List of False Cognates in Japanese - False Friends

False cognates are words that resemble the English, but in reality they have totally different meanings than we imagine. In the Japanese language there are also some false cognates, mainly from english origin. In this article, we will share a list of false cognates in Japanese.

Remember that false cognates in English are called “false friends”, precisely because they are false friends that deceive you. It sounds like one thing, but it really isn't. As there are few false cognates of Japanese and English, we will also share a list of false cognates of Japanese for English.

False Cognato in Japanese is spelled sorani kotoba [空似言葉] which can literally be translated as an empty word.

False Cognates from Japanese to English

In Japanese we have the word iesu [イエス] that can mean so much Jesus like yea, derived from yes in the English language. So be careful not to fall into that trap;

Karuta [かるた] actually originated from the English letter, but karuta in japan it refers only to a traditional card game involving poems;

List of false cognates in Japanese

In Japanese there is the word buranko [ブランコ] that some may think it means white, but in reality it means swing. White in Japanese is shiro [白] or derived from English howaito [ホワイト].

The Japanese word igirisu [イギリス] can remember English, but currently it means United Kingdom. To refer to the English language we use the expression eigo [英語];

Subeta [スベタ] came from sword, but its meaning in Japanese is an insult to women, it may indicate an unattractive woman;

Tenpura [天ぷら] came from English derived from seasoning or seasoning, but in Japanese it means seafood or vegetables wrapped in a batter. Japanese seasoning is supaisu [スパイス].

List of false cognates in Japanese

Shabon [シャボン] came from the English soap, but there are other more used words for this object. In Japanese when someone says shabon they are probably referring to soap bubbles [シャボン玉];

Jyouro [じょうろ] comes from the English Jarro, but it means watering can. The water jugs in Japanese is mizusashi [水差し] while jyagu [ジャグ] can be used to refer to round jars that look like a filter.

Koppu [コップ] comes from English cup, but in Japanese there are other better words to use. Koppu can also be confused with police slang, which comes from English Cop.

Kompeitō [金平糖] comes from English confectionery, but refers to a type of Japanese confectionery and not to normal confectionery.

List of false cognates in Japanese

Japanese words that are not what they seem

In addition to False Cognatos, there may be words in Japanese that look like other words in English, but have absolutely nothing to do with it. Below I will leave some of these words:

  • Tapir [あんた] in Japanese means you;
  • Baka [ばか] means idiot and donkey, remember the word cow;
  • Kubo [窪] means cavity, deep place, female genitalia;
  • Matte [待って] in Japanese means wait!
  • Kara [から] in Japanese is “from“, And not face (face, boy);
  • Minna [みんな] means people;
  • Karai [辛い] means hot and not spicy;
  • Ningen [人間] means human and not anyone;

I'll leave a funny video below that talks more about this subject:


There are many false cognates of English words in the Japanese language. Fortunately, many English words are known by our language, or most of them derive from English. So before we finish this article, let's leave a list of Japanese cognates of words derived from English.

Imeeji [イメージ] in Japanese it does not refer to the image as some think, but to an impression, mental image, idea or simply imagining. To speak of a literal image we use the ideograms [像] and [絵].

Aidoru [アイドル] derives from the word Idol, but is commonly used to refer to young artists who sing and dance in bands and on TV as if they were actresses or POP idols.

List of false cognates in Japanese

Haafu [ハーフ] comes from English Half which means half, but in Japanese it refers to people of mixed nationality. To talk about half in English we use hanbun [半分] or other words derived from the ideogram han [半].

Abauto [アバウト] comes from English About which means about, a page about the site is an example of using About. In Japanese, this word refers to a vague, lazy, superficial or sloppy person. It can also refer to an approximate number or a calculation.

Piasu [ピアス] came from Piercing but in the Japanese language it mainly refers to earrings and ear piercings.

Manshon [マンション] comes from English mansion. In the Japanese language, this word is not used to refer to a mansion, but a set of buildings or a condominium. Japanese mansion can be taiteitaku [大邸宅] or simply teitaku [邸宅].

List of false cognates in Japanese

Paato [パート] is rarely used as a “part” for dividing things, paato is more used in Japanese to refer to part-time jobs. Equivalent to English part-timer.

Shiiro [シール] comes from the English seal meaning seal, in Japanese shiiro is used for adhesives. If you want to talk about stamps we use the terms hanko [判子] sutanpu [スタンプ] and inkan [印鑑].

Tarento [タレント] comes from English talent or English talent, but in Japanese it refers to TV personalities and talents. If we want to talk about some talent or skill we use the expression sainou [才能] and some others.

I hope you enjoyed this article. Do you know another false cognate in Japanese that did not appear in this article? If you do, leave it in the comments. If you liked the article, be sure to share it with friends!

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