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
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
Japanese word meaning obsessive fan of anything.Somewhat derogatory meaning that you put your interest above all else. Westerners tend to use it without the derogatory connotations. Rather, an otaku is someone who is a dedicated fan of anime and/or manga.
Example? Example? Example?
by Liam March 02, 2005

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