Kawaii is the quality of cuteness in the context of Japanese culture. It has become a prominent aspect of Japanese popular culture, entertainment, clothing, food, toys, personal appearance, behavior, and mannerisms.
The word kawaii originally derives from the phrase 顔映し kao hayushi, which literally means “(one’s) face (is) aglow,” commonly used to refer to flushing or blushing of the face. The second morpheme is cognate with -bayu in mabayui (眩い or 目映い) “dazzling; glaring, blinding, too bright” (ma- is from 目 me “eye”). Over time, the meaning changed into the modern meaning of “cute”, and the pronunciation changed to かわゆい and then to the modern かわいい. It is most commonly written in hiragana, かわいい, but the ateji, 可愛い, has also been appended. The kanji in the ateji literally translates to “able to be loved, can/may love, lovable.”
[ FREE kawaii katakana ]