Glossary of Japanese words of Portuguese origin

Many Japanese words of Portuguese origin entered the Japanese language when Portuguese Jesuit priests introduced Christian ideas, Western science, technology and new products to the Japanese during the Muromachi period (15th and 16th centuries).

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to reach Japan and the first to establish direct trade between Japan and Europe, in 1543. During the 16th and 17th century, Portuguese Jesuits had undertaken a great work of Catechism, that ended only with religious persecution in the early Edo period (Tokugawa Shogunate). The Portuguese were the first to translate Japanese to a Western language, in the Nippo Jisho (日葡辞書, literally the "Japanese-Portuguese Dictionary") or Vocabulario da Lingoa de Iapam compiled by Portuguese Jesuit João Rodrigues, and published in Nagasaki in 1603, who also wrote a grammar Arte da Lingoa de Iapam (日本大文典, nihon daibunten). The dictionary of Japanese-Portuguese explained 32,000 Japanese words translated into Portuguese. Most of these words refer to the products and customs that first came to Japan via the Portuguese traders.

List of loanwordsEdit

Many of the first words which were introduced and entered the Japanese language from Portuguese and Dutch are written in kanji or hiragana, rather than katakana, which is the more common way to write loanwords in Japanese in modern times. Kanji versions of the words are ateji, characters that are "fitted" or "applied" to the words by the Japanese, based on either the pronunciation or the meaning of the word.

The indicates the word is archaic and no longer in use.

