Favorite vocab words?

言葉 was always a fun one to me. Nice to say, and word leaf is such a fun combination


Last week I learned 孫の手 which means backscratcher.
But I originally read it literally as “grandchild’s hand”
I only learned that it meant backscratcher because I looked it up after being a bit confused by the sentence that I read it in, which I had understood as “I use my grandchild’s hand to scratch my back” , which felt a bit weird to me :sweat_smile:


My favorites were always the ones that seemed like someone forgot the word and just improvised. He broke his, what-do-you-call-it… hand… neck.

My new favorite also has to do with the hands - 手袋 (hand-bag). Dang, it’s cold outside, I need to put on my hand… uh, bags. (I actually say that in English now)


I’ve always liked 手首 and 足首

first time I saw them I was like “oh yeah leg neck = ankle, sure I buy that”


金玉 Is my favorite cuz I find it waaaay to funny.


I often find words charming when I encountered them in a charming context. I love the word 説得 because it appeared in a manga where a boy wants to marry a girl, and announces this to her father before letting her know he’s interested. Since she’s sitting right there, pandemonium ensues. It ends with the boy saying 大丈夫、これから時間をかけて、説得します。
So. funny.

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A lot of words related to weather are quite fun as well, just this morning during my lesson with my tutor I learnt 雷 (かみなり)which feels like “God is making noise”, for Lightning/Thunder.

As well as 嵐 (あらし)because it is made up of 山 and 風 “a mountain wind” or “wind from the mountain”, for Storm.


Second vote for mukashibanashi

Recently, I’ve found 冗談 (joke) to be quite fitting. Literally ‘superfluous discussion’.


手首 (again) reminds me of German — Handgelenk, lit. “hand link” lol
A lot of very literal compounds like that are fun (and easy to remember!)

I love 醜, as in 醜い. It means ugly.

The left half is 、wine.
The right is 、 ogre.

Booze + Ogre = UGLY.

It is also pronounced ‘みにくい’ which to me sounds very cute. And that makes me happy.


I agree, and みにくい sounds like “hard to look at”, and if something’s ugly, it’s hard to look at.

(I just found that there’s also にくい, but it means “hard to read / spot / perceive by eye”)

I like 虫歯. When a tooth is itchy, there’s an insect in there trying to get out.
And もち, which means “roasted rice cake”, but also a “jealous person”. 焼き餅を焼く means “to roast a rice cake” and “to be jealous”.


That’s exactly what it is, actually :slight_smile: 醜い and 見にくい/見難い are different ways of writing the same word essentially, similar to 早くand 速く - the different spellings tend to convey different meanings (見難い commonly being the “hard to distinguish” meaning and 醜い commonly being the “ugly” meaning - though both forms can mean both those things)


出鱈目 - hogwash, often also spelled in katakana as デタラメ

Also チンピラ (hooligan, deliquent)


In general I like words that use the suffixes 者 事 物 学 and the like. It makes unfamiliar words a lot easier to understand that in English, where you have to know a million Latin/Greek roots to do so. As someone on these forums said, look at アリ学 vs myrmecology.
EDIT: Also 戦い (fight), and 戦う (to fight) in its past form. たたかった sounds like a machine gun firing, which is appropriate.


I tend to find a bit of humour in the words that are (almost uncharacteristically for Japanese) blunt/harsh.

音痴 (sound+stupid) for “tone deaf” or 陳腐 (exhibit + rot) for “cliched; hackneyed” are the two examples off the top of my head that always give me a bit of a chuckle.

Whether or not they are favorites, per se? I’m not sure. I love the way 楓 sounds. Something about it is just very pleasant, so that’s likely the closest to a “favorite” word I have as of this moment.

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See how 動物, “animal”, literally means “moving thing.” “Animal” comes from the Latin anima, meaning “breath/spirit”, so “animal” more or less means “breathing thing.” I guess when you’re trying to encapsulate “all non-human living things that we know of” in one word, there’s only a few paths to go down.

EDIT: Reminds me of how “concrete” as in “not abstract” was a word before “concrete” as in “the material used in construction”. Somebody just looked at concrete and thought “wow, that sure ain’t abstract.”


Plus, “tooth insect” is quite close to what actually causes cavities. Better than the English word, which is just “idk, it’s a hole.”


Yesterday I learned that the word for stallion is 種馬.
Seed horse.
Straight to the point there :rofl:


Similarly, earlier today on the forum I came across 縞馬 (stripe horse) for zebra, and I love that.

兎馬 (bunny horse) for donkey
針土竜 (needle mole) for echidna
大鹿 (big deer) for moose
白鼬 (white weasel) for ferret
砂鼠 (sand mouse) for gerbil
山羊 (mountain sheep) for goat
河馬 (river horse) for hippopotamus (give you three guesses what the Latin name literally translates to :smile:)
蜂鳥 (bee bird) for hummingbird
狐猿 (fox monkey) for lemur
臭鼠 (stinking mouse) for muskrat
小夜鳴き鳥 (small bird singing at night) for nightingale
袋鼠 (pouch mouse) for opossum
鴨の嘴 (duck’s bill) for platypus
眼鏡海豚 (glasses dolphin) for spectacled porpoise
洗い熊 (wash bear) for raccoon
兜虫 (helmet bug) for rhinoceros beetle
白鳥 (white bird) for swan
陸亀 (land turtle) for tortoise

The Japanese can get so wonderfully literal with their animals :smile:


陸亀 (land turtle) for tortoise

Similarly, in Swedish, tortoise is “landsköldpadda” (land turtle), and turtle itself is sköldpadda (sköld + padda) which is literally “shield toad”.


Don’t know if its a coincidence, but back dentistry became more knowledgeable (or the medical practice even existed), many cultures thought cavities were caused by worms and other bugs. Not sure if Japan had that though