お土産 [おみやげ] – present; souvenir

  • お – “honorific” prefix
  • 土 [ド・つち] – soil; ground
  • 産 [サン・うむ] – product; native; give birth to

お土産 is a gift that is commonly brought back from a trip for coworkers,  family members, and friends.  Since each area in Japan is famous for some sort of food, it follows that the gift is a “product of the native soil.”

The prefix お is often called an “honorific” prefix in English.  Basically, it either lends an air of respect to what you’re talking about or indicates that the thing referred to is meant for someone else.  Perhaps I’ll cover more on that in a future article.

Notice that if “normal” rules applied, the word should be pronounced どさん.  The pronunciation みやげ is a bit of a special case.