This post explains English loan words used in Japanese that have different meanings from the original ones and would confuse native English speakers. If you’re also interested in “Wasei-Eigo” or “Japlish” (Japanese-English), see also “Japanese Wasei-Eigo List (“Japlish”) and Their Meanings“. There is also a Japanese Gairaigo and Wasei-Eigo Converter/Generator, which automatically “translates” Japanese words into katakana words, and vice versa (e.g. 気さくな歌手 ↔ フレンドリーなシンガー).
In Japanese, “moody” means “good, romantic vibe”. It is often used to describe romantic vibes of places and music, e.g., ムーディーな音楽 (おんがく)、レストラン (romantic music, restaurant).
リベンジ[する] (“[do] revenge”):
In Japanese, “revenge” means “try to succeed/win/beat someone next time (after a failure/defeat)”, often in the context of sports. It is also used in the sense of “give something another try”, as in the second sentence below (however, some people regard it as wrong/unacceptable due to the gap from the original meaning in English)
As I lost to him last year, I wanna beat him this year.
去年 JLPT N3に落ちたから今年リベンジしたい
Because I failed JLPT N3 last year, I wanna give it another go
マウンティング (“mounting”) in Japanese means “trying to demonstrate one’s superiority to someone by showing off one’s knowledge/experience/possessions, etc. in a condescending way”. Similarly, マウントを取(と)る (“take a mount”) is a verbal expression for it. This unique usage comes from the English phrase “mount position”.
One good example is: when it snows a lot in Tokyo, the area where it usually doesn’t, some people from snowy regions mock Tokyo residents for panicking — in fact, this act is specially called 雪国(ゆきぐに)マウント, meaning “snowy-region mount”.
ナイーブ (naive) means “sensitive” in Japanese. It is often used to describe sensitive people and issues, e.g., ナイーブな人 (sensitive person), ナイーブな問題 (sensitive problem). Unlike English, “naive” in Japanese is not necessarily a negative word.
マンション (mansion) means “apartment” or “condominium/commonhold” in Japanese. There is also a similar loanword アパート (apāto) from “apartment”, but “mansion” usually refers to more expensive/taller ones (e.g. with more than 3 storeys). Very high apartments/condos are especially called タワマン (tawaman), short for “Tower Mansion”. For a particularly gorgeous condo, there is also a slang word, called “億(おく)ション (okushon)” meaning “a condo worth more than 1億円 (0.1B yen ≒ 1M million USD)”.
センス (“sense”) means “knack/talent; taste (esp. in fashion)” in Japanese. It is used to describe one’s talents in something, e.g., サッカーのセンスがある (have a knack for soccer). It is also used to describe someone fashionable, e.g., 彼はセンスがいい (He has good taste in fashion).
アバウト (“about”) means “rough(ly)/not too fastidious(ly)” in Japanese. It can be either positive or negative depending on the context. For instance, if someone says, もっとアバウトに考えるべきだ (‘You should think more “abauto”), that means you should stop overthinking and be more easy-going. On the other hand, if someone says この計画はアバウトすぎる (‘This plan is too abauto’), that means the plan is too rough and not well organised.
In Japanese, テンション (“tension”) means a level of excitement. Therefore, if your ” tension” is high (テンションが高い/ハイテンション), that means you are very excited, high, hyper, and/or in a good mode. On the other hand, if your tension is low (テンションが低い), that means you are quiet, down, calm, and/or in a bad mode. There is also a slang word called 深夜テンション (shinya tenshon), “Midnight High”,
S/M (short for “Sadist/Masochist”)
In Japanese, “S” and “M” stand for “Sadist” and “Masochist”, and they are far more casually used in Japanese than in English to describe personality; therefore, don’t fall off your chair if you’re asked whether you’re “S” or “M” in Japan!
Specifically, “S” describes people who are a little aggressive, bossy, and/or like to dominate others; and “M” indicates those who are very hard on themselves or like to be teased/dominated by others. These terms, of course, are also used to describe one’s preference in a sexual context. Whenド is put before S or M (“ドS/M”, doem/doesu), that means “extremely S/M”.
I believe that people who do weight training are extremely “M” (fond of putting themselves in a hard situation).
チャレンジ (“challenge”) means “to try something challenging” or “to make an effort to achieve something”. There is also a related phrase “チャレンジ精神”, which means “a never-give-up, brave mindset”, where 精神 (せいしん, seishin) means “mindset”. This word and its synonym “（〜に）挑戦(ちょうせん)する” are mostly interchangeable.
今年は新しいことにチャレンジしたい (≒ 挑戦したい):
“I wanna try something new this year”
オーバー (“over”) means “overreacting, exaggerating” in Japanese. It is often used to describe people (or their acts) who always exaggerate or overreact to everything, as in “オーバな人” meaning “people who exaggerate or overreact to everything”.
マニアックな (“maniac”) means “very specific and niche”, only known to fanatics/geeks” or “esoteric”. For instance, “マニアックな知識(ちしき)/趣味(しゅみ)/曲(きょく)” means “knowledge/hobby/music that is very niche and known to very few people”. As you see, the author of this blog has a penchant for teaching マニアックな日本語 (“very specific and niche Japanese words known to very few non-native speakers”). Similarly, people who have in-depth knowledge about particular things (i.e. buffs) are called マニア (“mania”), e.g. 鉄道マニア (“railway buff”).
セレブ (“celeb”) means “(somewhat ostentatiously) rich people” and doesn’t mean “celebrity” in Japanese. Celebrities are called “芸能人 (げいのうじん, geinoujin)”.
In Japanese, カンニング (“cunning”) means “cheating on one’s exam”. It is used as either a noun or verb “カンニングする”.
It is usually used negatively to describe unreasonable complaints/complainers regarding a product or service of a company.
In Japanese, ニート (“NEET”) has the same meaning as the original one, i.e. “a person who is Not in Education, Employment, or Training”, but it is used far more frequently and casually than in English.
Shut up, NEET.
コストパフォーマンス (“cost performance”)
コストパフォーマンス (“cost performance”), often abbreviated as “コスパ (cosupa)” has similar meanings to the English phrase, but is used more casually to describe a variety of products and services. See this post for more details
メリット、デメリット (“merit”, “demerit”)
In Japanese, メリット (“merit”) and デメリット (“demerit”) are used very casually, like “pros/benefits” and “cons/drawbacks” in English. The kanji words 利点 (りてん) and 欠点 (けってん) are used interchangeably for these words.
在宅(ざいたく)ワークのメリット (or 利点) は満員電車(まんいんでんしゃ)に乗(の)らなくていい事(こと)で、デメリット (or 欠点) は家(いえ)で仕事(しごと)に集中(しゅうちゅう)するのが難(むずか)しいという事だ。
The benefit of working from home is that we don’t have to take a crowded train, and its drawback is that it is difficult to concentrate on our work at home.