1. In Japan, table tennis is considered as a dark sport, which will be played by gloomy people like otaku.
  2. In Japan, table tennis has a dark image such that gloomy people like otaku will play it.

Could you advise me if the usage of "dark" in the senteces above I created is correct?

Actually, Google translation used the word "dark", but my search with the phrase "dark sport" on the web caused me to think that the translation is incorrect.

  • 6
    I wouldn't equate otaku with 'dark' at all. Dull, perhaps but not dark. People who don't know what otaku means won't have a clue anyway what you're talking about. Otaku can be translated as 'anoraks' or 'train spotters', but you're still on a pretty niche topic with those. Aug 11, 2023 at 15:58
  • 1
    "dull" may be suitable. Can using "dull" eliminate the additional explanation "which will be played by gloomy people like otaku"?
    – rama9
    Aug 11, 2023 at 16:13
  • 6
    Why would otaku be gloomy - they like trainspotting. They have high interest in what others would consider boring topics. They can be highly excited about them. I used to be called a 'midi otaku' or 'midi sensei' because I worked mixing & editing midi files [in Japan, of course, though I'm British] at such a level as only a dozen other people in the world would comprehend at the time. I don't play table tennis, wear an anorak or watch trains :P BTW, Google translate can't translate otaku at all. It offers 'otakudesu' which it translates as "I'm an otaku" amusingly. Aug 11, 2023 at 16:18
  • 7
    A nerd sport played by dorks? No. A dark sport is the kind they don't show on TV, e.g., because the 'ball' is severed head.
    – Mazura
    Aug 12, 2023 at 15:52
  • 2
    @rama9 Just out of curiosity, what Japanese term are you trying to convey with "dark sport"? 「陰キャのスポーツ」 ? If so, perhaps "nerd sport" or "dork sport" may be the best English approximation, although the meaning arguably changes somewhat.
    – Kyle Lin
    Aug 14, 2023 at 0:06

7 Answers 7


No, we do not tend to use dark like this in English. When I read, "table tennis is considered a dark sport", I think of meanings like these:

dark adjective

3 a : arising from or showing evil traits or desires : evil
// the dark powers that lead to war

d : relating to grim or depressing circumstances
// dark humor


Here's a headline from a recent New York Times article: "‘The Last of Us Part II’ Is a Dark Game for a Dark Time"

By "dark game", they mean things like this:

He said the story was inspired by a video he saw around 2000, in which two Israeli reservists were killed in Ramallah while a crowd cheered. “I was intrigued-slash-horrified how easily my mind was able to tip into these dark, violent thoughts..."

But by forcing you to act out both characters’ atrocities and reconcile with all the death you’ve inflicted, the game ends up in territory that is fairly cynical...this level of darkness is a natural result of big-budget game studios’ twin constraints...

Thus, it’s become a race to the darkest bottom in which each new release features a world more evil than the last, and each new antihero more nihilistic than the one before them.

So, if you describe table tennis as a "dark sport", I imagine that you're saying it's maybe somewhat evil, or promotes violence, or encourages players to act wickedly.

  • Not necessarily evil, could be just underground: "the dark net", "the black market", "shadow ops"
    – Stef
    Aug 14, 2023 at 19:34

"Dark", used in this way carries a connotation of sinister.

If anyone spoke of a "dark sport" I would assume it to be something that was illegal, such as cock-fighting, or Russian roulette!

  • 1
    I agree that this is how I’d take it, but I’d stress the “hidden” connotation more: cock-fighting is dark because it’s done out of view of the public.
    – Charles
    Aug 13, 2023 at 13:52
  • 1
    @Charles I would doubt that Russian roulette is played in front of a TV audience either. But this sense of dark doesn't just apply to sports etc. One speaks of "dark practices" - things such as people-traffiking or political assassination, which by their nature are hidden from view.
    – WS2
    Aug 14, 2023 at 8:29
  • exactly! I think this is the way most native English speakers would understand that coinage (“dark sports”), though.
    – Charles
    Aug 14, 2023 at 11:40
  • These days big game hunting might be considered a dark sport.
    – Peter
    Aug 14, 2023 at 12:05
  • No, it's considered illegal. Or it's on a ranch and then not actually sport.
    – Mazura
    Aug 14, 2023 at 17:57

A 'dork' sport perhaps?

Otaku is described on wikipedia as a "word that describes people with consuming interests, particularly in anime, manga, video games, or computers".

Possible equivalents in English could be 'dorky', 'nerdy', 'square' or 'geeky'.

  1. In Japan, table tennis is considered as a dorky sport, played by nerds like otaku.
  2. In Japan, table tennis has a dorky image, so that nerdy people like otaku will play it.
  • As it’s currently written, your answer is unclear. Please edit to add additional details that will help others understand how this addresses the question asked. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Aug 12, 2023 at 19:46
  • 3
    How about "table tennis has a small but dedicated following"
    – Criggie
    Aug 13, 2023 at 0:23
  • *Wikipedia Aug 14, 2023 at 22:07

The second sentence is correct:

In Japan, table tennis has a dark image such that gloomy people like otaku will play it.

