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I happened to find the paperback book titled Adorkable, by Sarra Manning, on the GoodReads site.

There is no entry for adorkable in the Cambridge, Oxford or Merriam-Webster dictionaries, or in GoogleNgram, which often carries words and phrases that dictionaries don’t.

A Japanese online English-Japanese dictionary happens to register this word with the definition as an adjective combining adorable and dork and meaning “野暮 (yabo - "unrefined") but かわい(kawai -"adorable").

From this, I wonder if “adorkable” is similar to a Japanese word recently getting international currency: Kawai, meaning "unrefined (childish) but lovely." Its implication is positive and affirmative, but Kawai is used most often in conversation among young females and high teens.

What exactly does adorkable mean? To what kind of objects or occasions is adorkable applied?

Is this an adult word, as against a youngsters’ word like Kawai?

Sara Manning is a British woman; so is this a just a recent British English neologism, whose life may be ephemeral?

For instance, what kind of characters - person, animal, item, or whatever object can be called "adorkable"?

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Isn't かわいい more often romanized as "kawaii"? Also, you describe it as "unrefined (childish)" - does that mean that it's slightly derogatory? –  Andrew Grimm Oct 7 '12 at 1:14
    
@A: "kawai" is the root. The word is often used to refer to babies, miniature and toy (i.e., small but living) dogs, and cute girls, so when it's used to refer to a full-grown woman, depending on the context, it may very well be be derogatory -- a left-handed compliment. –  user21497 Oct 7 '12 at 1:21
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@RegDwight. Thank you for your editing the above question. Two questions: I think you kindly corrected the ending line of my question, “Sara Manning is a British woman; so is this a just a recent British English neologism, of which life may be ephemeral?” into whose life may be ephemeral? 1. Can ‘whose’ be applied as the relative pronoun to ‘neologism’ which is inanimate object? 2. Even though it is apart, doesn’t ‘whose’ give an impression that Sara Manning’s life is ephemeral? –  Yoichi Oishi Oct 7 '12 at 6:28
    
Cute = ugly but adorable. –  Blessed Geek Oct 7 '12 at 8:51
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I made the edit in question; since English lacks a genitive "*which's" which might parallel "whose", I and many others employ "whose life" in preference to "the life of which", which is formally "correct" but impossibly pedantic. –  StoneyB Oct 7 '12 at 18:01

2 Answers 2

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Adorkable is a fairly recent (on my scale of years) coinage which, like your Kawai appears to be most current among adolescent girls. It is exactly the sort of term which won't show up in dictionaries until it has evaporated.

Your best source for words of this sort is Urban Dictionary, a user-created dictionary of contemporary slang. It's very spotty in quality and often egregiously offensive, because most of its contributors are teenagers; but it's a model for the value of crowd-sourcing in matters on which its particular crowd is the ultimate authority. UD in fact has 9 pages on this word.

You will see there that it is a portmanteau word which combines, as you suspected, adorable and dorky.

Adorable in colloquial usage no longer means "worthy of adoration or worship* but exceedingly cute—very like what I understand Kawai to mean.

Dork is a little problematic—you may consult UD itself for its range of meanings—but all its senses seem to include a combination of intelligence, eccentricity, and social ineptness.

It appears to be applied mostly to young men by young women, and occasionally to young women by young men. Men of our years should probably avoid using the word adorkable at all.

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adorkable:

The word "Adorkable" is a portmanteau of "Adorable" and "Dork." That neatly encapsulates this trope. Adorkable characters are "dorky" in some fashion. Maybe they're socially inept or shy. Maybe they're really clumsy. Maybe they have some really, really conspicuous character tic that tends to earn them weird looks. Maybe they're just so darn sweet, that it borders on embarrassing. Heck, maybe they're just an out-and-out Nerd. However, rather than making them an outcast, these quirks give the character an endearing vulnerability.

There is a longer explanation of the term and there are many examples of this usage at the link.

I don't think it's the English equivalent of kawai: cute is. Hello Kitty is its archetype and primary avatar. We use almost the same word as kawai in Chinese in Taiwan. Same meaning and feeling.

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I'm not sure what you're saying Hello Kitty is an archetype of: cute or adorkable? –  Marthaª Oct 8 '12 at 22:47
    
It's the archetype of cute. Sorry to be unclear. –  user21497 Oct 8 '12 at 22:52

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