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What does ‘amigurumi’ mean?

Today’s guest post is written by Alyssa, MonstersToyBox on Ravelry.

Alyssa is a student in Linguistics and Japanese, as well as a very talented knitter and crocheter. Who better to tell us what ‘amigurumi’ means?

What does the word ‘amigurumi’ mean?

You probably know that amigurumi are incredible cute toys made from yarn. And you probably know that amigurumi was originally Japanese.

A collection of amigurumi knit & crocheted by Alyssa

But what exactly is amigurumi? There are a couple different answers for that, and one of them is looking at what it originally meant in its native Japanese:

The first kanji (Japanese symbol of writing) is the character for “knit”; it can also mean several other things, but the knitting is what is important here.

And it is not just knitting; this character can apply to both knitting and crocheting. Japanese does not have two different words for knitting and crochet like English does. In fact, to crochet in Japanese is actually “to knit with a hook”.

So now we have the “knitted and crocheted” part of amigurumi. However, the second kanji is a bit trickier. One of its meanings is “wrapped”. At first, it doesn’t seem to have a lot to do with toys, however, “wrapped” implies that there is something being put inside. What is put inside amigurumi? Stuffing, of course! So perhaps a better meaning for this part, at least as it applies to amigurumi, is “stuffed”, although a native Japanese speaker told me that it is not limited to just stuffing. All sorts of things could be put inside amigurumi to give them shape, rubber balls, for example. The toy part here is assumed… what other knitting or crocheting is stuffed?

Does it have to be worked in the round?

Almost all translations will say that amigurumi means “knit or crocheted stuffed toy”, however, the majority of amigurumi (and especially Japanese amigurumi) is crocheted. That doesn’t exclude knitting as a valid form of amigurumi nor does amigurumi have to be worked in a particular style. I have found that many Japanese amigurumi are worked in joined rounds, but not all amigurumi has to be worked that way, and it certainly does not make it any less of an amigurumi!

Ready to start looking for Japanese amigurumi?

In Japanese, amigurumi is rarely written using the kanji anymore. Instead, it is written using the much simpler, syllabic hiragana (a phonetic alphabet):

If you are interested in looking for amigurumi in the original Japanese, this is what you are most likely to see.

Highlight this piece of text: あみぐるみ and pop it into Google… it’s your trick to finding oodles of images and even Japanese amigurumi books. Most Japanese books are charted, so they’re accessible to you even if you don’t speak Japanese!

5 Responses to “What does ‘amigurumi’ mean?”

  1. Superkrab says:

    What an interesting read. Thank you so much, I love learning about amigurumi and everything japanese! I just googled あみぐるみ and I’m having much fun and getting inspiration by seeing all those images!

  2. Pauline says:

    wow how interesting to see how the word comes together thanks for that luv your work :O)

  3. Kaori says:

    I’m japanese but I didn’t know Amigurumi is like that mean! I thought, in japanese ,Stuffed toy is Nuigurumi , Nuigurumi is generally made by sewing. So what happen if you knit ? Knit is Nuu in japanese. So knitting-stuffed toy—Nui-gurumi.(of course you have to change Nuu to Nui as grammer.)

    And,,,,, I’ve never seen Amigurumi in Kanji.
    So it’s….just she/he wanted to write about japanese?