As I’ve covered in a previous post, Japanese loanwords can be trickier than they initially seem. In that post, I wrote about ‘false friends’, where Japanese words that appear to be the same as English can actually have a totally different meaning in Japanese.
I find Japanese-English false friends extremely interesting, so I wanted to post about some of the ones I’ve come across. This is a mix of words that have completely different meaning in English, and words where the meaning has a different nuance to them.
The word ‘mansion’ in English conjures up the image of a large house with more rooms than anyone would realistically need.
However, in Japanese a mansion is an apartment/ flat/ condominium (normally larger than what the Japanese call アパート).
My older sister is rich and lives in a spacious apartment.
Like English, アバウト can mean ‘roughly’ or ‘approximately’. In Japanese, it can also mean ‘sloppy’ in regards to someone’s personality (ie. they are not particularly concerned with finer details).
Literally “he has a sloppy personality”, it could be translated as “he is not a meticulous person”.
As a British person, discovering what Japanese cider really was a bit of a disappointment. In the UK, cider is a type of alcoholic drink normally made with apples (or sometimes using other fruits such as pears).
So imagine my shock when I saw saidaa in the non-alcoholic section of a bar menu! It turns out saidaa is a fizzy soft drink, which is best translated in English as ‘soda’.
This morning, I bought a bottle of soda at the convenience store.
Like English, スマート can mean ‘stylish’ or ‘refined’ in reference to the way someone dresses or acts. However, it can also be used to mean ‘slim’.
She is very slim, isn’t she?
Originating from ‘concentric plug’, コンセント refers to an electric outlet or plug socket.
I plugged the TV into the socket.
サービス does overlap with the English meaning ‘service’ as in ‘customer service’:
However, サービス can also be used to describe something given as a discount or as a special extra when buying something.
Literally “this is service”, when buying something at a store this would be used when you get an extra item for free, or a free service offered at a hotel.
Whilst searching this word is quite likely to bring up a certain American president (he’s normally referred to as トランプ氏/ toranpu-shi), トランプ refers to playing cards.
トランプします = play card games
Last night I played cards with my grandfather.
8) Japanese: シール
Shiiru can mean the same as its English counterpart ‘seal’ but is more commonly used to mean ‘sticker’.
I put a sticker of a blue flower on the letter.
9) Japanese: サイン
サイン means signature or autograph in Japanese. It can also mean sign as in ‘signal’.
Please sign this document.
10) Japanese: タレント
Talent refers to a TV personality or celebrity in the world of entertainment. There are tons of popular タレント on Japanese TV who are generally there to play games, tell the occasional joke and react to pre recorded material. They may also sing or act in addition to their variety show appearances.
My little sister is a famous TV personality.
So that’s it for today’s post – here’s all of the words in today’s post summed up in one image:
As I wrote in my post, sometimes the easiest way to double check the meaning of loanwords is to use Google image search. If there is a different meaning or broader meaning in Japanese compared to its English counterpart, you’ll get a pretty good idea of this from looking at the search results.
I’m interested to know what is your favourite Japanese-English false friend? Let me know in the comments!