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95 Core Concepts in Japanese

What are the most basic, elementary, core concepts that virtually all languages express? Many linguists have put a great deal of effort into answering this question, and several short word lists have come out of it. The most famous are probably the Swadesh lists, based mostly on intuition and refined over time. Later lists like the Leipzig-Jakarta have used more stringent methods to determine which vocabulary items are most resistant to borrowing and change over time.

What I've done here is taken five such word lists (Swadesh 100, Ranked Swadesh 40, Swadesh-Yakhontov, Leipzig-Jakarta, and Woodward) and kept only the items that occur in at least two of the lists. Here is the Japanese version. Enjoy!

1) name = 名前 (namae)
2) water = 水 (mizu)
3) blood = 血 (chi)
4) fire = 火 (hi)
5) stone/rock = 石 (ishi), 岩 (iwa)
6) dog = 犬 (inu)
7) fish = 魚 (sakana)
8) louse/flea = 虱 (shirami), 蚤 (nomi)
9) hand/arm = 手 (te), 腕 (ude)
10) eye = 目 (me)
11) ear = 耳 (mimi)
12) nose = 鼻 (hana)
13) tongue = 舌 (shita)
14) tooth = 歯 (ha)
15) bone = 骨 (hone)
16) horn = 角 (tsuno)
17) tail = 尻尾 (shippo)
18) egg = 卵 (tamago)
19) leaf = 葉っぱ (happa)
20) night/evening = 夜 (yoru)
21) star = 星 (hoshi)
22) sun = 日 (hi)
23) moon = 月 (tsuki)
24) earth/soil = 土 (tsuchi), 地 (chi)
25) salt = 塩 (shio)
26) mountain = 山 (yama)
27) tree = 木 (ki)
28) rain = 雨 (ame)
29) wind = 風 (kaze)
30) bird = 鳥 (tori)
31) flesh/meat = 身 (mi), 肉 (niku)
32) liver = 肝 (kimo)
33) skin/hide = 皮 (kawa), 革 (kawa)
34) knee = 膝 (hiza)
35) breast/chest = 胸 (mune)
36) person/human = 人 (hito)
37) man = 男 (otoko)
38) woman = 女 (onna)
39) child = 子供 (kodomo)
40) hair/fur = 髪 (kami), 毛皮 (kegawa)
41) mouth = 口 (kuchi)
42) neck = 首 (kubi)
43) foot/leg = 足 (ashi), 脚 (ashi)
44) feather = 羽 (hane)
45) grease/fat = 脂 (abura)
46) smoke = 煙 (kemuri)
47) ash/soot = 灰 (hai)
48) sand = 砂 (suna)
49) wood = 木 (ki)
50) root = 根 (ne)
51) rope/cord = 綱 (tsuna)
52) path/road = 道 (michi), 路 (michi)
53) year = 年 (toshi)

54) die = 死ぬ (shinu)
55) see/look/watch = 見る (miru)
56) hear/listen = 聞く (kiku), 聴く (kiku)
57) know = 知る (shiru)
58) drink = 飲む (nomu)
59) give = 与える (ataeru)
60) come = 来る (kuru)
61) stand = 立つ (tatsu)
62) sit/set = 座る (suwaru), 置く (oku)
63) lie/lay = 寝る (neru), 張る (haru)
64) fly = 飛ぶ (tobu)
65) eat = 食べる (taberu), 食う (kuu)
66) bite = 噛む (kamu)
67) burn = 燃える (moeru)
68) kill = 殺す (korosu)
69) say/tell/speak/talk = 言う (iu), 話す (hanasu)
70) laugh = 笑う (warau)

71) new = 新しい (atarashii)
72) full = 満ちている (michiteiru)
73) good = 良い (yoi/ii)
74) long = 長い (nagai)
75) red = 赤い (akai)
76) black = 黒い (kuroi)
77) white = 白い (shiroi)
78) green = 青い (aoi)
79) yellow = 黄色 (kiiro)
80) small/little = 小さい (chiisai)
81) big/large = 大きい (oukii)
82) wide/broad = 広い (hiroi)
83) heavy = 重い (omoi)
84) old = 古い (furui)
85) dry = 乾いた (kawaita)

86) I/me = 私 (watashi), 僕 (boku), 俺 (ore)
87) you = 貴方 (anata), 君 (kimi)
88) what/which = 何 (nani), どれ (dore), どの (dono)
89) who/whom = 誰 (dare)
90) one = 一 (ichi), 一つ (hitotsu)
91) two = 二 (ni), 二つ (futatsu)
92) not/no = 無い (nai), いいえ (iie)
93) this/these = 此れ (kore), 此の (kono), これら (korera), これらの (korerano)
94) we/us = 私達 (watashi-tachi), 我々 (wareware)
95) all/everything/everyone = 全て (subete), 皆 (minna)

Please let me know if you spot any mistakes here. And if you take this list and translate it into another language, that would be awesome! I'd be sure to give you some lingots! More versions can be found here. (Be sure to check what's been translated already before posting your own.) And if you like this kind of thing, check out my website for more!

November 30, 2017




In most of the cases where you give two Japanese words, appropriate distinctions can also be made in English. Thus

flesh/meat =

身 (mi) body, usually alive

肉 (niku) meat, usually dead and cut up

Most of the kanji you give have both On and Kun readings, like getsu and tsuki for moon, or sui and mizu for water.


One of the more helpful posts I've found on this thread! Thanks!


Very useful, I would make one change.
I think it would be useful to see the hiragana for each of these (or katakana in cases where it is needed). Reading simple words in hiragana help beginners like me who know some hiragana, but not all, develop our reading muscles for hiragana.


Hi, Thank you for this list. I think you have used the kanji for blue- aoi to describe green - thank you!


Yes, blue and green are traditionally the same color in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean, just as red and orange were in English before the introduction of Seville oranges (una naranja-->a norange--> an orange) to England. Thus orange hair was called red, and orange-feathered robins were called Robin Redbreast, terms which have stuck. The evolution of orange into a color name took centuries, and the process is not completely understood.

The minimum number of color words in a language was long thought to be two, commonly light and dark, one of which always included blue and green together. Red, including orange, seems to be nearly universally the third color that various cultures distinguish in both practice and language.

However, Pirahi appears to have no color words.


Human vision can distinguish several thousand colors, and there are modern technical names for most of them, in addition to ways of specifying all of them numerically. Of course, few outside the world of artists and the cloth and clothing trades have any idea of the difference between scarlet and crimson, and similarly for many other color pairs. (For example, both can be used to describe blood, with crimson more appropriate for bluer venous blood, and scarlet for more orange arterial blood.)


I saw someone ask for Hiragana so I'm just gonna add some real quick: 名前- なまえ (namae) 水 - みず (mizu) 血 -ち (chi) 火 - ひ (hi) 石 - いし (ishi) 犬 - いぬ (inu) 魚 - さかな (sakana) 虱 - しらみ (shirami) 手 - て (te)

Those are just the first few, but if you're really interested I'd recommend looking them up on a hiragana chart. It's a good way to practice getting used to them when you have to do it manually like that! Sorry if this wasn't much help but there you go. Also, if you're using この or これ (both mean "this", the first is used as an adjective, the second as a noun) you should use hiragana.


What about go 行く いく iku ?


thank you so much for the effort!


Hi! I saw that you spelled the pronounciation of the word "big/large" wrong, it's ookii, not oukii. :)


Both spellings are in common use. There’s no one correct way to romanize Japanese spelling.

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