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Words from Japanese

Japanese is a relative latecomer among the languages that have influenced English, making it a welcome language of origin for spellers: Recently borrowed words are spelled more consistently than are those from languages that English has been borrowing from for centuries. Japanese is written in English according to the sound of Japanese words and is not influenced by the Japanese writing system, which uses symbols for words rather than letters.

Now You Try

  1. 1. Study the sounds that occur at the ends of words from Japanese in the study list. Based on what you see there, which of the following non–study-list words would you say is not from Japanese, and why?

    Hide Answer

    That's Correct! Ginger and wok are not from Japanese. Notice that Japanese words nearly always end with a vowel sound or with \n\.

  2. 2. From what you have learned about Japanese words in English, how many syllables do you think each of these non–study-list words from Japanese has?

    matsutake

    kamikaze

    netsuke

    wakame

    Matsutake and kamikaze have 4 syllables, netsuke has 2 or 3 syllables, and wakame has 3 syllables.

Spelling Tip

A long e sound (\ē\) is very common at the end of Japanese words and is usually spelled with i as in sushi, teriyaki, wasabi, Meiji, odori, and several other words on the list.

Spelling Tip

In some Japanese words, long e is spelled simply with e (not i) as in karate and karaoke.

Spelling Tip

An \\ sound is also a common way to end Japanese words and is spelled with u as in haiku, tofu, and kudzu.

Spelling Tip

Long o (\ō\) at the end of a word from Japanese is spelled with o as in honcho, mikado, sumo and miso.

Spelling Tip

A long a sound (\ā\) heard in geisha is spelled ei in some words from Japanese. Four of the challenege words have this spelling of the long a sound and contain the word element sei, which means "generation."