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Big list of Japanese Mahjong terminology

Yo, this is UmaiKeiki once again. This post comes at the request of MOUIKKAI who wanted some kind of glossary of basic game terms so we can translate stuff.

This probably came about because Osamu and Fukuchi-sensei read each other’s blogs and discovered how English and Japanese abbreviate three-player mahjong:

三人麻雀 = 三麻 (sanma)
3-player mahjong = 3p

I’ll also try to include a list of common English terms that differ from the Japanese. Obviously I can only include the most common words or else this post would never end…

English list

Here’s a list of commonly used English terms that differ from the Japanese equivalent to some extent. In most cases this is due to the influence of card games like rummy and poker.

dealer
oya (親)
The name Mahjong refers to sparrows, so one person is the Oya (parent), and the others are Ko (children).
walls
yama (山)
Means "mountains".
dead wall
wanpai (王牌)
Means "royal tiles". Insert "wang tiles" joke here.
dragons
sangenpai (三元牌)
Means "three elements". The individual tiles are often referred to by colour in the West because players are not expected to learn the characters.
suit
shoku (色)
Means "colour".
meld
mentsu (面子)
"Meld" comes from rummy, the card game most closely related to mahjong.
set
koutsu (刻子)
"Set" also comes from rummy; a common alternative is "3 of a kind" from poker.
run
shuntsu (順子)
"Run" comes from rummy; "Straight" from poker.

Here’s the list of basic game terms in Japanese, with kanji given whenever possible. You probably won’t need many of the kanji, though, as mahjong terms seem to be frequently written in katakana. This list won’t cover yaku names (which you can get here) and slang terms (in which case the list would never end). I’m not a Japanese expert so don’t hesitate to make corrections or suggestions!

