• Spencer Low

Japanese words of Portuguese origin

Although the Japanese were more deeply familiar with the Dutch language (Western knowledge was called 蘭学 rangaku or "Dutch studies"), the Portuguese language also had a significant impact as it was the first European tongue to be heard in Japan. Here's a list of common words still in use today that tries to exclude the many terms specifically related to Christianity, which was introduced by Portuguese:


The word tempura came from the Portuguese "tempero" meaning seasoning.
  • バッテラ battera: a type of pressed mackerel sushi that looks like a boat, from the old Portuguese bateira (barco in modern Portuguese)

  • びろうど birōdo: velvet, from veludo

  • ボタン botan: button, from botão

  • チョッキ chokki: waistcoat, from jaque

  • フラスコ furasuko: laboratory flask, from frasco

  • 飛竜頭 hiryūzu: deep-fried tofu mixed with thinly sliced vegetables, name used in western Japan's Kansai dialect, from filhos meaning sons

  • イギリス igirisu: the United Kingdom, from inglês

  • インフェルノ inferuno: inferno, hell, from inferno

  • じょうろ jouro: watering can, from either jorro (jet, spurt) or jarro (jug)

  • じゅばん juban: undershirt worn under a kimono, singlet, from gibão meaning short jacket, doublet

  • かぼちゃ (南瓜) kabocha: pumpkin, from Camboja meaning Cambodia, where the Portuguese sourced the vegetable to import into Japan

  • カッパ kappa: raincoat, from capa

  • カステラ kasutera: popular type of sponge cake, from (pão de) Castela

  • コエンドロ koendoro: coriander, cilantro, from coentro

  • コップ koppu: glass, tumbler, from copo

  • マルメロ marumero: quince, from marmelo

  • ミイラ (木乃伊) mīra: (embalmed) mummy, from mirra meaning myrrh, used in embalming

  • オランダ (阿蘭陀) oranda: The Netherlands, Holland, from Holanda

  • オルガン orugan: organ (musical instrument), from órgão

  • パン pan: bread, from pão

  • サボテン (仙人掌) saboten: cactus, from sabão meaning soap – I'm sure there's a good story here

  • サラサ (更紗) sarasa: calico, chintz, from saraça

  • シャボン shabon: soap, from sabão

  • たばこ tabako: tobacco, from tabaco

  • てんぷら (天麩羅) tenpura: tempura, from tempero meaning seasoning, condiment

  • ザボン zabon: pomelo, shaddock, from zamboa


Note the fact that an inordinate number of these loanwords have to do with food!

19 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All