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Japanese loanwords are more common than you think

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English loan words are pretty common in Japanese at this point, and are peppered throughout conversation. But English owes Japanese just as much, and Japanese loanwords are also found in common conversation in English-speaking countries. 

The list complied by Mutant Frog Travelogue had some terms that I considered pretty obvious as Japanese, but there were still some surprises along the way. The list also does a nice job of explaining when the Japanese words were originally Chinese loanwords as well.

Hit the jump to see the entire list, and see what words the Japanese gave us! 

“soy” 1670s, saio “sauce for fish, made from soybeans,” from Dutch soya, from Japanese shoyu, which is from Chinese shi-yu, from shi “fermented soy beans” + yu “oil.” Etymology reflects Dutch presence in Japan long before English merchants began to trade there.

“ginkgo” 1773, from Japanese ginkyo, from Chinese yin-hing, from yin “silver” + hing “apricot” (Sino-Japanese kyo). Introduced to New World 1784 by William Hamilton in his garden near Philadelphia. One was planted 1789 at Pierce Arboretum (now part of Longwood Gardens) in Kennett Square, Pa., and by 1968 it was 105 ft. tall.

“tycoon” 1857, title given by foreigners to the shogun of Japan (said to have been used by his supporters when addressing foreigners, as an attempt to convey that the shogun was more important than the emperor), from Japanese taikun “great lord or prince,” from Chinese tai “great” + kiun “lord.” Transferred meaning “important person” is attested from 1861, in reference to U.S. president Abraham Lincoln (in Hay’s diary); specific application to “businessman” is post-World War I.

“hunky-dory” 1866, Amer.Eng. (popularized c.1870 by a Christy Minstrel song), perhaps a reduplication of hunkey “all right, satisfactory” (1861), from hunk “in a safe position” (1847) New York City slang, from Dutch honk “goal, home,” from M.Du. honc “place of refuge, hiding place.” A theory from 1876, however, traces it to Honcho dori, said to be a street in Yokohama, Japan, where sailors went for diversions of the sort sailors enjoy.

“futon” 1876, from Japanese, said to mean “bedroll” or “place to rest.”

“geisha” 1887, “Japanese girl whose profession is to sing and dance to entertain men;” hence, loosely, “prostitute,” from Japanese, lit. “person accomplished in the social arts,” from gei “art, performance” + sha “person.”

“nisei“, “American born of Japanese parents,” from Japanese ni- “second” + sei “generation.” Use limited to U.S. West Coast until c.1942.

“kamikaze” 1945, Japanese, lit. “divine wind,” from kami “god, providence, divine” + kaze “wind.” Originally the name given in folklore to a typhoon which saved Japan from Mongol invasion by wrecking Kublai Khan’s fleet (August 1281).

“honcho” 1947, Amer.Eng. “officer in charge,” from Japanese hancho “group leader,” from han “corps, squad” + cho “head, chief.” Picked up by U.S. servicemen in Japan and Korea, 1947-1953.

“shiatsu” 1967, from Japanese, lit. “finger-pressure.”

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Crystal White
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I'm a Senior Illustration major, a girl gamer, and an all-around pretty cool person if I do say so myself. Get to know me! more + disclosures


 


 



Filed under... #english #learn japanese

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