玉川大学

Japanese words that have become everyday English words
By Andrew Leichsenring

2018.10.09

After living in Japan for a number of years, I have seen plenty of English words (and words from other languages) being used here in commercial TV advertising and on supermarket product packaging. That is to say, words that were originally non-Japanese words but which are being used in everyday life in Japan these days. I am referring here specifically to loanwords. Simply stated, a loanword can be understood as a word (or a combination of words) adopted in one language from another (foreign) language with little or no change to the translation. In Japan, loanwords (which are also called borrowed words in English) are known as gairaigo (外来語). If I might make a list of loanwords that are used in Japan, that list could become quite long!

I wonder if you have ever thought about the possibility of Japanese words having been adopted in another language somewhere in the world. Have you ever thought about that? Well, in my home country (Australia), I can think of examples that I would like to share with you now. Below, here are my TOP 5 favourite Japanese words used in Australia these days.

My top 5 Japanese word Word previously used in Australian English
1 tsunami tidal wave
2 anime cartoon (or TV cartoon)
3 manga comic (or comic book or comic magazine)
4 emoji emoticon (or emotion icon)
5 tofu soybean curd (or soya bean curd)

Of course, there are quite a lot more Japanese words used in Australia. Also, I think that these words are used in the English language beyond an Australian context. So, it is interesting to think about how words travel across cultures and lands to reach a society and become part of a different country’s everyday language. For me, being curious about changes in languages is one important reason why I have a continued interest in language teaching and learning. I hope that you have (or will develop) a curiosity about languages and how they change, too! Why? Maybe because it can be fun and interesting.

<< ELF Talk Top