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Frequently Used Terms



Are you frequently left confused by strange words employed in conversations relating to anime? Fret not, for the Anime Academy and the Anime History department understand your needs and offer this glossary of anime idioms to help you never lose face again.

Ai (ah-ee): Love.

Arigato (ah-ree-gah-to): “Thank you”. Can be amplified by subsequently adding gozaimasu (go-zah-ee-mas)

Anime (ah-nee-meh): Japanese animation.

Baka (bah-kah): An idiot, term most commonly used to make fun of someone’s lack of intelligence. It sometimes precedes a mean knock on the head.

BGM (Background Music): Music featured in an anime soundtrack and played during the anime itself.

Bishoujo (bee-sho-jo): Literally, pretty girl.


Kyoichi Saionji, the bishounens’ bishounen. And no, there’s no Freudian symbolism hanging about that sword. Nope, not one little bit.                           –From Revolutionary Girl Utena

Bishounen (bee-sho-nehn): Literally, pretty boy. Often having long hair and a feminine figure, it is sometimes hard to discern the gender of an anime bishounen; be careful. However, being bishounen rarely denotes that a character is homosexual or even just effeminate.

Cel: Layer of an illustration. Instead of having to draw every frame of animation individually, animators superimpose transparent sheets allowing them to keep the same background while moving characters around. Authentic cels are often made available for purchase.

CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) or CG (less common): Use of computers to produce different effects, backgrounds or entire sequences in anime.

chibi ccs

Chibi-style Cardcaptor Sakura

Chibi (chee-bee): Small. Chibi characters in anime are short and cute, with exaggerated features. Often used as a prefix, “Chibi-Usa”. See also Super-Deformed (SD).

Con (Convention): A gathering of people sharing the same interests. There are many annual anime conventions everywhere in the world.

Cosplay (Costume Play): A very popular activity during anime conventions, also referred to as masquerading. It consists of dressing up as an anime or video game character to participate in contests or simply for fun.

Dai jo bu (dai-joe-boo): Or “Dai jo bu des ka?” “OK?” or “Are you OK?” Often heard after a character has fallen down or suffered some other mishap.

Demo (deh-mo): But. Commonly the first word of a rebuttal, but can also stand alone (with the last “o” sound trailing off) functioning as “Errrr……” or “Ummm….”

Doujinshi (doh-jeen-shee): Fan based art inspired by official anime or manga. Also referred to as fanzine.

Dub (Dubbed Anime): As opposed to a subtitled anime, dubs have voice tracks in languages differing from the original Japanese voice actors. Among otaku (cf.), passions may run high when debating the merits of “dubs” vs. “subs” (cf.).

Ecchi (eh-chee): Indecent. Comes from the Japanese pronunciation of “H” which in turn is the first letter of hentai (pervert). In anime, ecchi can describe mild sexual scenes.

Eye Catch: Prolonged frames of art used midway into an anime and often display its name along with a quick tune. It is used as a transition before and after commercials of anime series airing in Japan. Most distributors leave eye catches in VHS and DVD releases.

Fandom: A group of individuals having the same obsession on a particular subject, anime for one.

Fanfic (Fan Fiction): An unofficial writing (can be a short story, script or novel) using characters from an existing anime, manga or game.

Fan Service: Scenes or situations serving little purpose to the story but designed to titillate the viewer, whether male or female, with bare skin or offbeat action. The ever-so-popular shower scene is a good example of fan service. Virtually synonymous with “cheesecake “.


Say “Cheesecake”!

Fan Sub: Often done to allow non-Japanese viewers to watch and understand unlicensed anime, fan subs are made for fans by fans and making profits off them is expressly prohibited.

Gaikoku-jin (gah-ee-ko-koo-jeen): Abbreviated gai-jin (gah-ee-jin), a foreigner. Gai-jin is used by Japanese as an impolite reference to outsiders lacking refinement while gaikoku-jin is the more respectful term.

Gambate (gahm-ba-tay) “Do your best!” Often heard shouted as a cheer or rallying cry, especially to someone about to participate in a sporting event or take an exam.

Gomen Nasai (go-men nah-sah-ee): “I’m sorry”. Also see sumimasen.

Hai (hah-ee): Yes. Also indicates paying attention to someone’s oration. Can also be said when handing some object to another: when a gift is being given to another, or a waiter may say it when bringing a customer’s plate.

Henshin (hen-sheen): The transformation sequence usually associated with a Mahou Shoujo by which a character acquires her full powers.

Hentai (hen-tah-ee): Its direct translation means “pervert” and refers to any scene or movie that explicitly presents nudity or sexual acts. Can also be used to describe a person who is strange or out of the ordinary, with no lewd innuendo intended.

Hiragana (hee-rah-gah-nah): One of the three types of Japanese lettering consisting of 46 syllables. It is a basic script and can be used to name anything of Japanese origin. Can be identified by its smooth and curved characters.

Honorific: Short status indicators place immediately after a name. Used frequently in Japan, these can be confusing since they make someone’s name appear altered in specific occasions.

