Bedtime wear is different for everyone. While some prefer a t-shirt and shorts, others love sleeping in matching attire. In the United States, we refer to this sleepwear as pajamas, or as the abbreviation PJs. We love our cozy PJs for both sleeping and loungewear, with matching tops and bottoms making for the perfect photo opportunity with the family. If we call nighttime wear pajamas, what about the rest of the world? From Europe to Asia, there are many different names for bedtime sleepwear that have very interesting backgrounds. We guarantee you’ve never heard of some of these!
United States – Pajamas, PJs
In the US, we call our sleepwear “pajamas,” but did you know that we’re the only country to call them by this particular word? Well, to clarify, there are other countries that use that word, but spell it differently. They were originally worn by Muslims in India who called them “pae jamas.” “pae” for leg and “jama” for long jacket or top coat.
Then, the phrase was adapted later on to the English word pyjama. British colonials in India adopted these comfy clothes for afternoon naps, which quickly became all the rage for bedtime wear. It’s thought that American lexicographers altered the British “pyjamas” to simply “pajamas” in the 19th century. So, the United States’ word is a bit more in line with its origins. Pretty neat, huh? Americans are all about making their pajamas a style, rather than just sleepwear. Just take a look at our matching family pajamas and Christmas pjs to see how fashion and comfort are intertwined!
United Kingdom – Pyjamas, PJs, Jim-jams, Jarmies
As mentioned above, Americans and Brits use roughly the same word, but with different spellings. So then, what are jim-jams?!
They’re the same thing! Jim-jams is slang for pyjamas, originating from an early 20th century abbreviation of “pie-jim-jams.” Some Brits will say PJS for shorts or even “jarmies” as another variation. If you ever visit England or Scotland, don’t forget your jim-jams!
Germany – Der Schlafanzüg
“Der Schlafanzüge” translates to “sleep suit,” which traditionally consists of trousers and a top. To break it down, “schlafen” means sleep, and “Anzug” means clothes or suit. When it’s time for a “das Nickerchen” (a nap), you can put on der Schlafanzüg! Feeling like you’re in Deutschland yet?
Asia – Shuìyī (China), パジャマ (Japan), Yukata
Pajamas are a huge deal in Asia. Paul Poiret, a fashion designer in the 20th century, designed unique silk pajamas for daytime wear. This was for convenience and fashion, which is still popular today. Travel to Shanghai, China or parts of Japan and you’ll be amazed to see people out and about in their pajamas! Some even wear “Kigurumi,” which are stuffed animal themed pajamas.
They’re kind of like our onesies, as families in Asia commonly wear matching kigurumi! Stay in a hotel in Japan and you might be pleasantly surprised to see a drawer full of fresh pajamas, or what they call “yukata.” This is common for ryokan-style hotels as an effort to help guests travel with minimal luggage. Talk about hospitality!
Mexico, Guatemala, and Spain – El Pijama, Ropa de Dormir, Mameluco
Many Spanish speaking countries, like Mexico, Guatemala, and Spain use roughly the same words for pajamas. “El pijama” is a very close cousin to our use of the word pajama, whereas “ropa de dormir” means sleepwear.
In Mexico, you may hear “mameluco” in relation to pijamas, meaning one-piece pjs for babies, kids, and even adults. These are a lot like the Kigurumi worn in Asian countries.
Italy – Pigiama, Mudanz
How do Italians head off to sleep? In pigiama! This name translates to “a suit for sleeping.” If you live nearby neighbors who are Italian Americans, you may even hear them refer to pajamas as “mudanz,” which is a unique form of lingo often used. Pigiama party with pizza, anyone?
Russia – Pizhama
Russia’s name for bedtime wear is only 2 letters off from our own. “Pizhama” (пижама is the true way to write it!) means sleepwear. In the early 19th century, Indians traveled into Europe, where they brought the practice of wearing night clothing. The Russians took on the idea of wearing garments to sleep, changing the name from pyjama to pizhama. It was a step forward in modernity for the Soviet Union at the time. Who knew PJs could be so monumental? Now, there are a few brands that specialize in luxury pajamas in Russia.
Iceland – Náttföt
Iceland! The beautiful, icy home of glaciers, snow-capped mountain ranges, abundant hot geysers, and pajamas. Icelanders use the word “Náttföt,” which is pronounced like naught-foot, for sleepwear.
With their notorious Scandinavian design, there are many Icelandic brands that have influenced trendy spaces and clothing here in the states. Iceland is the kind of place we imagine that we’d hang out by the fire in our matchings pajamas as the snow falls.
It’s safe to say that pajamas, no matter which name they go by, are beloved by countries all over the world. Worn for bedtime and daily wear, pajamas have become a fashion statement for cultures worldwide, and for good reason! We’d be lying if we didn’t agree that PJs are the best for anytime of the day or week. Now that you’ve gotten a quick global education on the way different countries view pajamas, are there special names your family has for them? Maybe ones that your kids have created? Whether you say pajamas, pyjamas, jim-jams, or el pijamas, we can all agree that they have a special place in our families.