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  • Spencer Low

Japanese words of Portuguese origin

Updated: Dec 16, 2022

Although the Japanese became 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 the 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!

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