  • -chan (chahn): Small or baby. Used among very close friends and relatives, especially females.
  • -kohai (ko-hah-ee): One’s junior. Usually substituted with –kun or -chan.
  • -kun (kun): Used among very close friends and relatives, especially males.
  • -sama (sah-mah): Lord. Used when addressing people of utmost respect or when referring to gods. Usually employed in concurrence with a title but can also be used with a name.
  • -san (sahn): A close equivalent to Mr. and Mrs. Used as a respectful method of addressing people of similar status.
  • -senpai (sen-pah-ee): Upperclassman. Usually used in relation to fellow classmates of higher level or age.
  • -sensei (sen-say): Teacher, master or doctor. Used either at school or while being involved in a discipline or art.                              
  • There is one honorific which precedes a name, title or word, “O-“, and is often rendered in English as “Honorable.” The other honorifics attach only to people (or occasionally animals, humorously), but “O-” can modify common nouns as well when the speaker wishes to be very polite. For example, namae is simply “name”. If one puts the small marker word wa after it, Namae wa?, it is essentially asking “What’s your name?” But O-namae wa? conveys more the tone of “May I have your name, please?” It is almost always attached to “tea”,                o-cha; “mother”, o-kaasan; “big brother”, o-niisan (all of which are heard frequently in anime), and with many other words. Note that with the last two, the “-san” still attaches to the end.

Iie (ee-eh): No.

Image Album: A CD regrouping music made to set the mood for a particular manga, novel or video game. Hundreds of image albums are released every year. In anime, image albums are collections of songs performed by their voice actors.

Itekimas/Iterasshai/Tadaima (ee-tek-ee-mas/ee-tay-ra-shy/ta-die-ma) The “doorway greetings”. Meaning roughly, “I’m off!” (when leaving the house), “Come home safe!” (in response), and “I’m home!”

Itadakimasu (ee-tah-dah-kee-mas): Roughly translates to “Let’s eat!” 

J-Pop (Japanese Pop Music): A current trend in Japanese music, often featured in anime. Some of the more notable J-Pop artists are Aiko, Morning Musume and Hitomi Yaida.

J-Rock (Japanese Rock Music): Popular J-Rock bands include L’arc-en-ciel, Chage & Aska and The Kome Kome Club.

Ja, matashita! “See you tomorrow!” An informal “good-bye”.

Ja Ne (jah-neh): “See ya!” A very informal “good-bye”.

Jozei (dzoh-seh): Usually in reference to manga, a genre geared toward the more adult female, late teen to middle aged. In contrast to shojou (see which), which is aimed toward a younger audience.

Kampai (kahm-pai): “Cheers!”

Kanji (kahn-jee): Japanese characters borrowed from the Chinese alphabet forming the base of the written Japanese language. It includes well over 2000 pictograms. Meanings can vary enormously according to the context. By far the hardest aspect of the Japanese language to master.

Katakana (kah-tah-kah-nah): A more angular form of Japanese writing used to translate words of foreign origins and scientific terms.

Katana (kah-tah-nah): Traditional, slightly curved blade of about 3 feet in length. Used as a weapon in Japan by swordsman of numerous eras.

Kawaii (kah-wah-ee): Cute. Often used on its own when observing a situation or character having any distinct level of cuteness. See Kei’s lecture on Kawaii Judgment. See also kowaii.

3 season fairies

Three Season Fairies sleeping in a picnic basket are just about the definition of “kawaii”                                                                                                            –from “Little Snow Fairy Sugar”

Key Frame Key frames are drawn by the best artist available among the production staff of an anime. They are blatantly more detailed and often consist of close-ups of main characters.

Konnichi wa (ko-nee-chee wah): One of the many different ways of saying hello in Japanese. This one is commonly used in the afternoon, and means roughly, “Nice day, isn’t it?”

Kowaii: Scary, or when spoken just by itself can mean “I’m scared.” Can be mistaken for kawaii.


Cardcaptor Sakura . . . Release!

Cardcaptor Sakura . . . Release!

Mahou Shoujo (mah-ho sho-jo): Magical girl. A unique anime genre displaying girls with super powers. Sailor Moon is an example of mahou shoujo anime, as is Cardcaptor Sakura.

Manga (mahng-gah): Japanese comics often possessing a linear storyline that extends to several volumes. The manga industry exploded in the early 1950s and was used as inspiration for many anime.

Manga-ka (mahng-gah-kah): A professional Japanese comic writer.

Masaka (mah-sah-kah): This expression of despair can be translated as “It can’t be!”

Matte (mah-teh): “Wait!”

Mecha (meh-kah): Typically used when talking about giant, human-controlled robots but can also mean any type of destructive, mechanical weapon. Constitutes a genre featuring futuristic warfare.

Mite (mee-teh): “Look!”

Mobile Suit: A giant machine hydraulically acting as an extension of the pilot’s body. Sometimes abbreviated as MS.

Moe: (moe-eh) A particular kind of “cute”, most often associated with pre-adolecent or young adolescent girls. A soft, wide-eyed sort of art style usually characterizes moe, but not as extreme as chibi. Believed to be derived from the Japanese word for “budding”.