Japanese Rōmaji Japanese script Japanese meaning Pre-modern Portuguese Modern Portuguese English Notes
anjo アンジョ angel anjo anjo angel
bateren 伴天連 / 破天連 a missionary priest (mainly from Jesuit) padre padre priest used in early Christianity
battera ばってら kind of sushi bateira — (barco) boat named after its shape
bīdama ビー玉 marbles (spheric-shaped) ---- berlindes, bola-de-gude, bolinha-de-gude ---- abbrev. of bīdoro (Japanese: 'glass', also from Portuguese: see below) + tama (Japanese: 'ball').
bīdoro ビードロ a certain traditional type of glass artifact vidro vidro glass
birōdo ビロード / 天鵞絨 velvet veludo veludo velvet berubetto (from English velvet) is also used today.
bōro ボーロ / ぼうろ a kind of biscuit (tiny bead-like) bolo bolo cake keiki (from English cake) is most used today.
botan ボタン / 釦 / 鈕 button botão botão button
charumera チャルメラ small double-reed wind instrument charamela charamela (caramelo, "caramel", is cognate) shawm (cf. the cognate chalumeau) formerly played by Japanese noodle vendors
chokki チョッキ waistcoat (UK); vest (U.S.); Jacket jaque colete, jaqueta waistcoat (UK); vest (U.S.); Jacket Besuto (from English vest) is common today.
Deusu デウス God Deus Deus God
dochirina ドチリナ doctrine doutrina doutrina doctrine
esukūdo エスクード shield escudo escudo shield
Fado ファド Fado Fado Fado Music genre originating in Lisbon, Portugal in the 1800s.
furasuko フラスコ laboratory flask frasco frasco flask
hiryūzu 飛竜頭 filhós filhós Deep-fried glutinous rice balls; alternatively, fried tofu balls with mixed vegetables, also known as ganmodoki
igirisu イギリス / 英吉利 the United Kingdom inglez inglês English (adj); Englishman
inheruno インヘルノ hell inferno inferno hell
iruman イルマン / 入満 / 伊留満 / 由婁漫 missionary next in line to become a priest irmão irmão brother used in early Christianity
jōro じょうろ / 如雨露 watering can jarro jarro jug, watering can "possibly from Portuguese" (Kōjien dictionary)
juban/jiban じゅばん / 襦袢 undervest for kimonos gibão undervest The French form jupon led to zubon (trousers).
kabocha カボチャ / 南瓜 kabocha pumpkin Camboja abóbora abóbora cabotiá kabocha pumpkin Was first introduced to Japan from Cambodia, imported by the Portuguese. Camboja (Portuguese) → kabocha (Japanese). The Japanese term kabocha also appears in historical texts in reference to Cambodia.
kanakin/kanekin 金巾 / かなきん / かねきん shirting, percale canequim canequim unbleached muslin/calico jargon from the textile business
kandeya カンデヤ oil lamp candeia, candela vela, candeia candle extinct, as oil lamps went obsolete. Kantera from Dutch kandelaar was also used.
kapitan 甲比丹 / 甲必丹 captain (of ships from Europe in The Age of Discovery) capitão capitão captain extinct word - the English form kyaputen (captain) is now used
kappa 合羽 raincoat capa capa (de chuva) raincoat, coat reinkōto (from English raincoat) is prevalent nowadays.
karuta かるた / 歌留多 karuta cards cartas (de jogar) cartas (de jogar) (playing) cards a traditional type of playing cards, largely different from the modern worldwide ones
karusan カルサン a specific kind of hakama trousers calsan calçao trousers
kasutera, kasutēra, kasuteira カステラ Kind of sponge cake[1] (Pão de) Castela (Pão de) Castela (Bread/cake of) Castile Theories cite Portuguese castelo (castle) or the region of Castile (Castela in Portuguese). The cake itself may originally derive from bizcocho, a Spanish kind of biscotti.
kirishitan キリシタン / 切支丹 / 吉利支丹 (Also written in the more negative forms 鬼理死丹 and 切死丹 after Christianity was banned by the Tokugawa Shogunate Christian people in 16th and 17th centuries (who were severely persecuted by the Shogunate) christão cristão Christian Today's Christian people are Kurisuchan (from English Christian).
kirisuto キリスト / 基督 Christ Christo Cristo Christ
koendoro コエンドロ coriander coentro coentro coriander
konpeitō 金米糖 / 金平糖 / 金餅糖 Kind of star-shaped candy confeito confeito confection, candies (related to confetti)
koppu コップ cup copo copo cup
kurusu クルス cross cruz cruz cross used in early Christianity, now kurosu (cross) from English
kuruzeiro クルゼイロ Brazilian cruzeiro (former currency) cruzeiro cruzeiro Brazilian cruzeiro (former currency)
manto マント cloak manto manto cloak
marumero マルメロ quince marmelo marmelo quince
meriyasu メリヤス / 莫大小 a kind of knit textile medias meias hosiery, knitting
mīra ミイラ / 木乃伊 mummy mirra mirra myrrh Originally, mummies embalmed using myrrh.
nataru ナタル Christmas Natal Natal Christmas Annual festival celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ
oranda オランダ / 和蘭(陀) / 阿蘭陀 The Netherlands, Holland Hollanda Holanda, Países Baixos The Netherlands, Holland
orugan オルガン organ orgão órgão organ
pan パン bread pão pão bread Often wrongly connected to the Spanish pan or the French pain, both with the same meaning and the same Latinate origin. The word was introduced into Japan by Portuguese missionaries.[2]
paraiso パライソ paradise paraíso paraíso paradise Specifically in reference to the Christian ideal of heavenly paradise.
pin kara kiri made ピンからキリまで running the whole gamut, jumble of wheat and tares (pinta, cruz) (pinta, cruz) (dot, cross) literally 'from pin to kiri'
rasha ラシャ / 羅紗 a kind of wool woven textile raxa – (feltro) felt
rozario ロザリオ rosary rosario rosário rosary
sabato サバト Saturday sábado sábado Saturday
saboten サボテン / 仙人掌 cactus sabão sabão soap The derivation is said to come from the soap-like feature of its juice, although there are controversies.
cf. shabon
Santa Maria サンタマリア Saint Mary Santa Maria Santa Maria Saint Mary Saint Mary
sarasa 更紗 chintz saraça chintz
shabon シャボン soap sabão sabão soap More likely from older Spanish xabon. Usually seen in compounds such as shabon-dama ('soap bubbles') in modern Japanese.
shurasuko シュラスコ (Barbecue) churrasco Barbecue, specifically Brazilian churrasco. Modern borrowing.
subeta スベタ (an insulting word for women) espada espada sword Originally a term from playing cards, in reference to certain cards that earned the player zero points. This meaning extended to refer to "a boring, shabby, low person", and from there to mean "an unattractive woman".
tabako タバコ / 煙草 / たばこ tobacco, cigarette tobaco tabaco tobacco, cigarette
totan トタン / 塗炭 galvanized sheet iron (e.g. corrugated roofing material) tutanaga Corrugated galvanised iron
tempura 天麩羅 / 天婦羅 deep-fried seafood/vegetables tempero, temperar;[3][4] tempora tempero, temperar; tempora seasoning, to season; times of abstinence from meat
zabon ざぼん / 朱欒 / 香欒 pomelo, shaddock zamboa zamboa pomelo, shaddock
zesu or zezusu ゼス, ゼズス Jesus Jesu Jesus Jesus The modern term イエス (Iesu) is a reconstruction of the Ancient Greek term.


It is often suggested that the Japanese word arigatō derives from the Portuguese obrigado, both of which mean "Thank you", but evidence clearly indicates a purely Japanese origin. The Japanese phrase arigatō gozaimasu is a polite form of arigatō. This is a form of an adjective, arigatai, for which written records exist dating back to the Man'yōshū compiled circa 759 AD, well before Japanese contact with Portugal.[5]

The full derivation is arigatō, the “u” sound change of arigataku. In turn, arigataku is the adverbial form of arigatai, from older arigatashi, itself a compound of ari + katashi. Ari is a verb meaning "to be" and katashi is an adjective meaning "difficult". The original meaning of "arigatashi" was "difficult to be", i.e. that the listener's generosity or behavior is "rare" and thus "special".


Other referencesEdit

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