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!


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).


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!


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…


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.


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.


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.



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


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.


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)


Isn’t indigestion 消化不良?


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.


みゆき族, this word is so awfully specific.


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


海王星 just sounds kinda cool. :slightly_smiling_face: