Dogs and cats are two opposite animals, but they are common in homes around the world. So let's see different ways of referring to these animals in Japanese.
The article goes much further, we are going to learn words that are composed with the ideograms of cat and dog, as well as some curious Japanese expressions that use these animals.
Remembering that we also have other articles that talk about animals in Japanese, we recommend reading the following articles:
- Japanese Animal Name – Doubutsu
- Kigurumi – Animal Costume and Japanese Pajamas
- Is it difficult to bring animals to Japan?
Neko - How do you say cat in Japanese?
猫 (Neko) - This is the most common word to refer to "cat" in Japanese. We also have words derived from English as: [キャット] and [カト] that comes from "Kitty" and "Cat".
In the past, "Neko" was called "Nekoma". A theory describes "ね" as an onomatopoeia of sound that the cat does. And Koma may refer to the bear (kuma) for being a hairy 4 -legged animal.
Did you know? Is the ideogram 猫 derived from stems of the dog ideograms 犬? Parts of the kanji can mostly refer to small, agile animals. The root [犭] represents a wild animal that roams the fields [田].
Other theories involving the origin of neko reading are:
- 寝子獣 (ねこま): A sleeping cub beast. Due to cats sleeping all day.
- 寝熊 (ねくま): Sleeping bear.
- 鼠神(ねこま): Mouse god or god of rats. Total relevance to the fact that dogs chase mice.
- ねこ: Reference to the meow [にゃん] and [子] which represents a cute puppy.
Expressions Using Cat in Japanese
- 猫舌 (nekogashi) – Cat tongue (which does not support hot temperatures);
- 猫被り (nekokaburi) – Being charged by the cat (used to describe someone who has been tricked or deceived);
- ウンチを埋めている猫のように (Unchi wo umeteiru neko no yō ni) – Like a cat burying poop;
Words that have the ideogram of neko
- 虎猫 (Toraneko) - Tiger cat; Striped cat;
- 黒猫 (kuroneko) - Black cat;
- 愛猫猫 (AIBOU) - Pets Cat; beloved cat;
- 家猫猫 (IENEKO) - Domestic cat;
- 猫 (Neko) - Cat;
- 猫科 (Nekoka) - Family of cats;
- 猫耳 (nekomimi) - cat ears;
- 猫目 (Nekome) - Cat Eyes;
- 猫柄 (nekogara) - cat coat;
- 猫毛 (nekoke) - cat hair;
- 猫背 (nekose) - cat dorsal;
- 猫爪 (Nekotsume) - Cat claws;
- 猫足 (Nekoshi) - Cat paw;
- 猫顔 (nekogao) - cat face;
Cat Breeds in Japanese
Here are some cat breeds that originated in Japan:
- Japanese Bobtail (日本ボブテイル) – a breed of cat with a short tail and long coat. Known to be affectionate and playful.
- Japanese Sable (日本サーバル) – A breed of cat with a short coat and a sable coat pattern. Known for being friendly and easily trainable.
- Japanese Spotted Cat (日本スポットキャット) – A breed of cat with a short coat and leopard spots.
Below is a list of cat breeds in the Japanese language:
- Maine Coon (メインクーン)
- Scottish Fold (スコティッシュフォールド)
- Siamese (シャム)
- Persian (ペルシャ)
- Sphynx (スフィンクス)
- American Shorthair (アメリカンショートヘア)
- British Shorthair (ブリティッシュショートヘア)
- Exotic Shorthair (エキゾチックショートヘア)
- Bombay (ボンベイ)
- Russian Blue (ロシアンブルー)
Inu - How do you say dog in Japanese?
犬 (inu) means dog in Japanese, the ideogram is composed of radicals and ideograms 犭 (the ancient form of 犬) and 田 (TA), which mean, respectively, "dog" and "field".
The character 「犭」 is considered to be a very old character, being used to write the word "dog" in other Asian languages such as Chinese.
Ideogram 田 (TA) means "field" or "cultivated land" used to indicate that the dog is a work animal, which is used to help farmers.
Note that both ideograms that gave rise to the word dog are also present in the ideogram for cat in Japanese.
The ideogram is also used as part of the name of some Japanese dog breeds, such as Shiba Inu (柴犬) and Akita Inu (秋田犬).
In the west, dogs and cats don't get along, but in Japanese the word to refer to dogs and cats as a bad relationship actually uses dog and monkey [犬猿].
- 犬型 (disagata) - This word is used to refer to "dogs" of race or pedigree in Japanese. Ideogram 型 (cat) means "model" or "shape".
- 犬種 (Inushu) - This word is also used to refer to "dogs" of race or pedigree in Japanese. The ideogram 種 (shu), which means "species" or "race".
Here are a few more Japanese words that include the ideogram 犬 (inu) which means "dog":
- 犬小屋 (いぬごや) - Dog path;
- 犬神 (いぬがみ) - God Dog (a Shinto God);
- 犬柄 (いぬがら) - Polvo dog (a Japanese dish);
- 犬小屋 (いぬごや) - Kennel;
- 犬猫 (いぬねこ) - Cat and dog;
- 犬種 (いぬぐすり) - Dog breed;
- 犬歯 (いぬのお) - Dog tooth;
- 犬舎 (いぬいぬ) - Dog house;
- 犬薬 (いぬぐすり) - Dog medicine;
- 犬山 (いぬやま) - Dog Mount;
- 犬奉行 (いぬほうこう) - Chief of dogs;
Japanese dog breed names
Here are some dog breed names in Japanese:
- Shiba Inu (柴犬)
- Akita Inu (秋田犬)
- Hokkaido (北海道犬)
- Kishu (紀州犬)
- Kai Ken (甲斐犬)
- Shikoku (四国犬)
- Tosa (土佐犬)
- Kumaon Mastiff (クマオンマスティフ)
- Ryukyu (琉球犬)
- Kishu (紀州犬)
We recommend reading: Akita Inu and Shiba Inu – The Japanese Dogs
What is the similarity between the ideograms 猫 and 犬?
The Japanese ideograms 猫 (neko, cat) and 犬 (inu, dog) are very similar, as both are composed of the same ideogram 犭 (the old form of 犬), which means “dog”. The main difference between the two ideograms is the second element, which is used to indicate the species of the animal.
In fact, the 「犭」 component of the 「猫」character is a simplification of another Chinese ideogram meaning beast 「豸」due to its semantic affinity.
All the radicals present in the word Neko are: 大竹廿田