Meaning Behind The Japanese Neko 猫 (Cat)

There is no more important word in the Japanese language than 猫 (cat). That and 可愛い(かわいい – cute). School children are taught in kindergarten that when they see a cat, they shower it with no less than 3 kawaiis (check schoolbook rules).

The Meaning Behind The Japanese Neko (Cat) 1

But what does it all mean?

This is unanswerable.

But what does neko mean?

The major theory is that the word stems from ねこま or ねくま which results in the following appropriate words.

1. 寝子獣 (ねこま): sleeping child beast. Due to cats sleeping all day and being quite scary…

2. 寝熊 (ねくま): Sleeping bear. Getting close…

3. 鼠神(ねこま): Mouse god or god of the mice. And I think we have a winner.

There is another standard theory that ネ(Ne) used to be thought to be the sound cats make, and こ(ko) is an affectionate name ender often used on regular human names like Mariko or Yukiko. Combine them for cat awesomeness.

I hope this has properly taught you to respect cats for what they are.

Wait for it……..

The Meaning Behind The Japanese Neko (Cat) 2

かわいい(Kawaiiiiiiiiiii!)



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Adam

Adam

Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.

Comments

Meaning Behind The Japanese Neko 猫 (Cat) — 11 Comments

  1. Do you sometimes write neko with katakana? I ask because this sentence was in the Core 2000 Anki deck: うちのネコが子猫を生みました。Or did someone mess up when entering this sentence?

        • Animal and plant names are often written in katakana. Neko and inu are probably the main exceptions (with uma and a few others), but even they are sometimes. I once used the kanji for mushroom and was told by a Japanese speaker that it was very rarely used. It is a simple kanji: 茸 (ear-plant, presumably from those ear-shaped fungi that grow out of trees and such) but most Japanese people write キノコ。

            • From my beloved 化物語:

              「牛?違うって。牛じゃない。カタツムリだって」
              「漢字で書きゃ牛って入ってるでしょーが。ああ、阿良々木くんはひょっとして、カタツムリって片仮名で書いちゃってるの?知能指数が低いなあ。」

              It seems at least some fictional characters don’t even know the kanji for some of these insects…

            • Insect kanji are intense. Even fictional characters can’t keep up.

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