Japanese language/Catalogs/Shingo

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新語 (shingo, 'new word')

Recently-coined popular new words in Japanese are recognised in an annual competition in Japan; the top ten winners are unveiled each December. The words reflect a range of important political or economic issues as well as Japanese popular culture. The following lists includes some of the more notable winners:


  • ととのいました Totonoimashita: catchphrase meaning 'I've got one!', used by a comedy double-act when coming up with nazokake (謎かけ, a kind of riddle).
  • イクメン Ikumen: formed from 育児 ikuji 'child-rearing' plus the English word 'men', this refers to fathers who are deeply involved in bringing up their children - an increasingly common phenomenon as more Japanese women are returning to work after having a child.
  • なう Nau: from English 'now', used by many young Japanese in e-mails as an affix indicating location or activity. For example, 東京なう Tookyoo nau means '[I'm in] Tokyo right at this moment'.
  • 無縁社会 Muen shakai: 'alienated society'. 2010 saw increasing media concern with the perceived erosion of the traditional Japanese family and the growth of single-person households.


  • 新型インフルエンザ Shingata infuruenza: 'new-type influenza', commonly known as 豚インフルエンザ buta infuruenza 'swine flu'.
  • 粗食系男子 Soshokukei danshi: literally 'herbivorous man', referring to thrifty young men who are interested in fashion but less concerned with sex or making money.[1]
  • 政権交代 Seiken Kootai: 'change of government', a frequently-used phrase in 2009 due to the election of the Democratic Party of Japan under then-leader Yukio Hatoyama.
  • 事業仕分け Jigyoo shiwake: 'budget request screening': one of the first acts of the Hatoyama government was to launch a public review of government-funded projects; in unprecedented scenes that were widely reported in the media, government politicians demanded that bureaucrats and project leaders justify their funding applications, and often recommended cuts instead.[2]


  • アラフォー Ara-foo: age and gender group comprising women 'around' the age of 40; wasei-eigo (和製英語, literally 'made-in-Japan English') from English 'around forty'. Other words like this include アラさー arasaa and アラハタ arahata, the former being 'around thirty' and the latter 'around twenty', but formed from 二十歳 hatachi '20 years old'.
  • グ~ Gu~: 'good!'; popular catchphrase of a Japanese celebrity, based on the English expression.


  • ミ王子 Hanikami ooji: literally 'shy prince', referring to a young Japanese golfer widely seen as modest and humble.


  1. Japan Times: 'Blurring the boundaries'. 10th May 2009.
  2. Japan Times: ''Politically binding' budget screening over'. 28th November 2009.