Japanese キャンディ (kyandi) vs. Western “Candy”

By | April 14, 2020

I’m a pretty serious sweet tooth, to the extent that some years ago I maintained a blog about reviewing sweet products. But recently I realized I was misunderstanding a Japanese word related to sweets so I thought I would post about my experience.

The other day when I was speaking in Japanese, I used the word キャンディ (kyandi) in reference to a bar of chocolate and was given a strange look. It turns out that even though キャンディ comes from the English word “Candy”, it generally refers to Japanese “ame” (飴) style candies, which are hard candies made from a starchy syrup created from rice or other foods.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so perhaps a thousand pictures is worth a million. In any case, you can get a good feeling for what is traditionally considered キャンディ vs. “Candy” by looking at these Google image search results:

There is a lot of overlap between these, with hard candies appearing in both, but the English version contains some chocolate candies whereas the Japanese one has almost none.

While researching these words, I discovered the dictionary on my Mac actually contains a specific note on this difference in the entry for the word “Candy”: [with my English translation]

  • 日本語の「キャンディ」と違い, あめ・チョコレートを主に使用した菓子全般をいう
  • Unlike the Japanese word “キャンディ”, the word “Candy” refers in general to products that primarily contain “ame” or “chocolate”.

This entry also mentions a useful word to talk about sweets in general, 菓子 (kashi) which is sometimes used in the form お菓子 (okashi). For example, 菓子屋 (kashiya) is one way to say “Candy Store”, referring to a store that sells a variety of sweet products.

As I was writing this article (actually even before I started) I had this J Pop song running through my head. Warning: highly addictive melody!

[Note: the featured image was taken from Pexels.com]

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