Top 15 Japanese Loan Words (Wasei Eigo) : If you’ve been learning (or have learned) katakana, you’ll know that Japan has a lot of words they’ve borrowed from other languages. They use these words a lot. Enough that they use a separate syllabary to write them out.
If you go to Japan, you’ll see katakana words everywhere. Sometimes the English words translate over pretty directly. But sometimes they don’t.
When they don’t, you’ll get words called “wasei eigo” (和製英語). These definitely sound like English, and they are English, just used in a different way.
These are some of the words I’ve heard used pretty often, so it might be a good idea to learn how to use them.
- 1 Top 15 Japanese Loan Words (Wasei Eigo)
- 1.1 1. High Touch (ハイタッチ)
- 1.2 2. NG (エヌジー)
- 1.3 3. Salaryman (サラリーマン)
- 1.4 4. Half (ハーフ)
- 1.5 5. Jet Coaster (ジェットコースター)
- 1.6 6. Concent (コンセント)
- 1.7 7. Mail (メール)
- 1.8 8. Pasokon (パソコン)
- 1.9 9. Baiku (バイク)
- 1.10 10. Baikingu (バイキング)
- 1.11 11. Cider (サイダー)
- 1.12 12. My Pace (マイペース)
- 1.13 13. Apaato (アパート) vs. 14. Mansion (マンション)
- 1.14 15. Conbini (コンビニ)
- 2 Learn Japanese loan words with BondLingo
- 3 Study in Japan?
- 4 Recommend
Top 15 Japanese Loan Words (Wasei Eigo)
1. High Touch (ハイタッチ)
This is literally just a high five. In Japan, there are no “high fives” or “low fives” or “to the sides” or “too slows.” There’s only “high touch.” I heard this one all the time, because kids love asking foreigners for high touches.
2. NG (エヌジー)
Alright, pull out your phone (unless you’re already reading this on your phone). Scroll through your emojis until you get to those symbol ones that are all shaped like blocks. Did you find the one that says NG? Well now I’m going to tell you what it means.
“NG” in Japanese is short for “no good.” It means pretty much that, they just abbreviated it because it’s easier to say. A lot of things get abbreviated in Japanese. Music videos are called “MVs,” someone who is “KY” is someone who can’t read the air (taken from “kuuki wo yomenai”), etc.
I included “NG” just because in English we don’t really say “no good” very often.
3. Salaryman (サラリーマン)
This word is used to describe your basic businessman. You’ll see a lot of these in Japan, always in the same black suit, white shirt, simple tie. That’s a salaryman.
4. Half (ハーフ)
Oftentimes someone who is half Japanese will be called “half” or “haafu” (ハーフ). Sometimes they’ll tack on “jin” to say “haafu-jin” (ハーフ人). This doesn’t mean they’re half a person, just half Japanese. This one definitely threw me off when I first heard it.
5. Jet Coaster (ジェットコースター)
This means roller coaster! I think it sounds a lot more fun than English. A lot of the more modern terms have been borrowed from other languages just because they didn’t have Chinese characters and it was easier to just turn them into katakana words.
6. Concent (コンセント)
This is the word for “outlet” as in a power socket. It comes from the English word “concentric,” but honestly, no one would have guessed that.
7. Mail (メール)
Oh, you thought this was paper mail? Nope. “Meeru” (メール) is the word for email. And if you try to say “E-meeru” no one will have any idea what you’re saying. This is also the word for texting because Japanese phones kind of combine texting and emailing, but the word “tekusuto” (テクスト) is also sometimes used to mean “text” specifically.
8. Pasokon (パソコン)
This is another one of those abbreviations. “Pasokon” comes from the English phrase “personal computer.” I’m including it as wasei eigo because even English speakers never really say “personal computer.” We will sometimes say “PC,” but this is actually referring to a laptop in Japanese, which is different from a PC.
9. Baiku (バイク)
“Baiku” was hard for me to get down. You’d think this refers to a “bike,” and you’re right. But it is only used for motorcycles. A bicycle is a “jitensha” (自転車) and never a “baiku.”
10. Baikingu (バイキング)
So this word must be the verb “biking,” right? Wrong. This word comes from the English word “Viking,” and it describes all you can eat restaurants. They are “viking” style because vikings were well known for their ability to eat way too much cheap Chinese food.
11. Cider (サイダー)
If you’re looking for Sprite (or apparently lemonade in countries that aren’t the U.S.), you’ll want to look for “saidaa” in Japan. No, it is not apple flavored. It’s generally a citrus flavored soda. You can also get milk cider, and if you’re thinking about it, I would highly recommend it. Milk cider is amazing.
12. My Pace (マイペース)
“My pace” is an interesting phrase because it kind of means exactly what you think it does, but it’s used a bit differently. It means doing something at your own pace, on your own schedule. But it can also be used as an adjective to describe someone.
13. Apaato (アパート) vs. 14. Mansion (マンション)
These two are important to know if you plan on living in Japan. An “apaato” is a two-story building of apartments, while a “mansion” is a larger apartment building. I’ve lived in nice “apaatos” and nice “mansions,” so I can’t tell you if there’s a quality difference. But these are good words to be aware of if you’re looking into housing.
15. Conbini (コンビニ)
Okay, this one kind of isn’t wasei eigo, but it’s used so much I thought I’d throw it in. “Conbini” is the abbreviation of “convenient store,” and it’s so good to know this word. If you go to Japan, I guarantee you will go to at least one conbini, if not eventually decide which one is your favorite. They are everywhere, and they have everything in them, I swear. Conbinis truly live up to the name “convenient” store.
Learn Japanese loan words with BondLingo