List of Japanese terms mistaken for gairaigo

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This is a selected list of Japanese words that are sometimes thought to be foreign borrowings (known as gairaigo in Japanese), but are in fact words with Japanese origins. This confusion can stem from a number of causes. Katakana are typically reserved for words of foreign origin, but are sometimes used for Japanese words of modern or irregular formation. In addition, some Japanese words bear coincidental similarities to words in other languages (known as false cognates).


Japanese Romaji Meaning Etymology Notes
有り難う arigatō thank you combination of aru ("to be" or "to exist") combined with the verb ending gatai (implying the difficulty of performing the preceding verb), modified to gatō Similar but no relationship, to the Portuguese word "Obrigado" (Thank you, or more literally, "obliged" [to you]).
ばば (婆) or ばばあ baba or babaa old woman (the latter having a derogatory sense) regular Japanese word similar to the term баба baba (meaning "grandmother") in Russian and Polish, and a number of other words with similar meanings in many other languages (see mama and papa)
チャック chakku a zipper, a zip-fastener (UK) 巾着 (kinchaku) (meaning 'a purse' or 'a money pouch')
ちゃり chari bicycle short form of charinko (also meaning bicycle), a word whose etymology is still a matter of debate sometimes mistakenly identified as a shortened form of the English "chariot"
餓狼 (がろう) garō hungry wolf 餓 (ga - hungry) + 狼 ( - wolf) similar to a French word, "loup-garou", that means "werewolf"; "garou" (OF "garulf") is cognate with the English.
ネタ neta Information, evidence reversal of the Japanese tane, meaning seed, cause, origin

See also[edit]


  • Takashi Ichikawa, et al. (1998). Sanseidō New Modern Dictionary (三省堂現代新国語辞典, sanseidōgendaishinkokugojiten), Tokyo, Japan: Sanseido Co., Ltd. ISBN 4-385-14034-0.