Thursday, July 1, 2021

English Words with Japanese Meanings

Japanese has three sets of characters - Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. Katakana is the "alphabet" used for borrowed words from other languages. Some Japanese words mean the same thing as in the original language, but others leave us wondering what is this? 


In English, fight means an argument or physical assault (negative meaning). In Japanese, fight (pronounced faito) is used the same as ganbare, Do Your Best. It is used to cheer someone on to complete a difficult project or when competing in an athletic event.


When I hear mansion in English, I think of a large beautiful house. In Japanese, mansion (pronounced manshon) means a large apartment building, probably with an elevator. Apartment (aparto in Japanese) is also used, but describes two or three or four story buildings. I live in an aparto, not a mansion.


In English, revenge means hurting someone who has done some wrong to you. In Japanese, revenge (pronounced ribenji) is when you try a second time to do better than the first time. It's more of a personal challenge.


In English, tension has a negative meaning, stress or emotional strain.  In Japanese, tension (pronounces tenshon) means high energy. High tension or good tension means someone is happy and feeling good. I've also heard it used refering to children who are more energic than the parent. 


In English, Viking refers to Scandinavian seafaring pirates in the 8th - 11th centuries. In Japanese, Viking (pronounced baikingu) means an all you can eat buffet meal. I've read that the origins of this word in Japanese comes from a Japanese hotel manager who travelled to Sweden in the 1950's and was introduced to a smorgasbord type meal. He brought the meal idea back to Japan, but thought smorgasbord was too difficult to pronounce. He used the word Viking, which he heard from a film title. I don't know if that is true or not. 


In English, I think of the black plastic phonograph records when I hear vinyl. In Japanese, vinyl (pronounced biniiru) means the plastic shopping bags you get at convenience stores or grocery stores. 

Do you know of any borrowed words that mean something different in your language than the language they were borrowed from? I'm always interested in language and vocabulary.


Vireya said...

That was a fun post! It is fascinating how words can be borrowed while leaving their meaning behind.

kiwikid said...

I am sure there are many borrowed words in the English language but I can't think of any at the moment 🤔

Julie Fukuda said...

English has a lot of words with two contradictory meanings. Weather: to withstand, or to wear away, Peer; a person of the nobility, or an equal, Left; remained or departed, dust; to add fine particles, or to remove them... That reminds me that I have a bit of the later to do...

crazyQstitcher said...

I have only had a quick look at this interesting post and will read it well later today. Meantime I noted another same sounding name to weather.

he seemed undecided whether to go or stay"

Whether is sometimes confused with wether, weather and whither
English can be quite confusing .

Queeniepatch said...

One word I can think of is the English service. In Swedish servis is a set of china with the same pattern.
The English lager is a beer that can be stored. In Swedish it is the storage itself.
The English men is an adult male. In Swedish it means either but (conjunction) or injury.

There are many stories on the internet about how the Imperial Hotel started the Viking trend. This one seems the one with most detailsÄ

diamondc said...

Pamela: Very interesting, thank-you for sharing.


Jeanie said...

This is a really interesting post. I'm going to have to share this one with Rick. I remember him saying gombare to the boys all the time when they were younger.

Leonore Winterer said...

The only one I know is 'arubeito' - 'Arbeit' just means 'work' in German, but I think in Japanese it's mostly used for part time jobs?