Adopted Portuguese words in the Far East

I’ve previously covered Portuguese influences in the Far East with the castella, a cake (or “a bread from Castile”) introduced by Portuguese travellers which the Japanese turned into castella. But it runs much deeper than that from a linguistic perspective:

Len Leverson sent me his unpublished paper titled “O ‘pão’ Português Conquista o Mundo” about how the Portuguese word for bread spread across the globe. That got me to thinking about how many words of Portuguese origin are in Japanese. I’ll focus on “pão” more squarely in a moment, but first just a quick list of some important and interesting words of Portuguese origin in Japanese.

The first one that pops into my mind (for obvious reasons since I spent a couple of decades studying the mummies of Eastern Central Asia) is mīra ミイラ (“myrrh”) because, when the Portuguese were selling Egyptian mummies to the Japanese as medicine, they often mentioned myrrh as one of the preservatives, and the Japanese took the part for the whole.

Starting in 1543, the Portuguese were the first modern Europeans to visit Japan. Consequently, many words of Portuguese origin entered the Japanese vocabulary. Surprisingly, such a quintessentially Japanese dish as tempura derives from Portuguese (cf. tempero [“seasoning”]).

The Japanese word for “pants; trousers”) is a little bit more complicated. Portuguese jibão (“underwear”) led to Japanese juban / jiban (“underwear for kimonos”), but its cognate in French, jupon, led to zubon in Japanese.

Likewise, kappa (“raincoat”) derives from Portuguese capa (nowadays yielding to reinkōto).

via Language Log

I guess that’s one way to spread romance (geddit?!)

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