Wasei eigo - English in the Japanese language

Author Anna Baffa Volpe for article 'Wasei eigo - English in the Japanese language'

Anna Baffa Volpe

Welcome back! (みな) さん、こんにちは!

Today we explore together a very interesting, intriguing and essential topic for those who study the Japanese language.

I am referring to the introduction into the Japanese language of terms from other foreign languages​. Words, expressions, idioms taken from other languages integrated into ()(ほん)().

(がい)(らい)()(しゃく)(よう)() loanwords

Each language uses terms and expressions taken from other foreign languages ​​and the Japanese language is particularly rich in loanwords, in Japanese (がい)(らい)() and (しゃく)(よう)().

  • (そと) outside, outside, foreign

  • ()る verb come, come

  • () word, language, story

The meaning is term coming from abroad, therefore loan or forestry, also expressed by the term (しゃく)(よう)(), where 借 represents the verb ()りる borrow and (よう)() means term, terminology.

English words can be read and heard everywhere: in product names, brands, popular songs, in the world of fashion, cooking, sports and the media.

In the Japanese language loanwords from English are the most numerous, but they are not the only ones. We also find words from other languages ​​such as French, German, Dutch, Portuguese, Italian, Korean and Chinese.

Examples of (がい)(らい)()

Here are some examples of loans and their language of origin.

  • オフィス ofisu from English office, the office

  • エプロン epuron from the English apron, the apron

  • スキップ skippu from English skip, jump

  • カフェオレ cafeore from the French café au lait, the caffelatte

  • カステラ kasutera from the Portuguese pão de Castella, the sponge cake

  • アルバイト arubaito from the German arbeiten and in Japan it means part-time work

  • チンゲンサイ chingensai from Chinese, Chinese chard

ラストオーダー, last order
Part of the Dotour Coffee Shop menu

In the menu of cafes in Japan, or in places in general where foods and drinks introduced in Japanese culinary culture are prepared and served, we find the various loans transcribed in katakana, like all foreign terms.

How to prepare a well-balanced menu, suggested by a qualified nutritionist

This image contains the word (こん)(だて), which you will usually find expressed as メニュ, menu from English.

This habit is also valid for all other languages: the term of that object or concept exists, but we prefer to use the loan from foreign languages. The researchers identified two categories of loans:

  • loans out of necessity, when that object or concept does not exist in your language and the loan fills that gap. Examples of this type in Japanese are the words jeans, computer, whiskey, mouse, kiwi

  • luxury loans, those terms for which the equivalent already exists in one's own language, but for cultural, fashion, trend issues, for a more effective communication it is preferred to use forestierism. Some examples: hotel, weekend, babysitter, _supermarket_​​

Loans, transcribed in katakana

The(がい)(らい)() are really numerous, from various languages ​​and are also subject to change following the evolution of society, fashions and consumption.

Proceeding with the analysis of foreign terms in the Japanese language, we inevitably find many words and expressions that fall into what is called ()(せい)(えい)().

()(せい)(えい)() English Made in Japan

Let's analyze the kanji that form this expression.

  • () wa is the kanji of harmony and peace and indicates everything related to Japan as ()(ふう) in Japanese style, ()(しょく) Japanese cuisine and ()()() sweets, Japanese desserts

  • (せい) fabricate, make, made in ...

  • (えい) indicates England (えい)(こく) and the English language (えい)()

  • () word, language, story

So it's a Japanese-style English, but what does that mean?

We refer to all those words, expressions, verbs or idioms that contain English terms, but which in their original language have no meaning or do not have the meaning that is attributed in Japan.

An English speaker understands individual words, but not always the true sense of the expression as it is used in the Japanese language.

(しょく)(ぎょう) work, occupation

Let's take the word サラリーマン salaryman, in Japanese it means employee or white collar the person who lives on his salary. In English we find the terms office worker or company employee.

  • フリーター freeter is short for free-alternative. Refers to young people between the ages of 15 and 34 in Japan who earn their living through part-time, contract, etc., other than regular full-time jobs. In English-speaking countries, they are often referred to as permanent part-timers.

The mass media are the マスコミ masukomi.

