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Japanese words borrowed into English

English is a mongrel language!

English has evolved by incorporating words from other languages. Here’s a list of Japanese words borrowed in English. Many of these words have no equivalent in English:

aikido
a type of Japanese martial arts

anime
animated comics

bonsai
dwarfed trees, a tree trimmed to grow in a clay pot

geisha
a professional entertainer/artist

haiku
a type of Japanese poetry

hara-kiri
a form of ritual suicide, belly cutting, also known as seppuku

ikebana
Japanese flower arranging

judo
a type of Japanese martial arts

ju-jitsu
a type of Japanese martial arts

kamikaze
1) divine wind; 2) Japanese WW II pilots who crashed their planes loaded with explosives onto Allied ships

karaoke
singing pop songs to a recorded musical backing

karate
a type of Japanese martial arts

kendo
a type of Japanese martial arts

kimono
an outer garment usually made of silk

manga
Japanese comics

matcha
powdered green tea

mizo
fermeted soybean paste made from soybeans, sea salt and koji

ninja
Japanese warrior

obi
a sash wrapped around a kimono

origami
a Japanese art of folding origami paper into intricate shapes and designs

sake
alcohol made from fermented rice

samurai
a Japanese warrior

sayonara
good-bye

sumo
Japanese wrestling

sushi
small balls of vinegared rice garnished with slice of raw fish or stuffed with food and wrapped in paper thin seaweed (nori)

sukiyaki
a Japanese dish of meat, vegetables, and mushrooms cooked in a broth

tatami
a straw mat

tycoon
business leader

tsunami
a giant tidal wave generated by an undersea earthquake that can reach land and cause extensive damage

ukiyo-e
wood block prints (Hokusai’s “The Wave”)

wasabi
a type of horseradish eaten with sushi and sushimi

zen
one sect of Japanese Buddhist tradition

The above is not an exhaustive list but demonstrates how English absorbs new words as well as highlighting its dynamic quality. Now, can you think of any foreign words borrowed into English?

Written by Stefan Chiarantano for TEFL.net
July 2006 | Filed under Lexis
Stefan has been teaching English as a foreign language in Asia for the past several years. He presently teaches English in Japan. He's a Canadian with an interest in filmmaking and photography.

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TEFL.net : TEFL Articles : Lexis : Japanese words borrowed into English