Definition of katakana in English:



mass noun
  • The more angular form of kana (syllabic writing) used in Japanese, primarily used for words of foreign origin.

    Compare with hiragana
    • ‘Japanese features three reading systems: hiragana, katakana and kanji.’
    • ‘Some writing systems (such as Japanese katakana and hiragana) are syllable based.’
    • ‘Historically, there is no association at all between katakana and foreign words.’
    • ‘In modern written Japanese, kanji, hiragana, and katakana are combined.’
    • ‘It is of course possible to write Japanese entirely in hiragana or katakana, and that's what Japanese children start by learning to do in school before they move on to kanji.’


Early 18th century: Japanese, literally ‘side kana’.