Baka is a Japanese word that means “crazy,” “foolish,” or downright “stupid.” It can also be used as a noun for “a fool” or “a crazy or stupid person.” Anime and manga fans in the West have adopted the use of baka as a (usually joking) insult.

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There are multiple theories on the origin of the word baka. One argues that it came from a Sanskrit word used by Buddhist monks in Japan. You know how slang spreads around a monastery. The Sanskrit word may have been moha, “bewildered,” or mahallaka, “senile.”

It may also come from wakomono, meaning “young people” (who are occasionally crazy or foolish) or an older use of baka meaning “a bankrupt family” (maybe as an insult for someone so irresponsible they’re in danger of bankrupting their family).

Baka (馬鹿) is written with the characters for horse and deer. Yet another origin story suggests that it comes from the story of a courtier who calls a deer a horse. What a moron.

Regardless of its exact origins, baka was in use as an insult in the 14th century, when it shows up in the historical epic the Taiheiki.

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Baka was used in English during World War II. The Japanese military used human-piloted missiles in kamikaze attacks. American soldiers called such a craft Baka.

As with many other Japanese words, anime and manga are what really introduced the West to baka. One 1980s manga-turned-anime series, Urusei Yatsura, featured a character who constantly berates her would-be boyfriend, yelling “Darling no baka,” roughly “Darling, you idiot,” before electrocuting him with her space alien powers.

By the late 1980s, English-speaking anime fans were using “ no baka” as an inside joke. By the 1990s, anime fans were peppering baka into their online writing.


In 1995, the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, the character Asuka practically uses Anta baka? as a catchphrase, roughly translated as “What are you, stupid?”