- サイン (sain): signature
- Sign: board with a notice, indication
The word サイン is believed to be taken from the phrase “sign here” where the verb was mistakenly interpreted as a noun. Handwritten signatures are a modern concept in Japan, therefore the lack of a native word resulted in the need to borrow from another language. Commonly, Japanese people use an inkan, a name stamp, as means of a signature for any official papers, personal documents, contracts or even art. Inkan were initially only used by the Emperor and direct subordinates until becoming widespread in 1870.
Currently, in Japan, handwritten signatures are rarely required but, in such cases, you will be asked for your サイン.
This article is part of the weekly Katakana English series, where we discuss Japanese words borrowed (mostly) from English that have acquired a different meaning. For questions or comments, please click here.