ドタキャン (dotakyan) is a Japanese slang word that means “to cancel something at the last minute”. It is used either as a noun (last-minute cancellation) or a verb (to cancel at the last minute). It is an abbreviation of “土壇場でキャンセルする”, where 土壇場 (どたんば, dotanba) means “at the last moment/chance” and キャンセルする means “to cancel”.
Antonym: ドタ参 (dotasan)
On the other hand, “ドタ参” (dotasan) means “to join something at the last minute” and it is an abbreviation of “土壇場で参加する”, where 参加(さんか)する means “join”. It is usually used as a noun, as in “ドタ参でもOKです” meaning “dotasan is also OK”, that is “You can still join us”. Compared to ドタキャン, ドタ参 is much less commonly used and sounds more slangy, and therefore some people (esp. elderly people) probably do not understand it.
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Usage of 土壇場
Contrary to ドタキャン and ドタ参, the word “土壇場” is rather formal and often used in sports news articles to describe a game-changing play (either a good or bad one) that has taken place near the end of the game. For example, “彼が土壇場で逆転ホームランを放った” means “He hit a home run that led to the come-from-behind win near the end of the game.”
I was cancelled on by my girlfriend to go see a movie, so I’m going alone.
I feel sorry for cancelling my haircut appointment at the last minute.
List of Japanese Abbreviated Slang Expressions
Synonyms: キャンセルする (to cancel)
Synonyms in English: cancel something at the last minute, flake on someone
Related words and phrases: 土壇場 (at the last minute), キャンセルする (to cancel), ドタ参 (join at the last minute)