LINGUIST List 12.1871

Sun Jul 22 2001

Sum: Origins of Arigato

Editor for this issue: Lydia Grebenyova <>


  1. Jonathan Lewis, Origins of Arigato

Message 1: Origins of Arigato

Date: Wed, 18 Jul 2001 23:36:31 +0900
From: Jonathan Lewis <>
Subject: Origins of Arigato

For Query: Linguist 12.1831

The votes are in on the origins of arigato. Here we go, in reverse order:

"Arigato" derives from the Portuguese "obrigado"....0

"Aaargghhhhh! No, no, no, no, no! How many times a year can this question
keep coming up without it becoming universal knowledge etc. etc"....1

Don't know, but wish you would spell "obrigado" correctly....2

"Arigato" has nothing whatsoever to do with Portuguese. It is based on two
Chinese characters, one meaning "difficult" and the other "to be". In other
words, I'm so indebted to you, I'm having a hard time even existing over

Perhaps I should explain my reason for asking what is evidently an, um, RTFM
question. Last week I was reading an edited volume called "Language Change
in East Asia" (Curzon, 2001). Said book contains a chapter entitled "Some
Returned Loans: Japanese Loanwords in Taiwan Mandarin", whose author shall
remain nameless in light of the above responses. Anyway, on page 167 I found
the following lines:

"Other widely known Japanese expressions without a set written form in
Chinese include: arigato gozaimasu 'thank you very much' (...; few Chinese
know that this expression is often written with the kanji [..], nor that the
Japanese is itself a foreign loan, coming from the Portuguese word for
'thank you', obrigado)"

Having enough knowledge of Japanese to teach and publish in the language, I
found the above rather surprising, but not being a specialist in linguistics
I thought I'd ask your collective opinion. For which, rendered so
generously, many thanks.

Jonathan Lewis

Tokyo Denki University
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue