The term "otaku" seems to have been introduced to anime fans in the US and other countries via Studio Gainax's "Otaku no Video 1985," a self-parody film.
Otaku, meaning probably "venerable house," refers to someone who has a devotion to a subject or hobby (not necessarily anime) to the point of not leaving home. For instance, an otaku fan of a particular movie star could quite possibly know all of the films s/he has been in, their birth date, time of birth, shoe size, favorite toothpaste, etc. Generally speaking, calling someone an otaku in Japan is an insult, implying that their social skills have atrophied or never even developed, due to their manic involvement in their chosen fandom.

In America, the term is used to denote a zealous fan, usually of anime and/or manga. Due to its introduction to most people's vocabulary through its tongue-in-cheek use in Gainax's film, "otaku" tends to have a much less dire definition overseas.

When dealing with Japanese people, however, it may be best to keep in mind the modern Japanese image of an otaku -- Someone who only leaves their home to eat or shop, if at all, with an overwhelming and unhealthy obsession about something. It can as easily refer to a stalker or sociopath as it can to a harmless anime buff.

Best to avoid the word altogether if one is not sure of the context in which it will be received.
Positive: "Oh, wow! Check it out: Neck-through, Floyd Rose locking tremolo and an optional push/pull coil tap!" (slaps forehead and laughs) "Man, I am such a guitar otaku, aren't I?"

Negative: "Stay clear of Toshi, man. He's such a RQ otaku, always online. Bet he's never actually even talked to a real-live girl before... You never know when he's gonna' snap, right?"
by Cobweb February 23, 2005
An extremely negative Japanese term, referring to a shut-in or someone with no social life. It also implies that the person's entire life is molded around fictional characters (usually anime and manga).
In America, the term has been embraced by anime fans, who (as they do with many Japanese words), use the word incorrectly as a positive term for fanboy/girl.
1. "God, that kid is such an otaku. He won't leave the basement unless it's to buy new Dragon Ball fansubs."
2. "I, like, so totally love Sailor Moon! Serena rawks! I am, like, the ultimate Sailor Moon otaku!"
by Charon May 21, 2003
Japanese: An insulting word meaning someone who is completely obsessed with something. They are the type that generally live in their parents' basements at 30 years old and have no social life.

English: A term meaning someone very into anime/manga/Japanese culture. It can be taken as either a compliment or an insult, depending on the recipient (I take it as a compliment, for example).
J: Man, that otaku needs a bath, he's been in his basement for a week without one.

E: Wow, look at all these otaku at the convention, dressed like their favorite characters! They're having so much fun!
by Sailor KnightWing April 27, 2004
Otaku in japanese is used primarily to describe someone who is obsessed with something to the point of un-healthiness. They lose their grip on reality so to speak. 'Gun-Otaku,' one who is obsessed with guns. 'porn-otaku,' one obsessed with porn. so on and so forth. The american meaning, maybe its used else where to...I dunno. any way, otaku over here is someone who likes anime a wwhhoollee lot, though they normally lead a normal life (unlike jap. otaku). Not really a bad term, though many see it as such.
No example. Its self explanitory.
by Kiwi Lord July 01, 2003
Originally the Japanese term for "house (more specifically, your house" in the honorific form of the language, made by adding the prefix "o-" to the word for house "taku." It can also be used as an honorific second-person pronoun.

Today, the word has taken on a different meaning: it refers to a person who has had or is in the middle of having an intense hobby, which is usually added before the word itself. See the example below (1).

The connotation of the term varies in relation to the speaker and how much said speaker knows about the actual context in which it should be used. Especially common among American fans, an otaku is simply a very devoted follower (2). However, the word has a harsher, more negative connotation in Japanese. It is a term that refers to the receiver of the description is a very reclusive, sociopathic person who has a severe addiction to any form of media and (in some cases) will rarely, if ever, leave his or her house to meet minimal living requirements or obtain more of said media (hence the term otaku derived from its original meaning refering to a house)(3). It is not to be confused with the term "hikikomori," or a person/people who has/have withdrawn from society. It is a dire insult, especially to those who do not actually fit the category of otaku.

Otaku (plural) are generally looked down upon in Japanese society, constantly derided for their passions. These insults may or may not have a penny's worth of truth, but they base themselves in preconceived notions of how previous people of obsession have acted. The otaku do receive a lot of scorn from their fellow peers, and hate crimes against them are not all that uncommon (4). Nevertheless, the word is not completely negative. For example, the largest anime/manga/East Asian convention in the United States is named "Otakon", and there is also the American-based "A-kon" (5). Several people worldwide have made attempts to remove its negative connotation, but have not been completely successful.
(1) Coinage
anime otaku, manga otaku

(2) American Usage, two boys
"I haven't left my room for days, I'm totally addicted to One Piece."
"Dude, you're a total otaku."
"Yeah, right?"

(3) Japanese Usage, one girl approaching a boy; the girl is stopped by a group of her peers who reprimand her advance
"Hey, you might want to stay away from that guy. He's an otaku."
(This comment is usually followed by sounds and/or remarks made by the new girl and/or the group itself.)
"Like the hikikomori type?"
"Nah, he actually leaves his house to buy groceries."

(4) Mention of hate crimes against said person/people
"In 1989, a man named Tsutomu Miyazaki became known as 'The Otaku Murderer' for his crimes which specifically targeted otaku."

(5) Two people mentioning Otakon
"Hey, are you goin' to Otakon this weekend?"
"Hell yeah, I'mma be outa money by Sunday! You?"
"Wish. I gotta lot of make-up work for 'being sick' during that last convention."
by Flashtirade February 09, 2009
sometimes used to mean hardcore anime fan. Originally comes from the Japanese word otaku meaning house. If your a otaku it means you have no social life, love life, ect

leave a thumb up if your a fellow otaku
"dude i met another otaku today."

by Mystogan-shadowbane November 10, 2014
William Gibson, one of the originators of the 'cyberpunk' science fiction genre, used the term "otaku" in his 1996 novel "Idoru". The meaning given, from a Japanese-translation computer function used by a character, was 'pathological techno-fetishist with social deficit'. The character so described spent much of his time online in a multi-user domain and subsisted on Ramen-type noodles and canned coffee. Although by Japan's rigorous social standards a "loser", the character was well-mannered and good-hearted.
"The otaku guys at my last school were into, like, plastic anime babes, military simulations, and trivia. Bigtime into trivia." -"Idoru", William Gibson
by Heather Cruikshank October 10, 2005
In American culture, 'Otaku' means 'One who is obsessed with Japanese culture, entertainment, etc.'

It literally is the honorific way to say 'House', and is used to mean 'Someone who stays in their house all the time'.

It's not usually a good thing to be called an Otaku, but others take pride in it.
Person 1: I love anime!
Person 2: You're such an Otaku!
by Darkinuhanyou September 01, 2006
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