Loanwords are Japanese words that have been “borrowed” from other languages, usually English. Most loanwords are simply transliterations of their donor words. For example, コーヒー (kōhī) is the loanword for “coffee.” However, not all loanwords are so straightforward.
This week, we’re going to look at another set of commonly-used Japanese loanwords whose origins aren’t immediately apparent. We’ll also cover how loanwords are used to express nationality.
アンケート (ankēto) – survey or questionnaire
This is one of several commonly-used loanwords derived from a language other than English. アンケート comes from the French “enquête” and refers to a brief questionnaire, such as a customer satisfaction survey or an opinion poll. It should not be used to describe a formal investigation or inquiry.
アルバイト (arubaito) – part time job
As with the French origin of “ankēto,” the Japanese loanword for a part time job (sometimes called a “side job”) comes from the German word for job: “arbeit.”
ガラス (garasu) – glassWhile “garasu” might sound a bit distorted to native English speakers, it is the closest match to glass that the Japanese syllabary allows. Note that ガラス refers to the material in a general sense and needs additional words to express a more specific meaning.
ゴム (gomu) – rubber band
This loanword also comes from a language other than in English. In this case, the donor word is the German “gom,” which means gum.
レジ (reji) – cash register
レジ is a heavily-abridged version of cash register, keeping the “regi” sound but discarding the rest of the donor words.
The nationalities of people from most countries other than Japan are expressed by combining the loanword for the country with 人 (jin), the Japanese word for “person/people.” So a U.S. national would be アメリカ (Amerikajin), or “America person.” Below are some more examples. Keep in mind that most, but not all, of these are derived from the official languages of their respective countries:
|Japanese Loanwords for Nationalities|