agari
和がり
Winning a hand, e.g. tsumo-agari, ron-agari.
aidayonken
間四軒
An interval of four between two discarded number tiles. Usually indicates dangerous waits.
akapai
赤牌
Red tiles that count as Dora. Usually (but not always) 5’s.
an
Means “dark”, refers to tiles that are concealed in the hand.
anjun
暗順
A concealed Shun tsu.
ankan
暗槓
A concealed, but claimed, Kan tsu.
ankou
暗刻
A concealed Kou tsu.
anpai
安牌
Safe tile.
aotenjuu
青天井
No limits, e.g. 5-han 30-fu becomes worth 15400 points instead of being capped at Mangan (8000).
atama
The pair in a standard mahjong hand (four mentsu and one pair). Also “jantou”.
atamahane
頭跳ね
A rule that allows only one Ron at a time; the closest to the discarder in turn order takes priority.
atozuke
先付け
A rule that allows hands without yaku to Ron if the winning tile would create a yaku.
awaseuchi
合わせ打ち
Discarding the same tile as someone else, to avoid dealing into their hand.
ba
A “wind round”, e.g. tonba (east round) or nanba (south round).
bakaze
場風
Round wind.
barai
払い
A payment (also “furikomi”).
bazoro
場ゾロ
The two base Han used when calculating score, given by default rather than from yaku.
betaori
ベタ降り
A strategy that focuses entirely on avoiding dealing into opponents’ hands, with no intention of advancing one’s own hand.
chakan
加槓
A Kan tsu that was upgraded from a Min Kou.
chii
チー
The call used to make a Min Jun from an opponent’s discard.
chombo
冲合
A penalty that results in a Mangan payment and restarts the current round.
chunchan
中張
The tiles numbered 2 through 8. Also “tanyao”.
daburon
ダブロン
A rule that allows two people to Ron the same tile.
daiminkan
大明槓
An open Kan made by calling a discarded tile.
damaten
黙聴
Tenpai without calling Riichi.
Digital
デジタル
A school of thought that opposes Occult and believes that the outcome of a game can be explained by probability and statistics.
dorahyouji
ドラ表示
The dora indicator.
fu
A unit used to measure the difficulty of a hand’s composition when calculating score.
furikomi
振り込み
A payment, also “barai”.
furiten
振聴
To be Tenpai and waiting on a tile that you have already discarded.
fuutei
副底
The 20 base Fu used when calculating score, given by default rather than from composition.
genbutsu
現物
A 100% safe tile.
haipai
配牌
The distribution of tiles to all players at the beginning of a round.
haiteihai
海底牌
The last drawable tile in the wall.
haiyama
牌山
The “walls” from which tiles are drawn.
han
A unit used to measure the value of yaku when calculating score.
hanchan
半荘
A game consisting of an East and South round. Most common in Japanese Mahjong.
harabote
腹ボテ
A Shanpon or Tanki wait embedded inside a Shuntsu. For example, 4556 waiting on 5.
honba
本場
The number of consecutive Ren Chans, usually indicated by 100-point sticks.
houjuu
放銃
To deal into a hand.
houra
和了
To win a hand, e.g. Tsumo-hou, Ron-hou. Also found in a few yaku names like “Toitoi-hou”.
houteihai
河底牌
The tile discarded by the player who just drew the Haitei-hai.
iichan
一荘
A game consisting of East, South, West, and North rounds. More common in Chinese variants.
ikasama
イカサマ
To cheat using sleight of hand, etc.
inchiki
インチキ
To cheat using hacks, bug exploits, etc.
jantou
雀頭
The pair in a standard mahjong hand (four mentsu and one pair). Also “atama”.
jigokumachi
地獄待ち
A wait in which all but one of the winning tiles are visible or claimed.
jihai
字牌
Character tiles (sangenpai + kazehai).
jikaze
自風
Seat wind.
jun
The turn number within a round.
kabe
A tile-counting technique that measures the possibility of someone making Shuntsu based on how many instances of a tile are visible.
kamicha
上家
The player to your left.
kantsu
槓子
A meld of four identical tiles. Must be removed from the hand to be claimed as a Kan.
kanchan
嵌張
A wait that completes the inside of a Shuntsu, e.g. 46 waiting on 5.
kandora
カンドラ
A rule that causes more Dora indicators to be flipped when a Kan is made.
kazehai
風牌
Wind tiles.
kikenhai
危険牌
Dangerous tile.
kiru
切る
To discard a tile.
koutsu
刻子
A meld of three identical tiles.
kuikae
喰い替え
A rule that allows you to call a tile, then discard another tile that could have completed the meld. For example, to Chi 123 and discard a 4.
kuisagari
喰い下がり
A property of some yaku that reduces the Han value by 1 when the hand is open.
kuitan
喰い断
A rule that allows Tanyao to be open.
kyoku
A round that begins with the dealing of tiles and ends with the declaration of a win or draw. 4 per wind round, e.g. East 1st round, East 2nd round, etc.
