Category Archives: Word Origins

A discussion about the origin of Japan’s name (日本, nihon / nippon)

It’s amazing how you can study a foreign language for so long, yet somehow overlook what seem like basic things. The other day I was reading a book about Japan written for elementary school children which talked about Japan’s history and culture. On one of the first few pages, it said that the Japanese call their country… Read More »

あらせられます (araseraremasu): A triple-polite Japanese word

One of the distinguishing things about the Japanese language is how there are many different ways to say the same thing while varying the level of politeness. For example, the below words all mean “to eat” in increasing levels of politeness. 食う (kuu) 食べる (taberu) 召し上げる (meshiageru) Besides the many different verbs, there is also… Read More »

Useful Japanese expression: shikata nai (仕方ない) and a bunch of variants

The phrase “仕方ない” (shikata nai) is one that I learned very early in my Japanese studies and I’ve found it to be fairly commonly used, as well as pretty straightforward to understand. The word 仕方 (shikata) means “way to do something” or “method”. For example, since お礼 means “thanks”, then お礼の仕方 means “the way to thank”… Read More »

More about the origin of the Japanese word くるま (kuruma) [a confession]

In my last post, I wrote about how the Japanese word “くるま” (which means “car”) originated from the words ”来る” (to come) and “魔” (devil). While these two words are actual words with the meanings I specified, the truth is that they have nothing to do with the word ”くるま”. After all, my post yesterday was written on April… Read More »

The interesting origin of the Japanese word ”くるま” (kuruma)

I always enjoy researching word origins of Japanese words, since you usually learn a little of history, culture, and it often helps you remember that word or its meanings. In this post I’d like to talk about the origin of the word “くるま” (kuruma) which means “car”,  and is typically written in Kanji as “車”.… Read More »

”テンション” (tenshon), a tricky Japanese loanword

About two years ago, I wrote a post on a few confusing loanwords in Japanese, and then around a year ago about how they are so common in the language. I’ve heard many new loanwords since writing those articles, and have been able to guess their general meaning often just from knowing the corresponding English word. But once in… Read More »

Researching terms during translation

As I gradually hone my translation skills through Gengo.com, I’m learning not just new words in Japanese, but more effective ways of researching word meanings and their proper translations in English. When translating in an environment where conveying the meaning of the original text accurately is critical, there are often cases where only one word or phrase would… Read More »

The bridge of translation and “yoroshiku onegaishimasu” (よろしくお願いします) in Japanese

Doing translations between Japanese and English is always an educational endeavor, teaching me so much about Japanese and language in general. One thing that I’ve been thinking about lately is how one can be reasonably skilled in two languages, and yet translating simple phrases can be so challenging. I’ve seen this happen even when I… Read More »

The real origin of “arigatou” (ありがとう), Japanese for “Thank you”.

I have an interest in learning the origins of various Japanese words, which is funny since I couldn’t care less for the origins of words in my native language, English. I don’t think it’s for the sake of history, since memorizing arbitrary facts puts me to sleep, and it’s not for utility since the origin… Read More »