What does karoshi mean?

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Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: karoshi.

Before I met my husband, 27 years ago, I was a self-diagnosed workaholic. My husband’s relaxed, easy-going manner helped me lighten up a lot, even though I continue to work really hard. I just don’t spend as much time at it as I used to.

I’m still interested in the theory of work, however, and articles like the one titled Five Simple Office Policies That Make Danish Workers Way More Happy Than Americans (in Fast Company) catch my eye.

Who knew that the most interesting part of this article would be linguistic! Here’s a quote from it, explaining the meaning of the Japanese word, karoshi.

Many Americans hate their jobs and consider this to be perfectly normal. For instance, where we Scandinavians have arbejdsglæde, the Japanese instead have karoshi, which means “Death from overwork.” And this is no coincidence; there is no word for it in Danish because Danish workplaces have a long-standing tradition of wanting to make their employees happy. To most Danes, a job isn’t just a way to get paid; we fully expect to enjoy ourselves at work.

And that arbejdsglæde word?

It’s Danish. Arbejde means “work” and glæde means “happiness,” so arbejdsglæde is “happiness at work.” This word also exists in the other Nordic languages (Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish and Icelandic) but is not in common use in any other language on the planet.