Japanese vocabulary list: language, reading, writing, and translation

By | September 11, 2017

In this vocabulary list I’d like to give some words related to language, reading, writing, and translation. A majority of these are words I have seen and/or used myself.

I purposefully left out technical grammatical terms (like 述語), but I may make another list for them someday.

Note: as usual, many of the verbs in 〜する (~suru) form can also be used in a noun form without the する. For example, 読書 from the verb 読書する) can be used as a noun.

  • 言語 (gengo): language
  • 言語学 (gengogaku): lingustics (‘the study of language’)
  • 何語 (nanigo): what language (ex: 何語ですか? “What language is that?”)
  • 語源 (gogen): word origin
  • 言葉 (kotoba): a word, words (sometimes used to refer to language in general)
  • 単語 (tango): word(s)   (often used in context of vocabulary word(s) that are studied)
  • 語 (go): word (a more formal term that can be seen in places like dictionaries)
  • 文字 (moji): letter
  • 〜字 (~ji): counter for letters (in Japanese letters are counted instead of words, ex: 百字 or 100字 = 100 letters)
  • 文 (bun): sentence
  • 文章 (bunshou): text (like a block of text on a page, etc.)
  • 句(ku): a phrase (anything from a word to a sentence. I have seen those mostly used in formal contexts like wikipedia, etc.)
  • 段落 (danraku): paragraph
  • 行 (gyou): line (ex: 一行目  “first line”)
  • 句読点 (kutouten): punctuation
  • 文法 (bunpou): grammar
  • 構文 (koubun): sentence structure
  • 例文 (reibun): sample sentence (also 例, “example”)
  • ページ (peeji) page  (can also be written 頁)
  • 読む (yomu) read
  • 読み直す (yominaosu): reread
  • 拝読する (haidoku suru): read (humble)
  • 読破する(dokuha suru): finish reading
  • 読み進む (yomisusumu): make progress reading
  • 必読 (hitsudoku): “must read” (a term that is used to say a book is really good)
  • 朗読 (roudoku): read out loud (see this for more info)
  • 購読 (koudoku): subscription (like for a magazine)
  • 立ち読みする(tachiyomi suru): browse or read while standing up (often used in the context of reading in a bookstore before purchasing the product)
  • パラ読みする (parayomi suru): peruse (read through something quickly)
  • 未読 (midoku): unread (like an email)
  • 積読 (tsundoku): buying books without reading them (積む is a verb that means something like ‘pile up’)
  • 読書する (dokusho suru): reading books (often used to describe reading as a hobby)
  • 読み手 (yomite): reader (the side of the person doing the reading, often used to contrast against the person doing the writing)
  • 読者 (dokusha): reader(s) (often used in referring to the readers of a certain book or series, 対象読者 = target audience)
  • 物語 (monogatari): story, plot
  • ストーリー (sutoorii): story, plot  (also プロット)
  • (登場)人物 (toujou jinbutsu): character(s)   (also キャラクター or キャラ)
  • 突破 (toppa): breakthrough (often used to refer exceeding a number of copies of a book sold or sales figures)
  • 語彙 (goi): vocabulary
  • 語彙力 (goiryoku): vocabulary ability (ex: 語彙力が乏しい “Have a poor vocabulary”)
  • 粗筋 (arasuji): plot summary, outline (like what you read on the back of a book)
  • ジャンル (janru): genre
  • 書く (kaku): write
  • 書き直す (kakinaosu): rewrite
  • 作者 (sakusha): writer or author (often used to refer to the writer of a specific book, ex: この本の作者)
  • 著者 (chosha): writer or author (similar to 作者)
  • 作家 (sakka): writer, novelist
  • 小説 (shousetsu): novel, short story
  • 短編 (tanpen): short work (短編小説 = short story)
  • 長編 (chouhen): long work
  • 時代小説 (jidai shousetsu): period/historical novel or short story
  • 小説家 (shousetsuka): novelist
  • 原稿 (genkou): manuscript (like when writing a novel, etc.)
  • 執筆 する(shippitsu suru): write (more formal term)
  • 執筆活動 (shippitsu katsudou): writing activities
  • 作成する (sakusei suru): compose, make (a list, etc.)
  • 読み書き (yomikaki): reading and writing
  • 執筆者 (shippitsusha): writer (I don’t hear this word very often, but including it for completeness. Also 筆者)
  • 編集する(henshuu suru): edit
  • 編集者 (henshuusha): editor
  • 校正する (kousei suru): edit, proofread
  • 推敲する (suikou suru): to polish (a manuscript, etc.)
  • 訂正する (teisei suru): correct
  • 指摘する (shiteki suru): point out (a mistake, etc.)
  • 下書き(shitagaki): draft
  • 前書き (maegaki): preface (often written in hiragana)
  • 後書き (atogaki): afterword (often written in hiragana)
  • 公開する (koukai suru): release (publicly, like on a blog)
  • 出版社 (shuppannsha): publisher
  • 発行する (hakkou suru): publish
  • 駄作 (dasaku): humble term for an author to refer to his or her work
  • 拙作(sessaku): humble term for an author to refer to his or her work
  • 名作 (meisaku): great or famous work
  • 古文 (kobun): classic work (of literature)
  • 作品 (sakuhin): work (of art, or literature, etc.)
  • 文学 (bungaku): literature
  • 評論家 (hyouronka): critic (often someone who does this professionally)
  • 解説 (kaisetsu): explanation, comment
  • 作文 (sakubun): essay, composition (like a school assignment)
  • 感想 (kansou): opinion, impression (how one feels about a work)
  • 感想文 (kansoubun): text describing how one feels about a work (ex: a review of a book)
  • 卵 (tamago): literally “egg”, but can be used to refer to someone who is training to be a certain thing (like a novelist)
  • 解釈する (kaishaku suru): interpret (make a guess at the meaning of something)
  • 通訳する (tsuuyaku suru): interpret (translate in real time, as in a conversation between two people speaking different languages)
  • 通訳者 (tsuuyakusha): interpreter
  • 翻訳する (honyaku suru): translate
  • 翻訳者 (honyakusha): translator
  • 直訳 (chokuyaku): direct/literal translation
  • 意訳 (iyaku): a translation that does not focus on each word independently, but rather the overall meeting the passage tries to express
  • 誤訳 (goyaku): mistranslation
  • 名訳 (meiyaku): excellent/famous translation
  • 原文 (genbun): original text
  • 和訳 (wayaku): Japanese translation
  • 英訳 (eiyaku): English translation
  • 和文 (wabun): Japanese text
  • 英文 (eibun): English text
  • 和英翻訳 (waei honyaku): Japanese to English translation
  • 完成させる (kansei saseru): complete
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