Favorite vocab words?

When I’m learning a language, I like to keep a little mental list of words or vocabulary I find “charming” (for lack of a better word) — words I can make fun connections with or that “click” in an unexpected way. (A personal favorite when I was learning German was “Handschuh” for “glove” — literally “hand shoe.”)

When it comes to me, a couple of those are:

  • 歯車(はぐるま, gear) — how descriptive is “tooth car??” Bonus that the 米 radical itself looks like a little gear lol
  • そっと (quietly, softly) — It’s a fun coincidence that this has a tangential overlap with Italian sotto

What are some of your favorite vocab words that never fail to amuse you? Please share!

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車 only came to mean car later, actually - originally it means wheel. Incidentally, “tooth wheel” is also the literal translation of “gear” in a few languages like Dutch (tandwiel) and German (Zahnrad).

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I figured as much with 車, yeah — makes sense with kanji like 輪, for example. It’s funny how languages geographically separated completely often come up with the same descriptions for things!

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I like 名前 because it’s easy to remember and it’s bizarre that completely different languages came up with almost the same word for a concept.
EDIT: I also like it when English translations of individual kanji are almost the same as a translation of the full word, like 週末. “Week” “End” is “Weekend”.
風船 is also pretty cute. Wind ship…

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Off the top of my head, one of the ones I like is 投資 (throw + resources = investment). Investors “throw” lots of money/resources at a start-up company hoping something will come out of the investment, but it doesn’t always work out, so sometimes it ends up being more “throwing away” the money/resources.

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There’s a lot of fun words related to business; I like 利息 because it’s the kind of word that makes sense intuitively, even if it’s hard to articulate why.

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First: Much love to you for liking “Handschuh”. :smiley: (I’m from Germany)

I really like how the Japanese language has a similar flair of “just put nouns / parts together and call it a new word”, in Germany we do the same. :smiley:

I’m not far enough into the kanji to pick favourites… currently I like those most for which you can see the meaning when you look at the shape of the kanji.

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That’s one of my leeches because I always think sailboat. I really do think that word is a bug. The kanji importing people back in the day got that one wrong.

A recent favorite is 宇宙人

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I’ve for a long time liked the following:
幸せ (しあわせ) To me, it sounds like what it means.
行方不明 (ゆくえふめい)No idea why, haha. I just like the sound.

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Words with 不明 are always fun to me – 消化不明 (しょうかふめい) is a favorite because the phrasing of “uncertain digestion” is a lot more entertaining to me than the actual meaning of “indigestion.” (EDIT: this is wrong, actually – thanks to @yamitenshi for the correction)

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Isn’t indigestion 消化不良?

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Shoot – you’re right; my mistake!

This is revolutionary, thank you. I don’t speak Italian but I know a few words from playing classical music (that’s one of them!).

For some dark reason, I personally love how 暗殺 (あんさつ) sounds. It is so fitting.
I know there are lots of other words I like for different reasons, but I can’t name them off the top of my head right now.

Edit I just remembered how I also love 確かめる (たしかめる) and variants of the verb like 確かに, etc. The rhythm and sonority of it hook me all the time.

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みゆき族, this word is so awfully specific.

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Maybe, 諦めないで sounds like, don’t get clear eyes or don’t open your eyes.

風船 is one of my leeches for the exact same reason…

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… and English!

Although in English it also includes the ones with very pointy teeth for making perforations in paper, it’s mostly used to refer to cogs.

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昔話 - Just sounds funny
お袋 - Sounds mean in English

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海王星 just sounds kinda cool. :slightly_smiling_face:

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