machi
待ち
A tenpai hand’s wait, e.g. Ryanmen, Kanchan, etc.
manzu
萬子
The suit consisting of a kanji number plus 萬, meaning 10000.
mawashiuchi
回し打ち
Attempting to both win a hand and deal only safe tiles. Pretty hard unless you have really good radar.
mentsu
面子
The melds: Kou tsu, Shun tsu, and Kan tsu.
menzen
門前
A fully closed hand (no open melds).
min
Means “light”, refers to tiles that have been exposed by calling.
minjun
明順
An open Shun tsu made by calling a discarded tile.
minkou
明刻
An open Kou tsu made by calling a discarded tile.
naki
鳴き
Calling a discarded tile (Pon, Chi, or Kan).
nan
South.
No Ten bappu
ノーテン罰符
A payment made at the end of a round by those who are not Tenpai (or choose not to reveal their hands) to those who are Tenpai.
nobetan
延べ単
A double Tanki wait, e.g. 4567 waiting on 4 or 7.
nukidora
抜きドラ
A tile that counts as Dora when extracted from the hand, e.g. flower tiles or the Pei in Tenhou’s 3p.
Occult
オカルト
A school of thought that opposes Digital and believes that the outcome of a game is affected by luck, flow, Mahjong demons, etc.
oikakeriichi
追いかけリーチ
Riichi roulette. To make a Riichi declaration after someone else rather than defend.
okurikan
送り槓
A Kan left undeclared in order to use the tiles for other melds, e.g. 333345 = (333) (345).
oorasu
オーラス
The final round of a game (South 4th round in a Han Chan). Probably a contraction of English “all last”.
otakaze
客風
Non-bonus winds. For example, if you are South seat in East round, then your Otakaze are West and North.
pao
A property of certain yakuman that causes one person to be responsible for the whole payment if they discarded the tile that made it a yakuman.
pei
North.
penchan
辺張
A wait consisting of 12 waiting on 3, or 89 waiting on 7.
pinzu
筒子
The suit consisting of dot patterns.
pon
ポン
The call used to make a Min Kou from an opponent’s discard.
renchan
連荘
A continuation of dealer position because the dealer either won or was tenpai at the end of the round.
riipai
理牌
Arranging the tiles in your hand.
rinshanpai
嶺上牌
The tile drawn after making a Kan.
ron
A win using an opponent’s discard.
routouhai
老頭牌
The tiles numbered 1 and 9.
ryankan
両嵌
Two Kanchan shaped taatsu merged together, e.g. 357 which can be completed by either 4 or 6.
ryanmen
両面
A two-sided wait, e.g. 56 waiting on 4 or 7.
ryuukyoku
流局
A drawn game.
saikoro
骰子
The dice.
sangenpai
三元牌
Haku, Hatsu, and Chun.
sashikomi
差し込み
Intentionally dealing into an opponent’s hand.
shaa
西
West.
shabo
シャボ
Abbreviation of Shanpon.
shanten
向聴
Number of tiles needed to reach Tenpai.
shanpon
双ポン
A wait consisting of two pairs, one of which must be upgraded to a Kou tsu.
shibori
絞り
Holding on to tiles that an opponent would otherwise be likely to Pon or Chi.
shimocha
下家
The player to your right.
shonpai
生牌
A “live tile”, i.e. has not yet been discarded this round.
shuntsu
順子
A meld of 3 tiles in sequence.
shuupai
数牌
Number tiles. Also “suupai”.
souzu
索子
The suit consisting of patterns of bamboo sticks.
suji
The tiles that complete Ryanmen waits. The basis for many discard reading theories. Means “muscle”.
suteru
捨てる
To discard a tile.
suupai
数牌
Number tiles. Also “shuupai”.
taatsu
塔子
A tile pattern that can be turned into a Shun tsu with one more tile. For example, 46 can be completed with a 5.
tanyaohai
断幺牌
The tiles numbered 2 through 8. Also “chun chan hai”.
tanki
単騎
A wait on a single tile to complete the pair (jantou).
tenbou
点棒
Point sticks.
tenpai
聴牌
A hand that needs only one tile to win.
toitsu
対子
A pair of identical tiles.
toimen
対面
The player sitting directly across from you.
ton
East.
tonpuusen
東風戦
A game consisting of an East only round.
tsumo
自摸
A self-drawn tile. Usually announced when winning a hand, but can refer to any drawn tile.
tsumokiri
ツモ切り
Discarding the tile that was just drawn.
uradora
裏ドラ
Additional dora which can be earned by winning with Riichi.
wanpai
王牌
The “dead” section of wall that can’t be used except for Dora indicators and Kan draws.
wareme
割れ目
A rule that doubles any payment involving the player whose wall was broken at the start of the round.
yakitori
焼き鳥
A rule that requires players to win at least one hand or pay a penalty.
yaku
A scoring pattern in the hand that awards Han, such as Tanyao or Toitoi.
yaochuuhai
幺九牌
The tiles numbered 1 and 9 (routouhai) plus characters (jihai).
zentsuppa
全ツッパ
A strategy that attempts to win a hand at all costs while ignoring the possibility of dealing into an opponent’s hand.