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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Ainu \Ai"nu\, n. [Said to be the native name for man.] One of a peculiar race found primarily in Hokkaido, in the northern part of the empire of Japan, the Kurile Islands, and nearby. They are believed to be the native inhabitants of the Japanese islands. The Ainus are stout and short, with hairy bodies. Also called Aino and hairy Ainu.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

people native to northern Japan and far eastern Russia, 1819, from the Ainu self-designation, literally "man, human." Once considered to be Caucasian, based on their appearance; DNA testing has disproved this. Their language is an isolate with no known relatives.


a. Of or pertaining to the Ainu ethnic group or their language. n. 1 An ethnic group on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. 2 The endangered language spoken by the Ainu ethnic group, generally considered a language isolate with no known relation to other languages.


Ainu or Aynu may refer to:

  • Ainu people, of Japan and Siberia
    • Ainu languages, the Ainoid language family including Emishi languages
      • Hokkaido Ainu language
    • Ainu music
    • Ainu cuisine
  • Ainu (Middle-earth) (plural Ainur), a primordial spirit in J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy writings
  • Äynu people, of Western China
    • Äynu language

Usage examples of "ainu".

Harry had these endless meetings and I simply wandered around their museum, I learned more about the Ainu than I know what to do with.

No, the Ainu, the earliest inhabitants, they were a Neolithic people, short, dark, thick and hairy, heavy beards and hair all over their bodies I suppose for the terrible cold.

Mister Basic, telling him about that museum and I suddenly found myself talking about the hairy Ainu and the more I tried to get away from it the worse it got.

Waving that newspaper at me, piece in here on your hairy Ainu you were talking about, thought maybe you missed it?

Particularly instructive and well reported is the instance of bear cult of the Ainu of Japan, a Caucasoid race that entered and settled Japan centuries earlier than the Mongoloid Japanese, and are confined today to the northern islands, Hokkaido and Sakhalin -- the latter now, of course, in Russian hands.

And we find the same thought expressed in the final instructions delivered to the departed in the Ainu rites of burial.

Moreover, since death alone would be no punishment for an Ainu, their extreme sentence for serious crimes is death by torture.

Since the bear, the leading figure of the Ainu pantheon, is regarded as a mountain god, a number of scholars have suggested that a like belief may account for the selection of lofty mountain caves to be the chapels of the old Neanderthal bear cult.

The two, the fire-goddess and the mountain god, are supposed to be chatting together while their Ainu hosts and hostesses entertain them with song the night long, and with food and drink.

And this conjecture is the more likely in the light of the later appearance of domesticated fire, not only in the high Neanderthal bear sanctuaries but also in the context of the Ainu bear festivals, where it is identified explicitly with the manifestation of a goddess.

No one could say for certain, but here were the Ainu, with their distinct physique, language and culture.

Their fortunes, like those of the Ainu, had faded as Japan modernized, perhaps in part because they eschewed the use of modern weapons like guns.

Makato, who seemed to know something about the Ainu, assured us that they could be trusted, and I was glad to accept his judgment.

Thus I soon found myself in the chisei, the traditional Ainu house, with a family of four with whom I could not speak.

I knew these were all symbols of a vanishing culture, for only a few thousand Ainu remained on Hokkaido, and most of these were not pure blooded.