How to use Abbreviated Nouns and Verbs in Japanese

How to use Abbreviated Nouns and Verbs in Japanese

Welcome back to our “Video & Article” series with tutor Miki. In this article and video Miki teaches you how to use “略語( りゃくご ) ” in Japanese. This refers to words that have been abbreviated or made into an acronym, like for example “LOL” or “ASAP” in English. Especially Japanese-English or Waseigo terms are often abbreviated like this, since their original Katakana-versions tend to be very long. In this lesson, we will introduce a couple of useful examples.

Table of Contents
[タコパ & クリパ]
[OL & KY]


Have you ever heard of the Japanese word “略語( りゃくご ) ”? It is combined of the word “( りゃく ) ”, which means to shorten or omit, and “( ) ”, which means language or words. “略語( りゃくご ) ” refers to Japanese words or vocabulary that has been shortened, abbreviated, or made into an acronym. In English some examples are “ASAP”, short for “as soon as possible” or “LOL”, “laugh out loud”. Many “略語( りゃくご ) ” in Japanese are words that derive from foreign languages like English. Since these Katakana-words tend to be very long, they often tend to be shortened and turned into “略語( りゃくご ) ”!


The first word we will look at today is “スマホ”.

スマホ ➡ スマートフォン・スマートホン

This word originates from the English word smartphone. As you can see, the original Katakana version on the right is very long, so Japanese people have shortened this word to スマホ.

For example:
スマホを( ) として画面( がめん ) ( ) れちゃった。
I dropped my smartphone and the screen cracked.


The next term will probably soon vanish from the Japanese language, but right now there are still some people using “ガラケー”, so it’s still useful to remember this one.

Until the rise of popularity in smartphones, most Japanese people used to use a cellphone called “ガラパゴス携帯( けいたい ) ”, which was a form of cell phone sold by a company called “Galapagos”. These “Galapagos phones” were popular for being folded open and closed.

ガラケー ➡ ガラパゴス携帯( けいたい )
For example:
( わたし ) まだガラケーなんだよね。使( つか ) いやすいし。
I still use a traditional style cell phone. It’s just so easy to use.


Next, let’s take a look at some locations. The first one is super famous: “コンビニ”. コンビニ derives from the English word “convenience store”.

コンビニ ➡ コンビニエンスストア

For example:
ちょっと、コンビニへ( ) ってくる!
I’ll quickly go to the convenience store!


“デパート” derives from the English word “department store”

デパート ➡ デパートメントストア

For example:
デパートに( ) きたい。
I want to go to the department store.


This term is a mixture of Wasei Eigo and 略語( りゃくご ) because “シャーペン” is an abbreviated version of the word “シャープペンシル”, but it means “mechanical pencil”.

シャーペン ➡ シャープペンシル

シャーペンかしてもらっていい? Can I borrow a mechanical pencil?

Additionally, the leads of a mechanical pencils care called “シャー( しん ) ” in Japanese. The long version of this term is “シャーペンの( しん ) ”.
シャー( しん ) のふたが( ) いてて、筆箱( ふでばこ ) ( なか ) 散乱( さんらん ) していた。
The case where I keep my mechanical pencil leads broke and the broken pieces are scattered all over my pencil case.


This term is often used in a business setting. The English noun “appointment” is shortened to “アポ”.

アポ ➡ アポイントメント

Here are a few examples for how the word アポ is used in Japanese:

To make an appointment

Without an appointment For example:
今日( きょう ) 取引先( とりひきさき ) 電話( でんわ ) して担当者( たんとうしゃ ) のアポをとる。アポなしで( ) くのは( もう ) ( わけ ) ないからね。
I will call the clients to make an appointment today. Because I feel bad to visit them without an appointment.

[タコパ & クリパ]

“タコパ” derives from “たこ( ) きパーティー”, which is a gathering where the main dish is Takoyaki which is often cooked at home together with friends.

タコパ ➡ たこ( ) きパーティー

“クリパ” means “Christmas Party”.

クリパ ➡ クリスマスパーティー

For example:
今週( こんしゅう ) クリパしましょう。
Let’s have a Christmas party this week.
今週( こんしゅう ) タコパしましょう。
Let’s have a Takoyaki party this week.

[OL & KY]

The next two terms are shortened words that use the alphabet in Japanese.

OL (オーエル) means “Office Lady” in Japan. It refers to women who work in office jobs, especially to women in assistant or secretarial positions.
A: お仕事( しごと ) はなにしていますか?
A: What do you work as?
B: 普通( ふつう ) にOLです。
B: I work in an office job.
The next one is KY (ケイワイ), which is short for “空気( くうき ) ( ) めない”, which means that someone is failing to read between the lines in a situation. “Reading the air” is a concept in Japanese which means that you should not just take the literal meaning of a conversation into consideration, but all of the surrounding factors as well: A person’s tone, gestures, body posture and the entire context of the situation. If someone is unable to do this, Japanese people may refer to that as person as “KY” - “Kuuki wo yomenai”. For example:
( みんな ) 人生( じんせい ) 最低( さいてい ) 1( かい ) はKYなことをした経験( けいけん ) があると( おも ) う。
I think everyone has at least once in their life been the one to be unable to read the mood in a room.


For the next two words we will be looking at contracted verbs.

First of all, “ディスる” combines the English term “disrespect” and the Japanese verb “する”. This verb means to disrespect someone by criticizing them, disagreeing with them, and/or belittling them.

最近( さいきん ) ( ひと ) のことをディスりすぎですよ。
You’ve said disrespectful things about others too much these days.


The next verb is quite useful - after learning it, you will surely start to incorporate it into your daily conversations. This word is “ググる” and means “to google”.

ググる ➡ グーグルする

The word is a combination of the search engine name “Google” and the verb “する”, which combined is shortened to “ググる”.

For example:
If you don’t know something, please google it.
That’s everything for today. Thank you for reading this article, and please feel free to consult our native Japanese language teachers if you have any further questions!
単語たんごリスト(Vocabulary list)
略語( りゃくご ) Abbreviation, acronym
スマホ Smartphone
( ) とす To drop
画面( がめん ) Screen
( ) れる To break, to split, to crack
ガラケー Galapagos phone
使( つか ) いやすい Easy to use
コンビニ Convenience store
デパート Department store
シャーペン Mechanical pencil
シャー( しん ) Mechanical pencil lead
筆箱( ふでばこ ) Pencil box
散乱( さんらん ) する To scatter
アポ Appointment
取引先( とりひきさき ) Customer, client
担当者( たんとうしゃ ) Person in charge
タコパ Takoyaki party
クリパ Christmas party
ディスる To diss, to disrespect
ググる To google