Regardless of what level of proficiency you’re at in Japanese, there is just some stuff that they won’t teach you in textbooks. In any language, people use slang words. Most of the time, they’re the younger crowd. But slang words are what make your conversational skills more natural.
We’ve compiled a list of the top 10 cool Japanese words that the kids are saying today. By the end of the article, you’ll be chatting like one of the cool kids!
1. Osu! (おっす！)
The first of the list of Japanese words is osu (おっす). This is used as a greeting among friends. Back in the day, this type of greeting was a military greeting. It was considered very formal. Nowadays, it’s as casual as it can get. So don’t go greeting your bosses with this!
Osu is used in the same way we use “what’s up?” in English. I’ve heard a lot of my friends using it, but it’s mostly guys that say this to each other. It’s definitely fine if a girl says it, but it does have a more masculine ring to it.
2. Chō (超)
This next Japanese word is pretty common. Chō (超) is translated to “super” or “very”. Instead of using “totemo” (とても), you can use this Japanese word in its place. For example, if you want to say something is very fast, you can say it as “chō hayai” (超早い).
It’s said that it’s more commonly used in Eastern Japan, but I hear it all the time. I even use it myself. Japanese people use it on a daily basis. Alternatively, you can use the Japanese word “meccha” (めっちゃ), which has similar meanings.
“Hanpa nai” (半端ない) is commonly used among the youngsters. The word “hanpa” has the meaning of something that is incomplete, but when you say it in this phrase, it’s used when describing something is insane, figuratively speaking.
It’s not to talk about someone that’s insane in the head, but for situations. Hanpa nai can be use for good and bad. If it’s raining so heavily and you’re thinking, “the rain is insane!” then you can say it as “ame hanpa nai!” (雨半端ない)
4. Maji (まじ)
This next Japanese word is one that I like to use often: maji (まじ). This word can have a few different meanings. The first one is when you’re exclaiming like “are you serious?”. You can say that as “maji de?” (まじで？)
The other meaning to it is the same meaning as chō , which means “very”. So if you want to say something is so insane, you can say it as “maji de hanpa nai” (まじで半端ない).
5. Gachi (ガチ)
One Japanese word that kids nowadays like to use is “gachi” (ガチ). This word translates to “seriously”. It’s kind of similar to “maji” in that sense. However, “maji” can be used on its own but “gachi” can’t. It has to be attached to something.
For example, if you want to say that something is seriously funny, you can say it as “gachi de omoshiroi” (ガチで面白い). Impress your Japanese friends by saying that sentence next time!
6. Ukeru (ウケる)
“Ukeru” (ウケる) literally translates to “to take”, but the kids these days have been using it as a slang. It’s used as a reaction to something that’s funny. Although it’s classified as a verb, it can be used as a verb as well as an interjection.
If your friend said something so hilarious, you can laugh at him and then add “ウケる” at the end. It’s like saying “haha, you’re hilarious!”
7. Bimyō (微妙)
Our next Japanese word doesn’t have a direct translation to English. “Bimyō” (微妙) can be translated to as “questionable” or “doubtful”, but the kids today are using it as slang for something that’s neither good nor bad. Most of the time, it’s closer to being bad than google
Say you’re trying on some clothes and asking your friend what she thinks about it. If she responses with “bimyō”, it means she doesn’t really think it’s that great…but not super bad either.
8. Dasai (ダサい)
You might have heard of this one in anime or Japanese drama. They do use this word in real life, too! “Dasai” (ダサい) can refer to both looks and action, and it’s a way of expressing that someone or something is ugly.
If someone is doing something bad or inconsiderate, you can respond to their action with “dasai”. Similarly, if you see someone on the street wearing rugged clothing and it looks awful, you can say that it’s “dasai”.
9. Uzai (うざい)
If you’re feeling a bit annoyed by something or someone, use this word: uzai (うざい). Say you’re pointing to a person and wants to say that they’re annoying, you can say it this way: “ano hito, uzai!” (あの人、うざい).
Another way of saying something or someone is annoying is by using the word “mukatsuku” (ムカつく). The word has more of a meaning of “irritating”. This one can be used in a sentence or on its own, too.
10. Yabai (やばい)
Last but not least, the Japanese word you should have at the top of your Japanese vocabulary list is “yabai” (やばい). This word translates to “terrible” or “awful”, but in slang term, it doesn’t necessarily mean bad. It can also be used to refer to positive things.
You can use “yabai” to describe just about anything, good or bad, person or thing. It’s like a reaction phrase. If you see something incredible happening in front of you, you can react with a “yabai!” If your food tastes bad, you can also describe it as “yabai”.
It’s an all-rounder word that’s used by many young people in Japan. I’ve met older Japanese people who don’t understand why the kids today are using the word in that context. But hey, we’re out here trying to sound cool.
While we only list 10 cool Japanese words, there are so many more that’s used as slang. When you’re travelling to Japan, hang out with some of the locals and listen in. You may hear a word or two that you never knew about!