Words with the same bases/roots in both English and Japanese

By the way…

If you’re referring to the handed-ness of people, it’s 左利き rather than 左手, which seems to refer simply to the left hand.


Samoan does this as do many Polynesian languages. We also have the same word for foot and leg.

The only distinctions we make are for fingers and toes. We call them small-arm and small-leg. :wink:

There’s never been a direct link between Polynesian languages and Japanese but I feel like there some obscure bits that slipped through since there was almost certainly contact for thousands of years although much of it was undocumented.



Bummer, I’ll remove them then. Thank you for the clarification! I hadn’t realized it.

It’s not at all surprising that two unrelated langauges would have words that are compounds of the same two concepts. I mean, duh.

The weirder thing to me is when, e.g. we have weekdays that match - not only did they pick celestial objects, they picked some of the SAME objects, that’s wacky - or when we have the same metaphors, which (IMO) hints at some weird cross-cultural consistency in human brains…

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I can’t add much to your list, but you might find this to be a little fun fact. I’ve noticed that sometimes Russian (my mother tongue) seems to be closer to Japanese rather than English from this perspective. For example 自立 (jiritsu) made up from “self” and “stand” to mean “independent” in English. In Russian the word “самостоятельный” literally means self standing. The way Russian treats verb transitivity is also much more similar to Japanese. You can easily translate hajimeru and hajimaru into Russian using one word for each, without having to go into explaining which is which. Funny thing is I still use English to learn Japanese, because there doesn’t seem to be a decent system in Russian, but at least the understanding of those concepts is still there to help me. :slight_smile:

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In Dutch as well! ‘Zelfstandig’ literally means ‘standing by itself’ as a adjective. But we can’t say this about a university like you edit: also can’t in Japanese. It mostly describes people, but also a part of speech: ‘zelfstandig voornaamwoord’ means ‘noun’.

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A university? Don’t you mean 私立 (siritsu) for private? Btw 私立 and 市立 (private vs municipal) both being read as shiritsu and meaning opposite things seems super uncomfortable to me. Seems like you’d often have to go into explaining which one you mean to make sure you are understood correctly.


Yes. It’s early here :joy:

When it’s important to distinguish them with certainty, you can say わたくしりつ or いちりつ

Often it’s not as confusing as you might think, since if it’s a city name that comes first, that gives it away in advance.

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I see. Thx for the info.

Reading this topic, I immediately thought of 自動 = automatic = self move… but after checking the etymology, the matic part surprisingly doesn’t seem to come from motion ! It comes from Ancient greek mémaa, “to wish eagerly, strive, yearn, desire” according to wikipedia…

Not English, but one that I like is that in most romance languages “sunflower” is almost like the japanese ひまわり (sun+turn), except the other way around turn+sun

For English, a few come to mind :

週末 = weekend
目玉 = eyeball
月光 = moonlight
灰皿 = ashtray
車椅子 = wheelchair
背骨 = backbone
砂岩 = sandstone
黒板 = blackboard
鍵盤 = keyboard
川岸 = riverbank
瞼 = まぶた = etymologically め(目)+蓋(ふた) = eyelid


Thursday = jeudi / 木曜日. 木星 is Jupiter, same connection, just some phonological shift
(unrelated to Japanese, Thursday is the day of Thor, the god of thunder, hence the German “Donnerstag”, thunder day, and similarly for many germanic languages)


I would like to spend more time catching up, but I just wanted to say it looks like there was a lot of great conversation yesterday and I look forward to drafting a thought out response :slight_smile:

Today I came across 時空, which “space-time”, except it’s “time-space”, so not quite the same as the English. :slightly_smiling_face:


While there is plenty of room for other theories about this, it’s a bit interesting to note that both meanings of the English word “mare” may be such Eurasian wanderworts:

  • mare (a big girly pony) – possibly from Proto-Germanic *marhijō, which may be from PIE *márkos, which may be related to Proto-Tibeto-Burman *k-m-raŋ ⪤ s-raŋ, which may be the ancestor of both the on’yomi and kun’yomi of 馬

  • mare (a scary/sexy demon who causes nightmares) – possibly from *marǭ, which may be from PIE *mer-, which may also be the root of Sanskrit मार (mā́ra), which gave the Chinese (and later Japanese) 魔

A lot of mays and possiblys, but it’s a neat thought.


In Polish it’s “czasoprzestrzeń”, so the same order, as in Japanese :slight_smile: (“czas” = time, “przestrzeń” = space and to make compound nouns we often add “o” to the first one)


These are fantastic! Please feel free to add them yourself to the list or I can try to add them once I have the chance.

I wouldn’t have expected that meaning. That’s neat!

now I’m disappointed in English That’s really cool how more information is coded into the word for sunflower itself in other languages. Thank you so much for sharing :smiley:

Now I’m wondering if I should add something in about the order not having to be the same. I honestly surprised there are as many words in the same order so far.

About that particular word, 時空(じくう), it’s a type of pair compound called dvandva that are pretty common in Japanese. Dvandva literally means “pair” but the nice thing about it in Japanese is that dvandva words never have rendaku (sequential voicing, aka adding a " to the first kana of the second word in a compound). It includes words like 親子(おやこ), 白黒(しろくろ), 左右(さゆう), 心身(しんしん), and many others. You might’ve already known or noticed it, but your example jogged my memory.

Shoutout to Tofugu for helping me figure out how to spell dvandva lol


That’s neat! :smiley:

How would you even say that in Japanese? ドゥヴァンドゥヴァ?

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