33 Frequently Used Japanglish Quiz

和製英語 (わせいえいご “Invented-in-Japan English”) is an English (or other languages)-like word created in Japan and used differently from its original meaning in the language. It is sometimes called “Japanglish” (Japanese + English) because it is used uniquely in Japanese.
We have collected only Japanglish words that are frequently used in daily conversation. How many of the 33 questions can you answer?

Table of Contents


“roller coaster”
The roller coaster at Korakuen Yuenchi (now Tokyo Dome City Attractions), which was built in 1955, was named 「ジェットコースター」so it came to be called「ジェットコースター」for those built later.

An apartment is called「マンション」in Japanese, even if it is not a large mansion. Among apartments, low-rise apartments (three stories at the highest) made of wood or lightweight steel frame are called「アパート」.

“laptop PC”
Desktops are also called desktops in Japanese, while laptops are called 「ノートパソコン」. The word「ノート」means notebook in Japanese. ”Since the word “lap” is not familiar to the Japanese, they may have named it after its appearance and started calling it with the more familiar word, 「ノートパソコン」.

I looked up the etymology of the word, but it was unclear why the term came to refer to an autograph of a celebrity. In Japan, there is a custom of getting autographs on a square piece of cardboard called 色紙 (しきし). You can find autographs of celebrities all over the walls in some restaurants that are famous for their delicious food.

When the word is used in terms such as 「マウンテンバイク」(“mountain bike”) or 「ロードバイク」(“road bike”) it means bicycle. However, when only the word itself is used in conversation, it means motorcycles.

“police car”
We call it 「パトカー」abbreviated from the English “patrol car”.

“outlet”, “socket”
This is another word that many Japanese use without realizing it is Japanglish. When they say, “I need consent”, they are probably not asking for your permission or agreement. They just need to charge something and look for an outlet.

The name was popularized because the first stapler imported from the U.S. in 1903 was the Hotchkiss No. 1 model made by E.H. Hotchkiss.

“plastic bottle”
Polyethylene terephthalate, the raw material resin, is abbreviated as PET, and plastic bottles are referred to as such.

This word comes from the Dutch word ”Pincet”. During the Edo period (1603-1867), Japan refused all diplomatic relations with countries other than the Netherlands, many words are of Dutch origin (or foreign words that came via the Netherlands).

“(playing) cards”
It is said that the name「トランプ」was mistaken for the name of a card game when a foreigner visiting Japan in the late 1800s was playing cards and shouted “Trump!” as he drew his final trump card.

The origin of this word was also unclear in detail. I think it comes from the (wax) seal used for letters.

“The wedding aisle”
It is Japanglish created by the wedding industry. In Japan at that time, there was a belief that brides should be pure and innocent, so the word “virgin” was used to call it.

The Japanese word one-piece mainly refers to a dress worn in casual everyday situations. It can also be used for a dress that would be worn for business but is not often used for a dress (gown) that would be worn to a party.

“flip flops”
Originally they were called 「ビーチサンダル (beach sandal)」 because they were worn on the beach, and today they are often abbreviated to「ビーサン」.

In 1927, a company in Hiroshima took the letters「ちゃく」 from 「きんちゃく袋」 “kinchaku bag” (a bag that can be easily opened and closed) and marketed the zipper as「チャック印」As a result, the term 「チャック」is still used today.

“scarf for winter”
From the meaning of “to muffle”, “to wrap up so as to protect”, the term 「マフラー」 came to be used for a scarf that is wrapped around the neck to protect it during the cold season. In Japanese, the word「スカーフ」 refers only to thin silk scarves.

A parka is a type of Inuit clothing, a coat with a hood. It is called this because of the similarity of its shape. Another word of Inuit origin is 「アノラック」(used by especially old people), which refers to hooded outerwear used in mountain climbing.

In Japan, a fashion designer for the brand VAN named it「トレーナー」because it was the clothing often worn by trainers at a sports gym and we still use it today.

The word 「リュック」 is derived from the German word “Rucksack”. It is also called “rucksack” as in English, but pronounced as 「リュックサック (Ryukku-sakku)」.


“part-time worker who doesn’t (want to) have a regular job”, “job-hopper”
Abbreviation for 「フリーランスアルバイター」(“Freelance Arbeiter”). 「アルバイト」(“part-time job”) comes from the German verb “arbeiten”. (I think “jobben” is closer to the original meaning, though…)

“cheating on a test”
Around 1900, cheating on a test was already referred to as 「カンニング」. One theory is that students of that era deliberately used “cunning” instead of “cheating” to pull the wool over the eyes of the teachers and staff.

“funny”, “humorous”
The Japanese word 「ユニーク」 means “funny (and distinctive)”.

“being extremely excited”, “getting hyped”

In Japanese, “tension” is used to refer to “mood”.「ハイテンション」(”high tension”) means a state of being in an elevated mood. When you are depressed or low key, we say 「テンションが低い」(てんしょんがひくい).

“getting married”
In Japan, many people considered marriage a couple’s goal, so this is what we used to call getting married. (It is still called so, but since the way of thinking about marriage has changed, fewer people call it this than before, especially among the younger generation.) Not only in getting married but also in actual races (marathons, horse races, etc.), “to make it to the finish line” is sometimes described as「ゴールイン」.

Complaining about a store’s products or services is called 「クレーム」 in Japanese. A person who complains unreasonably about a store is called 「クレーマー」.

“celebrity”, “TV star”
In Japanese, there is no meaning of giftedness; celebrities who appear on TV are called by this term. Singers, actors, and comedians are called「歌手」(かしゅ), 「俳優」(はいゆう), and 「芸人」(げいにん) respectively, so this is what we call celebrities on TV who do not belong to any of those categories.

The name of the association where manicurists gathered in 1985 became 「ネイリスト協会」(ねいりすときょうかい) and this term seems to have spread widely. Usually, nails are called 「爪」(つめ) in Japanese, but manicured or decorated nails are sometimes referred to as「ネイル」.


“cream puff”
It’s not “shoe cream” ;D This name comes from a French word “chou à la crème”.

“corn dog”
Japanese corn dogs are deep fried with a flour batter, not a cornmeal batter. So they did not use 「コーン」(“corn”) and instead added 「アメリカン」(“American”) because it is a food from the US.

“canned tuna”
In 1958, a company decided to use the word 「チキン」(“chicken”), which was familiar to the Japanese and had a similar texture, to name its product 「シーチキン」(“sea chicken”) in hopes of encouraging young people to eat more canned tuna. Since the product had a very high market share, the term 「シーチキン」 became popular to describe all canned tuna.

“multiple items served on a single platter”
In French, it means appetizer, but in Japan, 「オードブル」(“hors-d’oeuvre”) basically means a number of different foods arranged on a single plate (platter).

The first all-you-can-eat restaurant in Japan was established in the Imperial Hotel referring to the Swedish “smörgåsbord”. The name was「バイキング」, which was inspired by a movie called “The Vikings”. (There was a scene in the movie in which the characters took whatever they liked on a platter and ate it.) The name of the restaurant led to the term 「バイキング」. We also call it “buffet” but the pronunciation is 「ビュッフェ」(byuffe).

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