Otaku Glossary

Suggestions and corrections welcome!

Let's face it; hobbies come with new vocabulary. This rings especially true when your hobby originates in a foreign country. Once you're immersed in Japanese visual pop culture (anime, manga, gaming, etc.), it's easy to forget that not everyone knows what you're talking about. Anime websites make the same mistakes. I try to use normal terms in my blog posts, but I don't always succeed. Hopefully, this page will rectify that oversight. My focus is on anime-related words, but vocabulary from "otakudom" in general are included as well. This includes words like "forum" that have to do with online interaction.

Whether you're attempting to understand an otaku or wading through various genres of anime, I hope this glossary will prove useful to you. Feel free to ask questions if this glossary isn't thorough enough! If you're already pro, I'd welcome any corrections and suggestions.


Aniblogger: An anime fan who blogs about anime.

Anime: Anime is Japanese animation. Another term is "Japanimation," although that word is now quite outdated. Anime is not a specific genre, style, or demographic. It's just animation that's made in Japan. Nothing more, nothing less, and certainly not Avatar the Last Airbender - as fantastic as that is, it was definitely not made in Japan and thus not anime. However, in Japan, they may refer to all animation as anime. And there are many people in the West who include all "anime style" animation as anime. I stubbornly hold to my exclusionist definition.

Avatar: When used in online forums, "avatar" refers to the picture next to a person's name in the forum. In gaming, it's the figure a player moves around on the screen.

Bishie: A way some people refer to bishounen characters

Bishounen: I believe this literally means "Beautiful boy," but that does not necessarily mean a cross-dressing male is in the anime. Instead, it's a style common to shojo and shounen-ai anime and manga. Apparently, some Japenese women really have a fetish for guys who look more feminine than normal. This does not mean they have gender identity issues or dress in the color pink or cry when they get a boo-boo. Far from it! And there is a wide range of bishounen, from those who really do look like girls to those who I think are pretty cool. They're also pretty common in reverse harem anime and manga.

Blog (noun): You are currently reading a blog. Many people use blogs as an online journal. Others use blogs to publish articles, essays, stories, or... well, you get the picture. Every now and then, I see blogs referred to by their full name, "weblogs," but that's usually just in non-blog journalism or academic papers. For more information on the history and nature of blogs, check out my post, "Origins: Blogs" (for more, see Part 2 and Part 3).

Blog (verb): To write on a blog.

Blogger: A person who blogs.

Blogoshpere: The online network/community of bloggers.

Cosplay: It's not playing dress up. Adults don't play dress up... Cosplay is the combination of the English words "costume" and "play" and is actually quite a sophisticated and respected art among otaku. It is noticable at anime conventions, where many fans can be found decked out like their favorite anime character. The costumes may or may not be homemade and can get pretty elaborate.

Cosplayer: One who plays dress up... err, kidding! One who [habitually] dresses in costume. Some make a career of it.

Dating sim (Dating simulation, dating game): A video/computer/etc. game in which the player chooses and pursues a love interest. The choices a player makes in conversation, gifts, etc. affect game play and the final outcome. For example, if Bob is the player, Bob may end up with Trisha, Mary, or Martha, or might die a premature and very lonely death.

- While the stereotype of dating sims may be boy-persues-girl (boyxgirl) games of less than pure nature, some are girlxboy, boyxboy, or girlxgirl. Not all of them are mature in nature... though quite a few are.
- See also: H-game, eroge game, visual novel, otome game

Dub (Dubbed anime): In relation to anime, a dub usually describes an anime with English (or other language) voice-overs, instead of the original Japanese. Some fans get very fired up when debating the quality of dubs versus subs (subtitled anime).

ED: Ending theme music in an anime. Often, ED refers to just the ending song, but I've seen it used to include the ending animation accompanying the song, too.
- See also: OP

Ecchi: Bleh... I mean, err, you wanted a real definition, didn't you? Ecchi is one of the words for pervert. This type of anime/manga/etc. has a lot of fan service, and not the family friendly kind. It may include, among less benign things, panty shots and unnecessary exposure of the female body in a way just shy of complete nudity. Such things happen at various levels in every episode.

Eroge game: Also referred to as an H-game or hentai game, these are adult-only visual novels, dating sims, etc. with erotic content. See H-game below.

Fan art: Art made by fans, based on the focus of their fandom (e.g. Naruto, Bleach, Lord of the Rings, Vocaloid).

