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Japanese Words That Sound Like English

Japanese Words That Sound Like English

Here are Japanese words that sound like English. Check it out here!

Languages don’t exist in isolation. Throughout history, words have migrated from one language to another, enriching and evolving both. Nowhere is this more evident than in Japanese, where a surprising number of words sound and resemble their English counterparts. 

This “Japanglish” phenomenon reflects a fascinating mix of cultural exchange, adaptation, and linguistic creativity.

Let’s delve into the different ways Japanese has incorporated English words.

Japanese Words That Sound Like English

Direct Loanwords (Gairaigo)

These are words adopted directly from English, often with slight pronunciation adjustments. Imagine ordering パン (pan) for breakfast or checking into a ホテル (hoteru). Here are some more examples:

English WordJapanese WordMeaning
Taxiタクシー (takushī)Taxi
Coffeeコーヒー (kōhī)Coffee
Computerコンピューター (konpyūtā)Computer
Ice creamアイスクリーム (aisukurīmu)Ice cream

Wasei-eigo

These are Japanese-created words using English components, often with unique meanings. 

Brace yourself for some creative wordplay:

English WordJapanese WordMeaning
Convenienceコンビニ (konbini)Convenience store (literally “convenience convenience”)
Karaokeカラオケ (karaoke)Singing along with music (literally “empty orchestra”)
Part-timeアルバイト (arubaito)Part-time job (literally “half work”)
Smartphoneスマホ (sumaho)Smartphone (abbreviation of “smartphone”)

Short Word Combinations

These are formed by combining two or more English words:

Wasei-eigo, literally meaning “Japanese-made English,” goes beyond simply adopting English words. It’s a fascinating phenomenon where Japanese takes English components and creates entirely new words with unique meanings. 

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This creativity reflects cultural exchange, adaptation, and the playful spirit of language.

Here’s a deeper dive into Wasei-eigo:

Types:

  • Compound words: Combining English words, like カラオケ (karaoke): empty orchestra or アルバイト (arubaito): half work.
  • Hybrid words: Mixing English and Japanese elements, like ファミレス (famiresu): family restaurant or マクドナルドおじさん (makudonarudo ojisan): McDonald’s uncle (a middle-aged man who frequents McDonald’s).
  • Abbreviation: Shortening English phrases, like スマホ (sumaho): smartphone or コンビニ (konbini): convenience store.
  • Onomatopoeia: Adapting English sounds, like チャイム (chaimu): chime or ピーポー (pīpō): police siren.
English WordsJapanese WordMeaning
Brunch + Lunchブランチ (buranchi)Brunch
Takeout + Deliveryテイクアウト (tekiautomu)Takeout
Shopping + Mallショッピングモール (shoppingu mōru)Shopping mall
Selfieセルフィー (serufī)Selfie
Manholeマンホール (manhōru)Manhole
One-night standワンナイトスタンド (wan naito sutando)One-night stand

Words Combining English and Japanese

Beyond directly adopting English words or creating Wasei-eigo, Japanese also blends English and Japanese elements directly within single words. 

This fascinating fusion showcases the unique ways languages interact and adapt to cultural influences.

Types of Combinations:

  • Front-back combinations: English word + Japanese word, like イタリアン (Itarian) for Italian food or ビジネスホテル (bijinesu hoteru) for business hotel.
  • Back-front combinations: Japanese word + English word, like 目撃証人 (me撃証人) for eyewitness (literally “eye-encounter witness”) or 恋愛シミュレーションゲーム (ren’ai shimyurēshon gēmu) for romance simulation game.
  • Compound translations: Combining English and Japanese meanings, like 満員電車 (man’in densha) for packed train (literally “full-person train”) or 高速道路 (kōsoku dōro) for highway (literally “high-speed road”).
  • Abbreviation hybrids: Mixing English and Japanese letters, like スマホ (sumaho) for smartphone or ファミレス (famiresu) for family restaurant.
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English WordJapanese WordMeaning
Italian + Foodイタ飯 (itameshi)Italian food
Business + Hotelビジネスホテル (bijinesu hoteru)Business hotel
Fashion + Showファッションショー (fasshon shō)Fashion show

Loanwords Turned Verbs

Loanwords turned verbs are a fascinating phenomenon in Japanese where English loanwords are transformed into verbs by adding the versatile verb する (suru), meaning “to do”. 

This process allows Japanese to readily adopt and integrate new concepts and actions from English into their daily vocabulary. Here’s a deeper dive into this category:

Mechanism:

The verb-making process is straightforward. Simply take the English loanword (usually a noun) and add the verb ending “する” (suru) after it.

For example, the English word “download” becomes ダウンロードする (daraunrōdo suru), meaning “to download”.

English WordJapanese WordMeaning
Jogジョギングする (jogingu suru)To jog
Workワークする (wāku suru)To work
Downloadダウンロードする (daraunrōdo suru)To download
Installプリントする (purinto suru) To install
Edit編集する (henshū suru)To edit

Famous Brand Names in Japanglish

Even brands get the Japanglish treatment:

BrandJapanese NameMeaning
Googleグーグル (gūgūru)Google
Starbucksスターバックス (sutābakkusu)Starbucks
McDonald’sマクドナルド (makudonarudo)McDonald’s

These are just a few examples of the diverse ways Japanese has embraced English words. 

This phenomenon reflects not only cultural exchange but also linguistic adaptation. While some argue that excessive loanwords threaten Japan’s unique language, others see it as a natural evolution enriching expression.

Ultimately, Japanese words that sound like English showcase the fascinating dynamism of languages. 

They bridge cultures, spark curiosity, and remind us that communication transcends borders and shapes language in unexpected ways. 

So next time you encounter a “Japanglish” term, appreciate the story of cultural exchange and linguistic creativity it embodies.

Written by Rasmiya

My writing focuses on the various aspects of Japanese lifestyle, from traditional tea ceremonies and flower arrangement to modern fashion trends and pop culture. Through my articles, I aim to share my passion for Japan and provide readers with a glimpse into the rich and diverse world of Japanese culture.

I believe that the key to understanding Japanese lifestyle is to appreciate the balance between tradition and innovation. While Japan has a rich cultural heritage that dates back centuries, it is also a country that is constantly evolving and embracing new ideas and technologies.

Whether you're interested in learning about the latest fashion trends in Tokyo, or want to explore the ancient art of calligraphy, my writing will take you on a journey through the many facets of Japanese lifestyle. So join me as we explore the beauty and complexity of this fascinating culture together!

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