I've been wondering if the word "Shinobi" is an accepted English word. As far as I know, its synonym "Ninja" is an accepted English word where "Spy" is the nearest common English.

  • 2
    I've personally never encountered it. Did you check any English dictionaries?
    – Dan Bron
    Aug 11, 2014 at 1:24
  • 1
    It's certainly not common. I suspect it may fight against ninja for currency.
    – user867
    Aug 11, 2014 at 1:50
  • No. Why would I use a rarely known Japanese word, when I had an English word for it already? Aug 11, 2014 at 2:56
  • The simple answer is no, as of writing. Japanese words like Katana, Ninja etc are beloved by the English-speaking countries. The new one you mention could well be used by, say, a motorbike company or something as a model name, or perhaps a film title, and it would become more and more popular, perhaps .. joining old favorites such as "ninja".
    – Fattie
    Aug 11, 2014 at 7:06
  • Joe Blow, I haven't heard of the word Katana. Where in the English-speaking world is it used and what does it mean?
    – Tristan r
    Aug 11, 2014 at 10:53

1 Answer 1


Depends on the audience. For a general audience, it seems shinobi would not be understood.

Wikipedia has a list of English words of Japanese origin, and shinobi is not on that list, not that educated native speakers would be expected to know all those words, however.


Some native speakers of English who are pretty fluent in Japanese (such as myself) don’t even know the word shinobi. Just don’t read much about ninjas, I guess.

However, in the context of ninjas, shinobi does seems to be understood. Here is a book title at Amazon that uses the term:

The Secret Traditions of the Shinobi: Hattori Hanzo's Shinobi Hiden and Other Ninja Scrolls

  • Agreed. I know I've heard it in videogame contexts, but I don't think I'd expect any English speaker to know it. Aug 11, 2014 at 4:37

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.