Common mistakes… (10)

Tenpura is Latin!?

Did you know that the word tenpura (てんぷら or 天ぷら) originally came from Latin?


I didn’t. Wiktionary explains how it came from Portuguese and, ultimately, Latin.

What about arubaito (アルバイト)? Did you know that it originated from the German word arbeit (which means work/job)?


You knew that one? Well done, if you did.

It raises the issue, though, that ‘loanwords’ (Gairaigo or 外来語) in Japanese may not come from the language you think they come from.

A couple of good examples are ankēto (アンケート) and maron (マロン). Over the years many of my students have used these words believing they were English.


They aren’t, though. They are, in fact, French.


‘Ankēto’ comes from enquête and ‘maron’ from marron.

So, how do we say them in English?

Ankēto is survey or questionnaire.


A: Do you like filling in questionnaires?  B: No, I don’t.  I find them boring.

Marron is chestnut.


Mmm…I love the smell of roasting chestnuts.

The online Cambridge Dictionary lists four definitions for the noun chestnut:

(i) a large tree with leaves divided into five parts and large, round nuts;




(ii) a large, brown, edible nut from a sweet chestnut tree;



(iii) a reddish-brown horse; and


The horse on the left is a chestnut and the other one is a grey.

(iv) a reddish-brown colour.


Uluru changes colour in different light and sometimes it’s a deep chestnut.

So, I think ‘chestnut’ is quite a useful word to remember.

It’s also good to remember that not all loanwords in Japanese come from English and people may not understand you if you use them.


If this post has been helpful, you might consider studying with S. and L. English Lessons.  Get in contact today to organise a trial lesson and let’s continue the conversation.

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