Those who love Japanese TV and entertainment surely know the term アイドル, aidoru, an idol that originally recalls the adoration of a deity, a religious figure, an object of faith. Today アイドル in Japanese culture indicates a or a performer, it refers to a teenager who becomes very popular in the entertainment world. Generally they are boys between the ages of 14 and 20 who release music CDs, act in films and drama and achieve enormous success at home and often abroad.

白石麻衣, Mai Shiraishi, Japanese idol note

(でん)()(せい)(ひん) ・ゲー​​ム appliances and games

  • ノートパソコン nōto pasokon short for note personal computer, the laptop, the portable computer

  • テレビゲーム terebi gēmu, television game which is actually called video game

  • コンセント konsent in English is socket, outlet, the electric plug

  • (でん)() レンジ denshi renji microwave, the microwave oven; (でん)() indicates the electronics and レンジ is the stove for cooking


The term バイク bike is also` wasei eigo`. If you say bike, they think you're referring to the bicycle in English.

Instead in Japanese バイク is the motorcycle.

中古, chūko indicates used, second hand: used bikes
  • クーラー air conditioner: even the term クーラー cooler has no parallel in the English language with the meaning of conditioner, air conditioning. We can also use エアコン eakon, abbreviation of air conditioner or the two terms together エアコン・クーラー

  • バックミラー the rearview mirror is called バックミラー back mirror, actually the English term is rearview mirror

  • マフラー muffler if we refer to the fashion accessory, the synonym is スカーフ, scarf and indicates the scarf, but there is also the マフラーofthemotorcycle, the muffler

(ふく)()(るい) clothes, clothing

  • トレーナー trainer is the sweat shirt, the sweatshirt

  • チャック chakku is the zipper, zipper or even zip

  • ワンピース wan piisu is the dress

ペアルック from pair look, same clothing

English first appeared at the end of the sakoku ()(こく), when Japan reopened the doors to the outside world with the Meijiera.

It was at that stage when many Japanese companies started promoting their products using words or phrases from English that had a certain effect and resonance on the public.

ホチキス, Hochikisu stapler, the stapler
  • the word used to indicate the stapler was ホチキス or ホッチキス, Hochikisu derives from Hotchkiss, an American company that produced sewing machines and also exported to Japan in a period in which did not have a specific name for the product. The first stapler was in fact introduced in Japan in 1903.

  • ステープラー sutēpurā is the loan from English stapler

()() sweets

シュークリーム, the fabulous cream puffs

The cream puff is translated into English cream puff. The word used in Japanese is an adaptation from the French: chou à la crème.

アイスキャンデー the icicle

Here is another word アイスキャンデー ice candy literally the ice candy, the popsicle which in English is called icy pole or ice lolly.

  • デコレーションケーキ decoration cake, in English it is found as fancy cake, the decorated cakes

  • ソフトクリーム soft cream is the gelato that is the serve cream in English

  • アイスコーヒー ice coffee is the iced coffee, in English iced coffee or cold brew coffee

Among the プラスティック (せい)(ひん), the plastic objects we find the:

ペットボトル, chest botoru le plastic bottles, plastic bottles
  • ビニール (ぶくろ) biniiru bukuro the plastic bag, plastic bag translated instead as vinyl bag

SSN social media

This acronym is also part of the waseieigo: Social Networking Service and refers to all the social media we know including:

  • フェイスブック Facebook

  • ツイッター Twitter

  • インスタグラム Instagram, abbreviated インスタ Insta

  • ユーチューブ YouTube

  • ティックトック TikTok

  • マナーモード manner mode is the Japanese term for the silent mode of the mobile phone, in English silent mode

(ぶん)(しょう) sentences


I want to develop my career.


Our company needs to improve the image.


I asked reception for wake up service.

There are many examples. We learn the terms and their use in the course of our study and deepening of this wonderful language. ステップ - バイ - ステップ!

I inserted a video of the channel "すなお7()(かん)()(えい)()" whose introductory presentation is:


They don't teach you at school !? English content explained in a simple way!

In this video the teacher discusses 25 terms of wasei eigo, reporting the words in Katakana and the English translations. () いてみましょう!

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