Japanese verbs from English

An interesting phenomenon of the modern Japanese language is the various crazy ways English is mixed in as slang or otherwise. Some English words are so common that practically every Japanese person will understand what they mean. For instance, despite being a fairly difficult word, probably just about everybody knows what charisma (カリスマ) means. And the phrase 「アピールする」 has become so common that it is more accurate to say that it’s simply part of the Japanese vocabulary.

However, by English, we’re not talking about real English but the special bastardized Japanese version. As a result, all of this knowledge is pretty much useless for real English (unfortunately for the Japanese who all seem keen on mastering English). However, it does make things much more interesting for us; the ones that are learning Japanese. (ある意味でね)

Making Japanese verbs with English words

Today, I want to talk about an interesting class of verbs that come directly from English. Katakana words are mostly nouns since verbs require endings that can be conjugated. However, the clever Japanese youth have figured a way around this by simply attaching a generic u-verb 「る」 ending. This ending was selected undoubtably because it felt the most natural to the pioneers of modern Japanese.

A very useful verb of this type is 「サボる」, which originally comes from サボタージュ (sabotage). You will almost certainly see this verb whenever somebody is slacking off, skipping class, and the like.

– Because there is a test, it’s better not to skip tomorrow’s class.

Other less common verbs of this type include 「ダブる」 (to coincide), 「トラブる」 (to act up, cause trouble), 「ミスる」 (to miss), and 「ハモる」 (to harmonize).

– Sorry, my plans ended up doubling so is it OK if I cancel at the last minute?

In a similar vein, although it’s not used very often, instead of saying 「タクシーを呼ぶ」 or 「バスに乗る」, you can also say 「タクる」 and 「バスる」 .

– I missed the last train so having no other choice, I took a taxi home.

Yet another great, recent example of this type of verb is 「ググる」. With the popularity of google.com, you might be aware that “google” has become a new verb meaning “to search something with google”. Well, Japanese also has a similar verb: 「ググる」. (Google is 「グーグル」 in Japanese but 「グーグル」 is harder to say, so the verb became 「ググる」)

– That much, you can figure it out for youself. (Lit: That amount, search on google by yourself.)

I’m gonna stop here before mentioning the various types of restaurant verbs like 「マクる」 (to go to McDonalds)、and 「ファミる」 (to go to a family restaurant) because slang of this type are usually just a passing fad. (And probably won’t make sense to Japanese people over the age of 25)

※The key thing to remember when using these verbs is that you must conjugate them as u-verbs.

6 thoughts on “Japanese verbs from English

  1. I saw ダブルbefore, thought it must come from “double” to mean coincide as you pointed out. On advert, I saw something like Re職活 and バイトる.
    the one that I like using most is probably グーグる(google), conjugated into グーグれば、グーグったら, etc.


  2. Being in a Greek family growing up in Australia, my sister and I would sometimes convert Greek verbs into English and vice versa.

    How widely recognised are these neologisms? Are they slang or can I use them in a business meeting?

    (I cringe when I hear google used as a verb in English.)

  3. Interesting. If I ever get to Japan, I may have to try introducing ウェーロる (to wear) and see if it flies. It sure would make the old joke about “wearing nothing but a smile” easier to translate.

    Raichu, the hard part about making new English words out of Greek words is finding a Greek word more than three letters long that doesn’t already have several direct English cognates. We’ve borrowed a pretty substantial chunk of the Greek vocabulary already. Verbs, nouns, adjectives, prepositions, … even most of the pronouns.

  4. Tae Kim you always come through when I need you. I was trying to think of examples of these to tell my japanese friends but I couldn’t think of any, but ググったら、your post was right at the top! Thanks! さすがね!

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