Two words that are very familiar to anime fans are now being seriously considered by Merriam Webster Dictionary as official additions to the English language, and yes, Senpai, they have most certainly noticed you!
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) May 13, 2016
Senpai still hasn’t noticed us. But we’ve definitely noticed senpai. https://t.co/tl4QIgowlT
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) May 12, 2016
Senpai has been used as terms in English for some time now, and because of this, the word are being considered as an addition to the dictionary. According to the dictionary’s official website:
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In informal use, senpai (also styled as sempai) can refer to anyone whose attention you want to get—that could be someone you admire and want to be friends with or someone you’re interested in romantically.
Senpai made its first appearance in Urban Dictionary back in 2004, when a user defined it as “an upperclassman.” Other entries (a number of which mention anime and manga) have since been added; it’s defined there variously as “someone older than you,” “someone you look up to,” “mentor,” “senior,” an “older person who you adore.” There are more.
The top definition (as chosen by users) is “someone who will never notice you.”
Which is sad, because as KnowYourMeme tells us, it’s all about getting senpai to notice you. In anime and manga, there are frequently characters trying to get the love or attention of a senpai, and phrases about being noticed by senpai have become popular catchphrases.
The website also mentioned “Kohai,” because the word always comes hand-in-hand with Senpai, right?
Ranking below a senpai is a kohai. Kohai, typically translated as “junior” or “protégé,” is often used to contrast with senpai
As of now, the word is still under consideration for the dictionary, and not yet officially added, as they are still looking into the frequency the word is being used in the language.
Senpai is not yet a fully naturalized member of the English language, as the frequent glosses of it in context demonstrate.
But senpai is real. Which we know will be reassuring to a certain set.