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The term is believed to have been coined by Hikaru Ijūin in 1999, and was originally intended to describe people who are pretending to be "grown-ups" in their second year of middle school.

The term is a portmanteau of the words yanderu , meaning to show genuinely strong romantic affection.

These characters have feline habits, claw-like nails, and occasionally show fangs.

Emotional expressions are also feline in nature, such as an exaggerated fur-standing-on-end when startled.

Something or someone that is considered moe is generally considered to be endearing, innocent and naive, while taking on some of the emotional qualities of adolescence generally meant to invoke a paternal feeling of protectiveness and sympathy within the viewer.

The most literal translation of the word into languages other than Japanese is "fetish", though the concept of moe does not necessarily have a direct correlation to sexual preferences and often refers to works of a non-sexual nature.