Fan girl:A female fan. When seen in anime, this usually refers to the ridiculous rabid fan girls, such as those chasing around the hot school idol or pop singer. When an anime fan admits to being a Sasuke fan girl, she probably suffers from a severe case of "crushing on a two-dimensional character." In Twilight terms: Team Edward and Team Jacob. (see also: otaku)

Fan service: While fan service can take a variety of forms, anime fans usually use it to refer to images such as glimpses of a girl's undies, or a, erm, "well-endowed" woman who bounces arond a lot, wears tight or low cut shirts, and/or is put into a situation specifically to expose her to a drooling audience.
- While the first association with fan service tends to be geared toward males, it can also be reversed. Fan service geared toward girls may include a half-naked bishounen in a sensual pose. At any rate, fanservice can range from fairly benign to ecchi-level-cover-the-kid's-eyes.

Forum: In an online context, refers to a discussion board with various threads, or separate topics, of discussion.

Guest post: A post written on a blog by someone who does not usually write there. For example, I participated in a series called "Aniblogger Testimonies" over at Beneath the Tangles in early 2011. I and several other anibloggers wrote guest posts about our religion (or lack thereof) and mentioned at least briefly how that religion did or did not affect our anime viewing habits.

Gender-Bender: Refers to a genre of anime and manga wherein a main character crossdresses. This character may be cross dressing because they prefer it that way, or they may be doing it out of necessity. Sometimes, there's magic involved and the character gets the body of the opposite gender.

Harem: Refers to a genre of anime/manga/etc. wherein a man or boy is surrounded by a lot of girls and the plot's focus is on the relationship between the single male and his female friends/companions/housemates. There are some good harem anime out there (once I persevered through the first few episodes of Clannad, I was surprisingly delighted), but a stereotypical harem anime includes a deadbeat, boring, weak male protagonist and multiple girls who for some reason find themselves attracted to him at least as a friend if not as a love interest.
- See also: reverse harem

HentaiHentai is a Japanese word for pervert, and while you may hear it used in a comical way in anime, you may not consider it so comical if you accidentally watch anime in this genre. It goes beyond what we call ecchi and into the very perverted world of anime porn, with explicit scenes, etc. in every episode. 

H-game (hentai game): For those who like to be a little more hands-on than possible when watching anime.
- See also: Dating sim, visual novel

Hikikomori: a shut-in, someone who doesn't leave their home. Not necessarily agoraphobic.

Honorifics: In English, we use honorifics like "Mr.," "Mrs.," and "Dr." Honorifics are a little more important in Japanese culture, and definitely used more. In fact, the only time an honorific may be safely left out is with very close family, or a very close friend, with permission. Some common honorifics are listed following. The definitions are fairly flimsy, basic definitions that come more from watching anime than research.

-chan: The most endearing and informal honorific. Often used for children. Older girls may be referred to with the "-chan" honorific, but it's a cutesy, informal honorific that isn't usually used between adults without a prior understanding.

-kun: Fairly casual. In anime and manga, you'll often see classmates use this honorific for each other, mostly for male classmates (girls are often referred to with a "-san"). May also be used for co-workers, though -san seems to be more common in the anime/manga I've seen.

-san: The safest and most often used honorific. It's close to "Mr.," "Mrs.," and "Miss."

-sama: Very respectful honorific, used for someone of much higher status or whom you hold in very high esteem. Sometimes translated as "Lord" or "Lady" in subtitles. However, those English honorifics don't always fit.

-senpai: Refers to one's upperclassman or more experienced colleagues.

Kohai: A person's kohai is their junior--perhaps their underclassman or a newer person at work.
- See also: senpai

Lolicon: Let's see... how to say this nicely... lolicon = pervert who likes little girls. It can also refer to an anime that looks at young girls in such a way.

Maid café: A café in which the waitresses are dressed up as maids. They act the part, saying things like, "Welcome back master" in greeting. Also known for writing messages with ketchup on omelets and other food.

Manga: Japanese comics, graphic novels, etc.
- In Japan, manga refers to all comics; like with anime, we just adopted it to mean Japanese comics in particular. Some debate whether we can call Western comics drawn in the "manga style" manga. The problem is, there are multiple styles of manga.
- See my post, Anime 101 Part 3: Manga, for more history and explanation.

Mangaka: A manga artist

Mecha: Refers to a genre of anime/manga/etc. which contains giant manned robots/robot suits. Examples include Gundam, Eureka Seven, and Macross.

Moe: Can be used to describe a [usually young female] character who is cute, still "budding," and not completely grown up. Someone may respond to that character by saying/thinking/squealing "moe" when their heart jumps at something character does. The term is a more diversely used than that, though, so you might want to Google this one and pay close attention to its use in anime and otaku circles.

Narutard: An extreme fan of the Naruto anime and manga. Narutard is meant to be a derogatory term. However, like otaku or any other type of nerd, many fans happily embrace their Narutard status.

