Best ateji / jukujikun

Ateji are words like 寿司すし where the kanji are just used for their pronunciation and not their meaning.

Jukujikun are words like 大人おとな where the kanji are used for their meaning, and a pre-existing pronunciation was applied to the combo.

But those are fairly boring. What are your favorites?

I think 翻車魚マンボウ (ocean sunfish, or mola mola, in English), which is literally “overturned car fish” in kanji, has to be near the top.

I can see it.



豪太剌利オーストラリア = great fat biased profit.

基督キリスト = fundamentals leader


Yeah, the country ateji can produce some interesting results.


I don’t know any of these on the top of my head, but got curious and checked out Sweden on Wikipedia, only to find no kanji, only katakana! :cry:

Thankfully Jisho came to the rescue!

Sweden: 瑞典 or usually written スウェーデン meaning Congratulations ceremony! :joy: :tada: Sounds like a very happy place at least!


It’s down in the 国名 section.


Gah, you Leebo’d me the instant before I pushed the button to start typing the post.

Well… here’s a link.


Thanks both of you! I just got overwhelmed with all the info and didn’t go through it all! :slight_smile:

You got me curious as well so I just looked up Ireland and got 愛蘭土, so ‘love orchid earth’ since Northern Ireland only lists 北アイルランド on Wikipedia.


羅馬(ローマ) is pretty funny.


One irregular reading that I quite like is in words like うま (“umami, savoriness”) and あま (“sweetness”).
Although it makes sense to interpret the み as “flavor” or “taste”, it’s actually thought to originally be the Japanese suffix -み denoting a quality or state; it’s also found in words like 重み (“weight, importance”) and 温かみ (“warmth”). 痛み (“pain”) may be another example, but it may alternatively be the ren’yōkei of 痛む. I can’t help but wonder if it is purely coincidental that many verbs having to do with feelings and states end in -む…

Anyhow, Tofugu has a good article about み nouns.

I saw this map of translated Chinese country names a while back:

You might notice that Sweden’s is a bit weird; 典 has a fairly broad span of interpretations, but “soldiers” isn’t one of them.

Then, you realize they’ve used 瑞士 (Switzerland) for both Switzerland and Sweden and just translated them differently.
Also slightly amusing how they’ve just translated 瑞 as “Swiss”, which is kind of putting the cart before the horse.


Well, at least it didn’t get translated to “Earth Ear it’s” or “Insurance Profit Ya” :rofl:

Also, Ice Island, lol! :joy: So, close!


Quite fond of 乳首 myself. The idea that not only do they refer to the nipple as “milk neck”, but that the reading isn’t even phonetic, meaning they chose those two kanji for no reason other than they thought “milk neck” was a good way to describe what it was, is pretty incredible. Plus, since the reading’s an exception, you can tell how freaky everybody is based on their accuracy for the reading of this word

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There are several words that use ち for 乳, so I don’t think this counts.

Ouch ok :cry:

Yeah, strictly speaking it’s not ateji or jukujikun, just a kunyomi reading for both characters. But it is an amusing compound.


I discovered 涅槃 = black soil tub = ねはん = nirvana the other week. I guess that it was straight up borrowed from Chinese that way, but I guess it still counts.
I am now stuck thinking of the band by those characters now. Maybe Cobain was singing Onyomi the whole time.


I don’t know how common it is in reality, but I’ve heard that the word 冗句じょうく (“redundant phrase”) sometimes gets used as ateji for “joke”.


I actually have a couple of questions about ateji. One of my (non-Japanese-learning) friends said ateji are used mostly for creating kanji for foreign words. Is that true? Are they currently being created?

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You’ll see them for words like ページ、メートル and such, but I wouldn’t say that’s mostly like that? Unless you count all the kanji for countty names. In Chinese it happens a lot more often, I think, since they don’t have kana.

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I like 亜米利加, the Asian rice profit increase, also known as アメリカ (of course!). I guess US imports a lot of rice.

Not related, but got a laugh on the variations of honey:

ハニー: honey (the bee stuff)
ハーニー: honey, ‘sweetheart’
ハネムーン: honeymoon