The Origin Stories of 10 Cool Cosplay Terms

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It’s that time of year again when fanboys and girls from around the world transform into superheroes, aliens, or maybe just George Lucas. That’s right: It’s New York Comic Con.

Cosplay and convention culture can trace their roots back to at least the 1970s, when in the U.S. fans began to appear at science fiction conventions dressed as Starfleet commanders, Luke Skywalker, and the like, and in Japan, college students attended manga and anime festivals donned in full character regalia.

Such a colorful culture has also given rise to colorful terminology. You can find 12 right here to introduce you to the world of cosplay.


The manga style of comics emerged from post-World War II Japan with Ozama Tezuka’s Astro Boy. The genre is drawn in a “meticulously detailed style,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), and is often associated with a science fiction or fantasy theme.

While the term first appeared in English in 1951, manga in Japanese is from 1799 or earlier. Translated as “involuntary pictures,” manga was coined in 1812 by artist Katsushika Hokusai to describe a free-flowing, quirky style.


While Japanese animation has existed since as far back as 1917, anime as we know it today arose in the 1970s. This term for what's basically the animated version of manga first appeared in English in 1985 and might be based on the French animé, animated or lively. Before the 1970s, Japanese animation was known as manga eiga, or “TV manga.”


Cosplay, a blend of costume and play, comes from the Japanese kosupure, itself a Japanification of costume play, which originated in 19th century English to refer to a costume drama.

Kosupure was coined by Nobuyuki Takahashi, who would later become a film editor on such J-horror classics as Ringu and Ju-On: The Grudge. But back in 1983, he was writing about fans who attended conventions dressed as their favorite manga and anime characters. The term kasou, a Japanification of costume, already existed, but didn’t capture the right spirit of cosplay, according to Kotaku, while a translation of the English masquerade seemed too old-fashioned to Takahashi. Hence, kosupure was born.


Layer is Japanese slang for cosplayer. Layer Support is a cleaning service specifically for cosplay costumes.


A furry is a fan of human-like animal characters and people dressed as such characters. While the OED’s earliest citation is from 1989, the furry phenomenon probably began in the early 1980s, if not sooner.


A Japanese loan word, otaku refers to someone extremely knowledgeable about a hobby or subculture, and who might be, at least according to the OED, skilled in "computer technology" and unskilled in interpersonal interaction. In other words, a nerd.

Otaku seems to have suffered a sort of reverse-reappropriation, at least in Japan. While in English, geek and nerd are traditionally pejorative terms that have gained a degree of coolness, otaku began in the early 1980s as an "insider" term—a way that anime and manga fans addressed each other, then any member of the subculture. Otaku only became an insult in the hands of the media commenting on such a subculture. Meanwhile, outside Japan, otaku has positive connotations, denoting someone who's an expert or aficionado.

Otaku translates literally from the Japanese as “your house” (in other words, people who are otaku don’t leave the house), and cosplay otaku is thought of as a subset.


Chibi, which translates from Japanese as “runt,” is a cute kid version of an anime character. Chibi and super-deformed are sometimes used interchangeably. However, while all chibis are super-deformed, not all super-deformed are chibis. Chibis are always child-like, but super-deformed describes a character drawn in any exaggerated or deformed way.

Both are used in anime as parody or slapstick. For instance, a character may suddenly become chibi when behaving immaturely.


Returning to the humdrum of everyday life from a place where one might be treated like a rock star can be a huge downer. Hence, post-con depression, or PCD, the blues some cosplayers feel after attending a convention.


Post-convention, you might also endure the con-plague, sometimes called the con crud, an illness one catches after several days of being in close quarters with throngs of people, not eating well, and not getting enough sleep.

There’s much advice about how to avoid the con-plague, which are basically the same tactics to avoid catching a cold or the flu.


If you don't want con-plague, you might also want to eschew glomping. An aggressive tackle-hug, glomp began as an anime term but has extended to convention use. Convention etiquette seems to be against it due to the possibility of costume crushing and bodily harm. It’s unclear if glomping is innate behavior among enthusiasts or if it's in imitation of anime characters.

According to TV Tropes, glomp may come from the English translation of the sound effect of the overenthusiastic embrace in some manga. A popular theory says that glomp is a backronym of "Grab, Latch On, Maintain Pressure," but more likely the word is imitative, and might be influenced by the English glom, to snatch or grab, or glamp, to grope or snatch at.