Moshi Moshi (mo-shee mo-shee): Informal Japanese greeting used when answering the phone.

Nani (nah-nee): What. Can be used out of surprise or confusion.

Neko (neh-ko): A cat. Can be used in conjunction with a girl or boy to describe half-human, half-cat characters in anime.

Nippon (nee-pon): Japan. Also Nihon.

Nosebleed: According to Japanese belief, boys get nosebleeds when they are sexually aroused. This can happen quite often in shounen anime.

Ohayou Gozaimasu (o-hah-yo go-chah-ee-mahs): “Good morning”

Oishii (o-ee-shee) Delicious.

O-make (o-mah-keh): Bonus footage for interviews or comic relief. Sometimes hidden in anime DVDs.

Onegai Shimasu (o-neh-gah-ee shee-mahs): A polite way to say “please”.

Oni (o-nee): A demon.

OST (Original Sound Track): Compact disc release of songs played during an anime.

Otaku (o-tah-ku): A fan on an extremely obsessive level. In Japan, a derogatory term. Used anywhere outside of Japan, otaku automatically refers to an anime obsession.

OVA (Original Video Animation): A direct-to-video release often divided into a handful of 30-minute episodes. Also known as OAV (Original Animated Video).

Pocky (po-kee): Popular biscuit-like Japanese snack covered with a wide variety of flavors such as chocolate or strawberry. There are many Pocky references in anime, and some Pocky brands even sport anime characters on their boxes.

Ramen (rah-men): Japanese noodles. Standard college meal of choice because it’s cheap and easy to make.

Romanji (ro-mahn-jee): Phonetic writing of Japanese words using the Roman alphabet as used in this glossary and in most Internet discussions pertaining to anime. It is not an official Japanese lettering.

Ronin (ro-neen): A student who has failed a university’s entrance exam and so is in a sort of limbo between high school and the next step of his life. A frequent anime device to put a young man into a succession of awkward positions. Can also mean an adult who is between jobs.

Originally used to mean a samurai who, for some reason, served no master, and was usually derogatory; a samurai whose master had been either killed or disgraced was expected to commit seppuku. Thus, being a ronin implied that that person had shunned the Bushido ShoshinshuRonin were also notorious for hiring out as mercenaries, and even becoming common thieves.

Sake (sah-keh): Alcoholic beverage typical to Japan. Made of fermented rice and brewed much like beer. Made to be served cold or warm.

Sayonara (sah-yo-nah-rah): One way of saying “goodbye”. Can be used at any time of the day. A bit more of a formal expression than others, but does not imply permanent separation (or impending death).

Sei-jin no Hi (seh-ee–jeen no hee): Coming of Age Day, a holiday celebrated by twenty-year-olds who can drink, smoke and vote.

Seiyuu (seh-ee-yoo): A Japanese voice actor or actress.

Sentai (sehn-tah-ee): A group of superheroes typically wearing assorted outfits. More of a sub-genre, sentai are featured in many anime, notably Bubblegum Crisis and Gatchaman. The word is originally a military term and is ordinarily translated into English as squadron or task force.

Shimatta (shee-mah-tah): “Damn!”

Shinto (sheen-to): Japan’s oldest and original religion. In Shintoism, every thing and being possesses its own spirit. Shinto is based upon the worship of, and coexistence with, the natural world.

Shoujo (sho-jo): A girl or young woman. Shoujo anime is a genre marketed as entertainment for young girls but it is quite all right for boys to enjoy, too. Romance, love and cute guys are common themes in shoujo anime.

Shoujo Ai A story in which the plot concerns a romance between two females. Such relationships are portrayed more romantically than in the more explicitly sexual yuri.

Shounen (sho-nehn): A boy or young man. Shounen anime is a genre marketed as entertainment for young boys, often featuring a young man surrounded by attractive girls.

Shounen Ai: A story in which the plot concerns a romance between two males. Such relationships are portrayed more romantically than in the more explicitly sexual yaoi.

Sub (Subtitled Anime): Subs consist of an anime including a written translation of the ongoing dialogue on the bottom of the screen.

Sugoi (soo-goy): Incredible, awesome.

Sumimasen (soo-mee-mah-sehn): “I’m sorry” Also see gomen nasai.

Super Deformed: An anime art style in which characters have very small bodies shouldering large heads. Super Deformed often leads to exaggerated facial expressions and movement. Also see chibi.

Sweatdrop: A comical facial expression in which someone is drawn with a giant sweat drop next to their head. Indicates personal embarrassment or a reaction to another character embarrassing him/herself.

Urusai (oo-roo-sah-ee): “Be quiet!”. Often seen written on the walls of the Anime Academy library.

Wakatta (wah-kah-tah): Understood. Often spoken in the sense of “Gotcha!” or “Will do.”

Yaoi (yah-oh-ee): A male/male relationship, usually of a more sexual and explicit nature than shounen ai.

Yuri (yoo-ree): A female/female relationship usually of a more sexual and explicit nature than shoujo ai.



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