Nyoubou Kotoba – A Woman's Secret Language

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Nyoubou Kotoba [女房言葉] is a secret language used by the court lady or woman who served in the imperial palace since the beginning of the Muromachi Period in which much of this language is used today, including by women.

Doesn't Nyoubou mean Wife?

Yes, the word nyoubou [女房] currently refers to his wife, but in the past he referred to the high-class women who worked at the Japanese Imperial Court. We can say that they were wives of the Empire.

The word literally means woman of the room, because these women served in the chambers and rooms of the palace or in the princess' rooms. As might be expected, some members of the nobility got one of these palace servants pregnant.

Because of these events in the modern era this term began to refer to the wife of the nobility, and today with the absence of this work, it can refer to a companion or wife.

Nyoubou kotoba - the wife’s language
Shinto Wedding

How is Nyoubou Kotoba?

Originally used by Japanese court ladies during the Muromachi era, this language spread and came to be considered a general feminine language. It mainly consisted of a special vocabulary of words for food, clothing, and other household items.

A lot of words Nyoubou Kotoba were formed by adding the prefix O- [お], which indicates politeness and delicacy, or removing part of a word and adding -moji [文字], which means "character or letter" thus presenting an understatement.

The term nyouboukotoba can also be written with ideograms [女房詞] and the secret language today can be called jochuukotoba [女中詞] which means something like middle-aged women's language.

The Nyoubou Kotoba also use abbreviations, mimicry, onomatopoeia and metaphors. It was said to have an elegant and graceful writing that later spread to samurai houses, semi-detached houses and even to men.

Nyoubou kotoba - the wife’s language
Nyoubou at the Imperial Court

Nyoubou Kotoba Vocabulary

Let's now examine a list of words from the Nyoubou Kotoba. Can you find any similarities with the feminine words of today? I hope you enjoyed the article, share!

Words that begin with [お]

  • Okaka [おかか] - Beautiful shavings;
  • Okaki [おかき] - Rice cake;
  • Okazu [おかず] - Monitoring;
  • Okabe [おかべ] - Tofu;
  • Okaran [おかちん] - Mochi;
  • Okara [おから] - Residues after squeezing soy milk;
  • Okowa [おこわ] - Steamed Rice;
  • Osatsu [おさつ] - Sweet potatoes;
  • Ojiya [おじや] - Rice porridge;
  • Osumoji [おすもじ] - Sushi;
  • Odai [おだい] - Rice;
  • Otsuke [おつけ] - Miso soup;
  • Oden [おでん] - Tofu with misu; Oden;
  • Onaka [おなか] - Belly;
  • Onara [おなら] - Fart;
  • Onigiri ・ Omusubi [おにぎり・おむすび] - Handful of rice;
  • Ohagi [おはぎ] - Rice cake;
  • Ohiya [おひや] - Cold water;
  • Ohiroi [おひろい] - Walking;
  • Omaru [おまる] - Throw away;
  • Oman [おまん] - Flapjack;
  • Oyoru [およる] - Honorific of Sleeping;

Words ending with moji [文字]

  • Okumoji [おくもじ] - Wife;
  • Okumoji [おくもじ] - Drinks;
  • Omemoji [おめもじ] - Personal meeting;
  • Kamoji [かもじ] - Mother; Wife;
  • Kuromoji [くろもじ] - Lindera (plant);
  • Komoji [こもじ] - Carp;
  • Shamoji [しゃもじ] - Shell;
  • Sumoji [すもじ] - Sushi;
  • Somoji [そもじ] - You;
  • Nimoji [にもじ] - Garlic;
  • Hamojii [はもじい] - Ashamed, ashamed;
  • Hitomoji [ひともじ] - Leek
  • Himojii [ひもじい] - I’m hungry
  • Futamoji [ふたもじ] - Giggles
  • Yumoji [ゆもじ] - Yukata

Other words

  • Kouko [こうこ] - Pickled radish;
  • Kon [こん] - Food added when drinking sake;
  • Ishi ishi [いしいし] - Dango, cookie;
  • Oomono [青物] - Vegetables;
  • Naminohana [なみのはな] - Salt;
  • Nasu [なす] - Eggplant;
  • Mizunohana [みずのはな] - Water flower, algae bloom, lotus;
  • Hechima [へちま] - Sponge head, loofah;
  • Kunoichi [くのいち] - Female Kanji, female stealth;
  • Make [まけ] - Menstruation;

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