What is the Japanese word for Dragon? There are 2 of them!

Mythical beasts are pretty darn cool. And one of the most well known ones is the fabled dragon!

Dragons play a huge part in Asian mythology, with stories and legends dating back thousands of years. And if you’re into Japanese things like anime, manga, and video games then you’ve no doubt come across lots of dragons before.

What is the Japanese word for Dragon? Well as it turns out, there are actually two! Read on to learn the different words for dragon, and also the two different kanji that can be used.

So let’s start with the word that will be super easy to remember. It is the newer one out of the two, and it is actually a loan word from English! Here it is:

ドラゴン (doragon) = Dragon

Many of these loan words sound just like their English counterparts, but with a Japanese accent. If you’ve ever been watching a subbed anime online and you thought to yourself “hey, I think that lady just said ‘dragon’” then you were probably right!

This katakana version of the word is mainly used for the European style of dragons. You know, the kind that you see in a typical fairy tail like Sleeping Beauty, or like The Dragon Smog who is the big bad monster in The Hobbit.

Now for the second one, here it is:

竜 (ryū) = Dragon

Hokusai Dragon

This is the older and more common of the two names and you’ll most likely use this version of it when talking to people about dragons.

Unlike the European dragons that a lot of are used to seeing, most Asian dragons have a really long body like a snake (refer to picture above). Also, in Asian mythology most dragons are considered water deities. Anyone here played the video game Jade Empire before? You know what I’m talking about. 😉

Some of the compound words that use the kanji for the word “dragon” are:

  • 竜王 (ryū ō) = Dragon king
  • 竜宮 (ryū gū) = Palace of the Dragon King
  • 竜神 (ryū jin) = Dragon god
  • 竜座 (ryū za) = Draco the Dragon (the constellation)
  • 恐竜 (kyō ryū) = Dinosaur
  • 西洋の竜 (seiyō no ryū) = Western Dragons
  • 日本の竜 (nihon no ryū) = Japanese Dragons

Also, you will sometimes see the kanji 龍 used for dragon. I’ve read that this is an outdated kanji for dragon, but I’ve also read that it refers specifically to a “Chinese dragon.” Like the 蒼龍 (sō ryū) which is the “Azure Dragon” which is said to be the god who rules over the eastern heaves.

So just be aware of that fact in case you run into it. 竜 is still the one that I see used most often.

Has anyone here watched the anime Toradora before? If you have, you might remember that the main guy’s name is Ryūji 竜児. That’s right! His name is “dragon child”!

Compare that with the main girl’s name, which is Taiga (obviously the English loan word for “tiger”) and you get to see that this romantic comedy is not only about a boy and a girl, but also about a dragon and a tiger.

In fact, the name of the anime itself (Toradora) is a combination of the native Japanese word for “tiger” (tora) and the first half of the loan word for dragon (dora). Pretty cool, huh?

If you want to learn the Japanese word for “Tiger” then click here and find out!

This “dragon and tiger” combination is a very common thing in Asian mythology. If you didn’t notice before, then keep an eye out for it next time.

And I’ll see YOU next time too!

Did you find the answer you were looking for? Or do you have a different question about Japanese dragons? Let me know in the comments below!


4 thoughts on “What is the Japanese word for Dragon? There are 2 of them!”

  1. Pretty cool!

    Was hoping you could elaborate on the mythology of Asian dragons. How they came to be? What are their associated abilities? what’s the difference between them and European dragons? How come they are considered gods?

    I’m a fan of dragons. More to the European kind, I guess, but as beasts, they have always fascinated me.

    btw, why is the tiger and dragon association is so common?

    • Hey Ido, one idea is that the dragon and the tiger are symbols of the Yin and Yang forces of the universe. The dragons is Yang as it reigns over the heavens and tiger represents Yin as it was considered the mightiest beast on the earth. Both the dragon and the tiger were considered equal in power, though. Which is probably what causes such rivelry.

  2. Hi Nick,

    I am glad I stumbled across your page! Thanks for settling a minor debate a friend and I had over dragons! This is a very informative and cool post. It almost seems silly that in English there is only one word for dragon now. I love how the Japanese detail the different types!

    Do you have an tips on learning how to read (and remember!) the Japanese characters, I struggle with this aspect of Japanese.



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