20 Interesting ”Japanese-Made” English Words That Are Useful To Know

  • There are a lot of things that you can only see in Japan. They have the famous washlet toilet seats (Yes, the Super Toilet!), the affordable and unique capsule hotels, and the wide variety of unique Kit Kat flavors all over the country. But, guess what? There are also things that you can only hear in Japan—English words that are “only in Japan”.

    Just as how you use the word, “anime” as you talk with your friends about Pokemon, or say the word, “sushi” when you come across a Japanese restaurant in your hometown, the Japanese also have their fair share of borrowing words from other languages. As English is an international language, the Japanese throughout the years have come up with a Japanese-made English vocabulary that could blow your mind!

    These words and expressions are coined by the Japanese as, “wasei-eigo” which literally means “made-in-Japan English” (Or, let’s just say, “only-in-Japan English”!). Wasei-eigo is being commonly used nowadays in Japan, and it is already a part of their living. Although based from English, “wasei-eigo” words can have quite different meanings from their native origins which leave confusion to English-speaking visitors in Japan. Here is a list of the most amusing and interesting!

    1. Fried Potato (furaidopoteto)

    When I first went to McDonald’s in Japan to buy my all-time favorite, it took me a few repetitions saying the word, “french fries” at the counter. I had to point out at the menu’s picture just so I could get a hold of my beloved food. I later on found out that “fried potato” is what they call it or, “potato fry”. The term “french fries” is uncommon to them unless they have been overseas or have foreign influence.

    This is one thing you have to keep in mind if you are a french fries fanatic. When you go and grab your box of delight at McDonald’s or anywhere else in Japan, you know what the password is to say!

    2. Skinship (sukinshippu)

    Skinship refers to physical contact like hugging, holding hands, or cuddling. It could be between platonic friends, or a mother and a child, and does not necessarily involve people in a romantic relationship.

    Most often, this can be seen among teenage boys in Japan and ironically evident in schools. In fact, it is a sight that often leaves a big question mark on the faces of newly hired foreign English teachers in Japanese middle and high schools. Fret not though because a scenario wherein a boy is sitting on the lap of another boy while grooming his hair is not so much of a big deal in Japan. Yes, it is really something unusual for foreigners, but it is just nothing more than what they call, “skinship”.

    Brace yourself. This is very different from what you are thinking.

    3. High touch (haitacchi)

    “Give me a high five!”

    I once said this to my Japanese student and all I got was, not a look in the eye, but a look at my hand. Yes, she stared at my hand as I was anticipating a response. Only then did I understand that “high-five” is something very new to them because “high-touch” is the trend.

    So the next time you meet your friend, why not try saying, “give me a high touch!”

    4. Consent (konsento)

    This is probably the wasei-eigo that has the far most meaning to its English origin. My apologies but we are not going to talk about a parent’s consent today because consent, ladies, and gentlemen, actually means “electrical outlet”. Yes! Outlet. Socket. The first time I heard it, I almost turned into a human question mark as I was the only one who did not catch what it means.
    Native speakers might wonder why the word, “consent” is being used this way, but there is actually history behind it. This word is said to have originated from the English, “concentric plug” which was commonly used during the Meiji Period (1868-1912). Consent, as its abbreviated form, became the standard way of naming any type of electrical outlet from then on.

    Come to think of it, should it not be spelled as “concent” then?

    5. Don’t Mind (Donmai)

    When you play volleyball with your Japanese friends and you could not get the ball in the opponent’s court, do not get surprised when someone tells you, “donmai”. This term is the counterpart of “don’t worry about it.” or simply, “don’t mind it” for the Japanese.

    6. Aircon (eakon) / Cooler (kura)

    Summer in Japan can be very difficult. In fact, Japan is known to have a very hot summer season in Asia. Thus, having an air conditioner is a must.

    Aircon, pronounced as “eakon”, refers to an air conditioner in Japan. It is unusual for Japanese to use the term “air conditioner” in everyday living although some use “AC” which is its abbreviated form.

    Some also use “cooler” (kura). In English though, “cooler” refers to something that keeps your food or beverage cool whenever you are camping or going on a picnic. These differences in meaning often lead to confusion, but more on amusement in the end.

    7. Stove (sutobu)

    Of course, if there is summer, there is winter. If there is a cooler, there is a stove.

    During my first winter in Japan, a Japanese friend asked me if I have a stove in my house. I responded with a confident “yes” and wondered at the back of my mind why she suddenly brought it up. Then, I started talking about how I cook my own food and what dishes I usually prepare. You know. We were talking about my stove! To my surprise, though, she was actually referring to a kerosene heater.

    A kerosene heater is a necessity for Japanese houses during winter. Surprisingly, though, the term is not being exercised in the country but instead, “stove” is.

    Please do not cook on the stove!

    8. High-tension (haitenshon)

    Are you hyper? Are you always in high spirits? If yes, then you are “high-tension”!

    It is not uncommon for the Japanese to use the term, “high-tension” when describing someone who is very hyper and excited. In fact, this could be their initial reaction to anyone who is exerting much energy than the usual. The word, “tension” means excitement in Japan as opposed to its English origin which is usually in reference to, “voltage”, “nervousness” or “tightness”. So when someone tells you that you are “high-tension”, be proud! Not everyone can be as dangerous, oh I mean, hyper as you are!

    9. Guts Pose (gattsu pozu)

    Now, this one’s pretty interesting.

    Have you ever been so victorious in whatever aspect that you pump your fists triumphantly and shouted “I did it!”? If yes, then you have just unknowingly done the guts pose!

    In the mid-60s, there was a professional boxer and a WBC lightweight champion named, “Guts Ishimatsu”. The term, “guts pose” originated from his unique pose after being declared victorious in fights as he who would always pump his fists in celebration. Since then, the term has become a part of the wasei-eigo vocabulary.

