 将棋, a Japanese strategic board game similar to chess, sometimes called "Japanese chess"; sika (deer) : (from 鹿 "shika" "Audio|Sika.ogg|listen"), a type of deer native to East Asia, which are widespread in Japan, and at one time regarded as sacred in Japan; skosh : (from 少し, sukoshi), a small amount; soroban : そろばん or 算盤, the Japanese abacus; sudoku : 数独 "Audio|Sudoku.ogg|listen", a number placement puzzle, also known as Number Place in the United States.; tanuki : 狸, the Japanese name for the animal, "Nyctereutes procyonoides", known as a raccoon dog in English; tsunami : 津波, literally "wave in port"; Large wave caused by earthquakes or other underwater disturbances. ; tsutsugamushi : ("insect disease" = scrub typhus); urushiol : (from うるし, a plant that gives a skin rash on contact) a chemical substance found in poison-ivy, used to make "Japanned" lacquer ware; yagi (antenna) : 八木, a type of directional antenna, often mounted on the rooftop to be used for TV reception; its official name is the Yagi-Uda Antenna, named after "Yagi Hidetsugu" (八木 秀次) and "Uda Shintaro" (宇田 新太郎) who were its coinventors in 1926; yakuza : やくざ, Japanese organized crime groups

See also

* Anime and manga terminology
* Cuisine of Japan

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