Work in Japanese – Understand the differences and meanings

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Everyone knows the Japanese for their great commitment to work. It really seems that the Japanese love to work, putting in 10 to 13 hours of work. While on the other side of the world some Brazilians complain about 8 hours of work. Japanese have different thoughts and a different culture…

In addition to the culture, I stopped and started to analyze the meaning and origin of the word work in Portuguese and in Japanese, and I noticed that the difference is also remarkable. In this article we will examine this subject a little and notice that even words show their great difference.


The word “work” has its origin in the Latin word “TRIPALEUM“: denomination of an instrument of torture formed by three (tri) sticks (paliu). So, originally, “to work” means to be tortured in the tripaliu.

Working in Japanese - understand the differences and meanings

Who were the tortured? Slaves and the poor who could not pay taxes. Thus, those who “worked”, at that time, were the destitute people. From then on, this idea of working as being tortured began to give understanding not only to the fact of torture itself, but also, by extension, to the productive physical activities carried out by workers in general: peasants, artisans, farmers, bricklayers, etc.

The meaning of the word work contributes to an unpleasant view of this daily activity so important in the life of man. Even today, working is seen as a punishment imposed on citizens. Fortunately the Japanese don't see work that way.

Shigoto – 仕事

The Japanese language has some German, Chinese and sign language. Why did I say this? The Japanese language uses Chinese ideograms, and its words are formed by putting other words together, as in German. and your reading and learning of kanji is assimilated to sign language. So understanding the meaning of words can be a little more complex.

the meaning of the word shigoto It is quite simple, but it has several undefined meanings. One of the main meanings of shigoto is “Do something” and “Serve something”.

despite the kanji  - To mean serve (tsukaeru) its reading is done by saying "shi” which is derived from the verb “suru – 為る“, which means to do.

AND "goto – 事” is a sonic version of “koto” is a general word to refer to something, or something. So the best meaning of the word shigoto would be "do something".

The meanings of the kanji "koto” are: Cause, fact, thing, issue, case, incident, event, circumstances, fact, accident, problem, reason.

It became clear that Japanese work doesn't have any bad meanings. We can see this in their culture and lifestyle. But don't worry, there are plenty of other work-related words, and we're going to go over them later.

Words from shigoto – 仕事

As I mentioned, the Japanese language looks a lot like German, see a list of words related to work or some activity that derive from the kanji 仕 and 事.

Words derived using the 2 kanji 仕事:

Kanji hiragana Romaji Meaning
仕事着 しごとぎ shigotogi Work clothes, business suit
大仕事 おおしごと Ōshigoto big job, big task
手間仕事 てましごと shigoto theme tedious work, troublesome work
分の良い仕事 ぶんのよいしごと Bun no yoi shigoto profitable work, good work,
仕事師 しごとし shigotoshi worker, entrepreneur
仕事台 しごとだい shigotodai bench, work table
一仕事 ひとしごと hitoshigoto task, a job
畑仕事 はたしごと hatashigoto work in the fields, work on a farm
庭仕事 にわしごと niwashigoto Gardening

Related words using the kanji 仕:

Kanji hiragana Romaji Meaning
給仕する きゅうじする kyūji suru Serve
奉仕活動 ほうしかつどう hōshi katsudō Voluntary service
神に仕える かみにつかえる Kaminitsukaeru serve God
仕業 しわざ Shiwaza act, action
仕形 しかた shikata method, means
仕方ない しかたない shikatanai There's no way
仕始める しはじめる shihajimeru start, start
仕直す しなおす shinaosu redo
仕上げ しあげ shiage Termination, completion
仕込み しこみ shikomi training, preparation
仕返し しかえし shikaeshi revenge, retaliation

Some words using the kanji 事:

Kanji hiragana Romaji Portuguese
事実 じじつ jijitsu fact, reality
事実上 じじつじょう Jijitsujyou Virtually
事情 じじょう Jijyou situation, circumstances
大事 だいじ taiji important, valuable
家事 かじ Kaji I work at home
食事 しょくじ Shokuji Snack
火事 かじ Kaji Fire
事故 じこ Jiko Accident
返事 へんじ henji Reply
工事 こうじ Kouji work, repairs
記事 きじ Kiji article, report
用事 ようじ Youji task, subject
見事 みごと Migoto magnificent, admirable

Other words for work

バイト = Baito – Abbreviation of アルバイト (Arubaito) a German word "arbeite” what it means to work. Used as slang or to refer to part-time jobs.

働き= Hataraki – activity of a person or machine (is working)
作業=Sagyou – service, work, an activity or task. (execution)
労働 = Roudou – formal term used for labor laws and conditions (contract)
勤務= Kin mu – used to designate service in relation to time, period, or location. (shift)
手数=Tesuu – sense of service, expedient, honorary, nuisance (bank fee)
職= Shoku – to refer to employment, placement, position. (office)

There are many other words related to work, unfortunately we can't talk about them all. That's the end of it, I hope you enjoyed the article. xD

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