    10. Base-up (besuappu)

    One of the most common reasons why people lack motivation at work, or worse, tend to look for another job is because of—the salary. Yes, you are right. In Japan, though, some companies generously provide its employees a salary increase, which is coined as “base-up”. “Up” means “to increase” and “base” refers to the “basic pay”.

    Base-up anyone?

    11. Mass communication (マスコミ/Masukomi)

    Masukomi is a term made by shortening mass and communication.
    In English, when you say mass communication you usually refer to the information exchanged at a large scale; however, in Japan, this term is used for mass media and press organizations.

    12.Key ring/ Key chain (キーホルダー/Kiihorudaa)

    Kiihorudaa is a Japanese word formed by linking “key” and “holder”, which results into the Japanglish word “KEY HOLDER”. As holder means support, the container holding a key became the word key holder.

    13. Beach Sandal (biichi Sandaru/ ビーチサンダル)

    An essential item for summer, the Biisanビーサン. Now, I wonder how many of you can guess the meaning of this word..
    Let`s take a few seconds and think of it.. Beach Sandal? Sandals you use on the beach, maybe?
    In English, we`d probably say thongs or flip-flops. Although, in America thongs comes with a different meaning, too.
    In Australia, people call it thongs while in New Zealand the flip-flops are known as Jandals(a word derived form Japanese sandals).

    14. Snack /Snakku スナック

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    サンレンチャン嵯峨! #stingray #新潟 #niigata #嵯峨 #スナック

    Rui Hashimotoさん(@ruihashimoto)がシェアした投稿 –

    Here is one word totally different from the English meaning. You`d automatically think of chips, rice crackers and so on, right?

    On the streets of Japan, you may see some bright signs saying “snack”, but don`t misunderstand it for a place where you can find Japanese snacks and so on! Although the word sometimes holds the meaning of snacks (more commonly used for fruit”snacks”), the places called “スナック” are mainly used for drinking!

    Its origin lays in the English “Snack bar”, but in Japan, is more like a bar with tables, whose owners are usually women being called “Mama”. Usually they are offering wine and karaoke services to the customers and is a place aimed to adults, of course, similar to a night club, I would say.

    15. Handle (Handoru/ハンドル)

    A Japanese citizen would probably say a car`s handle or a bike`s handle, however in English we`d say steering wheel if is a car and handlebar for a bicycle, so if you come to Japan, be aware of the fact that here handle is used for cars and bikes!
    One more thing to be aware of, バイク(baiku/bike) isn`t bicycle , but motorcycle as bike in Japan is called jitensha (自転車)

    16. Mail(meeru/メール)

    In English we usually say email if we refer to electronic mail and mail for packages/letters we get by post. However, in Japan the term mail is used for gmail, yahoo mail etc.

    17.Vinyl bag (Biniiru bukuro/ビニール袋)

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    ・ 📝コメント〆ます📝📝 お付き合い頂きありがとうございました😊 ご質問などありましたら次回のpostにお願い致します☺️🤲✨ ・ ・ こんばんは´∀` ・ 本日もくだらないpostですみません🙏 ・ 私のレジ袋の結び方をご紹介←どうでもいいか😂 ・ 不器用な私は一般な結び方が上手に結べないので、この結び方をしています🙋‍♀️ 分かりやすいように片方をピンク色に塗ったけど全然見えない…😂ま、いっか。 ・ 簡単で素早く結べるのでオススメです♡ ・ おヒマな方は是非お試しあれ♡ ・ お掃除もしたので、また連投するかと思います😂 ・ ・ #暮らしの知恵 #暮らしを楽しむ #暮らし #暮らしのアイデア #シンプルな暮らし #不器用でもできる #不器用 #ビニール袋 #子供のいる暮らし #暇人 #暇人の極み #生活の知恵 #時短家事 #時短テク #ズボラ主婦 #100均 #暮らし #レジ袋#袋の中身は何だろな。

    me*i☻*さん(@meyymix_home)がシェアした投稿 –

    A must have when you go to the supermarket.
    In Japan, the mixed term vinyl bukuro is formed by mixing the English word”vinyl” and the Japanese word for Bag “Fukuro/Bukuro” .
    In English, we used the term plastic bag, so if you come to Japan and ask for a plastic bag , be sure to ask for a Vinyl bag instead.
    Also, make sure you pronounce it Biiniru bukuro, otherwise they might not understand what you`re asking for.

    18. Text (Tekisuto /テキスト)

    In Japan, the word tekisuto is very commonly used between students or at school. Compared to English where we say text as in something written, an SMS or sentences as “I`ll text you back”, in Japan this word is used when referring to a school manual.

    19. Mansion (manshon/マンション)

    When we say mansion we automatically think of a large house, right? Well, in Japan is mostly used to describe an apartment building or a big flat.

    20. Salaryman (sarariiman/サラリーマン)

    Salaryman is a combined word using the word salary and man and it refers to someone who is working in a big company; an office worker, we`d say in English. It usually includes only people who work in a large bureaucracy of a business firm/government office and the word salaryman is quite frequent used here in Japan. Salaryman are usually dressed up in a suit and you can easily spot them during rush hour.

    There you have it! You have just snuck in and learned a bit about the world of wasei-eigo. There are a lot more out there that are interesting to know and understand. These words and their meanings may be quite different from English and strange to an English-speaker’s ears at first, but they undoubtedly add to the colors of the Japanese contemporary speech. Wasei-eigo may not be the perfect English someone would prefer, but as long as there is a joy of communication present when it is being used, then I guess nothing else matters.

    (Guts pose!)