NSFW: "Not Safe for Work." Images and websites tagged NSFW contain mature content, like nudity - you know, stuff that you wouldn't want your boss to see you looking at... or kids, or your grandmother,  or possibly yourself, for that matter.

Otaku: Here in the West, we use the word otaku to refer to an extreme fan of anime, manga, and/or other parts of Japanese visual pop culture. In Japan, otaku could be used for someone who has a nerdy obsession with other things, too. It basically means nerd or geek.

Otakudom: Fandom, otaku style.

Otome game: A game aimed toward girls.
- Example: girlxboy dating sims

OTP: This stands for "One True Pairing," and is best understood if you first understand shipping, which is explained further down this page. A person's OTP is the paring they are most passionate about. For example, some people are convinced that Naruto and Hinata belong together. That couple might be their OTP.
- See also: ship

OP: Opening theme music in an anime. Often, OP refers to just the opening song, but I've seen it used to include the opening animation accompanying the song, too.
- See also: ED

OVA (Original Video Animation): Anime that became available to the public through video first, rather than on TV or in the theater.

Reverse Harem: Refers to a genre of anime/manga/etc. wherein a woman or girl is surrounded by a lot of boys and the plot's focus is on the relationships between the single female and her male friends/companions/housemates.

Senpai: In school, an upperclassman is their underclassman's senpai, or senior. Note that this isn't exclusively a school word. My seniors at work (those who have worked there longer than I) could be called my senpai. It's a respectful term, used both as a noun and as honorific.
- See also: kohai, honorifics

Shoujo: The Japanese word "shoujo" means girl. So shoujo anime and manga is aimed toward young or teenage girls. [also spelled shojo]

Shoujo-ai: Literally means "girl love." Shoujo-ai anime/manga/etc. contains girlxgirl relationships. Anime labeled as shoujo-ai is usually not explicit.
- See also: yuri

Shounen: (also spelled shonen) The Japanese word "shounen" refers to youths. Shounen anime and manga is aimed toward young or teenage boys.

Shounen-ai: Literally means "boy love." Shounen-ai anime/manga/etc. contains boyxboy relationships. Anime labeled as shounen-ai is usually not explicit.
- See also: yaoi

Ship (verb): Take the noun "relationship." Chop off the first few syllables, and you have converted that noun into the verb "ship." If I say that I ship two characters—say, Naruto and Sakura—that means that I believe they should (or maybe already do) have a relationship. For some fans, shipping is an important part of how they enjoy the characters from their fandom. They may ship characters who clearly have a relationship within the story (i.e. Arwen and Aragorn from LOTR or Nagisa and Tomoya from Clannad), or they may ship characters whose relationship is not apparent in the story. (This is very common from BL/yoai/shounen-ai fangirls, who may fantasize that two straight characters are in a relationship. Common pairings include Captain America and Iron Man from The Avengers or Kagami and Kuroko from Kuroko's Basketball.)
- See also: OTP

Signature: (or sig or forum signature) A picture, saying, or banner that appears at the bottom of a person's forum post. In some online communities, such as Anime-Planet, forum signatures have become a bit of an art form. Users might spend hours customizing their signature with anime characters and words to fit into the perfect banner.

Troll: The definition is difficult to pin down, because this term has been used for a couple decades. I, on the other hand, have barely been alive two decades, let alone active on the internet that long. I'd say a troll is an "annoying person on the internet, like a chronically off topic guy on the forums," but that doesn't quite cover it. Check out this Daily Dot article for a more thorough explanation.

Tsundere: A character who acts all tough, prickly, and mean on the outside, but it's just to hide their soft heart on the inside.

Visual novel: An interactive story/game played on a video game system or computer. It's often a dating sim or close relative thereof, and usually has choices for the player to make that affect the ending.
- See also: dating sim, otome game, H-game, eroge game

Yaoi: The focus in a yaoi anime/manga/etc. is on a (or multiple) gay relationship(s). Unlike plain shounen-ai, yaoi can contain explicit content.

Yuri: The focus of the plot is on a lesbian relationship. Usually explicitly so.

A note on name order: In Japan, the family name is used before the given name. A lot of websites switch the names around, into the order we English speakers are used to. I don't (usually). So, while some websites might say "Mutta Namba and Hibito Namba are brothers," I use the traditional phrasing: "Namba Mutta and Namba Hibito." Hopefully this won't cause any confusion. If it does, I have good news: since, in many anime, characters are addressed by their surname and given name interchangeably, most fans will recognize either name, and won't care which one you use.


  1. thanks so much! I've always been confuzzled on what
    all of those otaku words meant ^__^

    1. I'm glad it helped! Thank you for commenting. It's inspired me to go work a little more on this page. ^_^

  2. These are really useful! Nice one... ;)


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