‘Isekai’ Is Now In The Oxford Dictionary

The Oxford English Dictionary (aka the OED) runs an update to its repository four times every year. Like DLC for games, these quarterly patches can introduce new words, features, and definition changes. Well, the first quarter of 2024 is about up, and the OED has just updated its linguistic repository to add 23 Japanese words, including the popular anime and manga genre “isekai.”

As spotted by The Guardian, the OED’s latest update includes Japanese words from the realms of art, cuisine, and elsewhere. The Japanese fried food appetizer “karaage,” which I love, made the list, as did “kintsugi,” the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer that highlights the flaws. And also in the mix is “isekai,” which the OED defines as “a Japanese genre of science or fantasy fiction featuring a protagonist who is transported to or reincarnated in a different, strange, or unfamiliar world. Also: an anime, manga, video game, etc., in this genre.” Think of the anime and manga Sword Art Online (often called the harbinger of “isekai”) or the animated film The Super Mario Bros. Movie (which can be viewed as one) and you’ll get the general idea. Basically, when a character awakens in another world, the OED says you can call it an “isekai.”

While there are two sub-types of the genre—standard ”isekai” or “other world” and “isekaitensei” or “reincarnation into another world”—in English, ”isekai” is the by far the more widely used term. When in certain nerd spaces, especially those revolving around anime and manga, “isekai” is generally understood to mean any story in which a character finds themself in a world that’s not their own. It seems to be an increasingly popular story format in all types of media, and as such, you’ll often see anime, games, and television described as “isekai.”

We love increasing our vocabulary and learning something new, and we can all rejoice in the fact that “isekai” and numerous other Japanese words have now been entered into the OED. I mean, this is The Oxford Dictionary, the preeminent repository of the English language for over a century. Weebs, if this isn’t the quintessential “we made it,” then I really don’t know what is.

You can check the full list of Japanese words newly added to the OED below:

Oxford Dictionary March 2024 Japanese-Word Update


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