This sounds a bit stilted, though, so I might rephrase slightly:

In Japan, table tennis has a dark image, associated with gloomy people like otaku.

In Japan, people think table tennis is for gloomy people like otaku.

The first sentence, as the other answers say, doesn’t mean what you’re trying to say, because dark in this context means “evil, sinister.” Some possible synonyms for various other things you might mean:

  • Unknown, unheard-of, or obscure
  • Unpopular, disliked, disdained, or (stronger) reviled
  • Disreputable, scandalous, or stigmatized
  • Shady, sleazy or dishonest

Of these, I think stigmatized comes the closest to what you’re trying to say, so something like:

In Japan, table tennis is stigmatized, as for gloomy people like otaku.

Note also that “gloomy people” means people who are depressed. In context, you might mean something else, such as “losers” or “lowlifes.”

  • Dark is actually one of the better translated words compared to the rest of it, +1. gloomy people like otaku has all got to go : > ne'er-do-well (plural ne'er-do-wells) A person without a means of support; an idle, worthless person; a loafer; a person who is ineffectual, unsuccessful, or completely lacking in merit; a good-for-nothing.
    – Mazura
    Aug 13, 2023 at 3:53
  • Table tennis is in no way dark. Similarly otaku are in no way gloomy. The whole thing is a poor translation. Aug 13, 2023 at 9:36
  • @DoneWithThis. In context, a better translation for both “dark” and “floomy” would be, “shady.” Keeps the metaphor, and much closer to the intended meaning.
    – Davislor
    Aug 13, 2023 at 11:31
  • 1
    'Shady' would imply dishonesty - again, doesn't fit. Aug 13, 2023 at 11:35

Contrary opinion incoming: If Japanese has a term best literally translated as "dark," and your goal is to introduce English speakers to this concept, the best thing you can do is use the literal translation and explain what it means. It wouldn't require a lot more information than your example sentences already provide.

The next best thing might be to identify one or more qualities of sports that tend to make them "dark" and use them to define a general category, for instance (I don't know if this is accurate, but you can adapt it):

In Japan, indoor sports like table tennis tend to be associated with shut-ins and otakus.

  • By far the best answer!
    – Stef
    Aug 14, 2023 at 19:36

I'm not sure whether I've seen that idiom before, but it seems perfectly reasonable: "played by gloomy people" i.e. diametrically opposed to public sports with cheerleaders and popcorn where everybody professes to be having a great time and the overall atmosphere is cheerful and bright.

  • 3
    It would make me gloomy to have to go to a sports event with cheerleaders & popcorn; but take me to do something I actually enjoy & I'd be happy as Larry. Aug 12, 2023 at 13:04

I have to step in, people are using terms too interchangeably. Nerds do very well academically (I saw a talk show host talking about too many people claiming to be nerds, "No, you're not"). Geeks are knowledgeable enough to know a lot about the topic they're into, e.g. anime. Dorks are socially inept, generally into stuff that isn't considered cool by many, and may or may not be smart. Or a person can do specific things that are dorky, as geeks and nerds may do, or anyone else. Nerd and geek is mainly a whole persona. Nerds and geeks may share some consumer interests, but geeks more make their identity. So I would say the closest to Otaku is geek. Geeks can be more of the hip type, or more dorky types. It sounds like Otaku leans more towards the latter. I would just say it as,

In Japan, table tennis is considered to be a dorky sport for geeks.

Or maybe just,

... a sport for geeks.

If you want to sound nicer about it. But 'dorky' can be taken in jest also, like, "Omg, you're such a dork" when someone does something silly, like getting all up in arms about people mixing up these terms.

Here is a video that compares and contrasts nerds and geeks.

Here are definitions,


a person devoted to intellectual, academic, or technical pursuits or interests


1 : a person often of an intellectual bent who is disliked 2 : an enthusiast or expert especially in a technological field or activity


an odd, socially awkward, unstylish person

And to agree with others, no, that is not the right usage of 'dark', as neither is 'gloomy'.

  • 1
    As it’s currently written, your answer is unclear. Please edit to add additional details that will help others understand how this addresses the question asked. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Aug 13, 2023 at 7:29
  • Ok done Dr robot
    – user175826
    Aug 13, 2023 at 7:37
  • 3
    I object in principle to such fine distinctions among slang terms. All words to an extent, but especially words like these, are defined by how they're used. If everyone thinks the words are basically interchangeable, then the words are interchangeable. Aug 13, 2023 at 21:35
  • I would say not everyone does, most people are not experienced in places and situations where such terms are used. Most people aren't actually nerds. Clearly the references I linked to show there are differences.
    – user175826
    Aug 13, 2023 at 21:39

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