5 Surprising English Words that Originated from Japanese

  • We know that the Japanese have Romaji and multiple literal English translations in their language. Also, there are quite a lot of Japanese loanewords in English such as Bento, Manga, Tsunami, Hentai, Ramen, Soba, Bonsai, Origami, Karate, and Kamikaze. However, there are some English words that do not seem as distinctively Japanese as “Tsunami” or “Ramen”. Here are 5 widely-used English words that most anglophones might fail to know originated from the Japanese language:

    1. Tycoon

    We use this word in everyday business life. People refer to their bosses or someone powerful and popular in their fields as tycoons. The word tycoon comes from the Japanese word “Taikun” which means “great lord”. It was used extensively in late 19th century by foreign traders who traveled to and conducted business in Japan.

    2. Skosh

    This one will not come as much of a surprise to anyone who has studied a bit of Japanese. Skosh means “a little” which is derived from the Japanese word “Sukoshi” which means the same as that in English.

    3. Soy

    No matter which country one is from, all of us use soy in some of our dishes. Soy was first brought to Japan by Chinese Buddhist monks and was called “Shi yu”. The word “Shoyu” is the Japanese name for “Shi yu”. The United States and Brazil together produce more than half of the world’s soy. Due to its extensive use in the West, many fail to know that the word’s etymology is linked to Asia.

    Despite its vast use, the soy sauces usually sold in American supermarkets may not actually authentic since soy sauce should be brewed like alcohol and blended, which is how it’s traditionally done in Japan.

    4. Bokeh

    If you are into photography, you must have heard of this term by now. It is used to refer to a kind of picture taken with a blur to highlight a portion in it or to create an aesthetic sense of out-of-focus. It comes from the Japanese word “Boke” which means “blur”.

    5. Honcho

    Most people think this is an indigenous word from the Americas like “hurricane” or a word whose etymology comes from Spanish. However, Honch, which means “leader” or someone who is in charge, is derived from the Japanese word “Hancho”, which means a “superior head of a team”.

    *Featured Image: photo.ac.com/