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!
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.
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)
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).
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!”
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.
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!
We know that the Japanese language has borrowed more than a few words from the English language. But what about the other way round? Are there any English words that are actually of Japanese origin?
There are, actually. In fact, there are quite a few words that we use often. Of course, the usual suspects “ramen” and “sushi” are obviously from the Japanese language, along with “samurai” and “kimono”. But there are a handful of words that aren’t as known and obvious.
We’ve compiled a short but interesting list of 10 English words that are actually really Japanese. Keep scrolling to find out what they are!
The paper-folding craft, known to us as “origami”, is actually of Japanese origin! The word is made up of two Japanese words: “ori” (おり) to mean “fold” and “kami” (紙) to mean “paper”. When put together, it means “folded paper”. In Japanese, though, “origami” refers to a folded official document like a certificate.
Originally, the names for this paper folding craft include “orimono”, “orikata” and “orisue”. The change to “origami” is still unclear to this day, but it’s believed to start around the 20th century. Some say it was easier for Japanese kids to spell during Japan’s kindergarten movement in the late 19th century. Others say it might be because the English translation for the word makes more sense to use it.
Will we ever know the real reason?
If you don’t know it yet, a typhoon is a rotating giant storm of wind and rain. It’s similar to a hurricane as both are kinds of tropical cyclones. This word actually comes from a Japanese word for the same thing: taifu (台風). The kanji used “風” actually means “wind”.
Did you know that word for the small symbols you type in messages is actually Japanese? “Emoji” is used to express your emotional attitude on electronic devices like smartphones and laptops, and often gives a more playful tone.
The word comes from the Japanese word “moji” (文字) which means “character” or “letter” and “e” (絵) which means “picture” or “drawing”. When put together, the meaning is like putting a picture in a letter. And now we have our beloved smiley faces.
Rickshaws are light vehicles that often have two wheels and are pulled by a person. Usually, the person is either pulling it while on foot or on a bicycle. You often see this in Asia, and first used in Japan in the late 1800s.
Originally, the word “rickshaw” (which is also spelled as “ricksha”) had another syllable in front of it. The original word was “jinricksha”, sometimes spelled as “jinrikisha”. This word comes from the Japanese language. It’s a combination of three words: “jin” (人) to mean “man”, “riki” (力) to mean “strength” and “sha” (車) to mean “carriage”. When you put it together, it means “strong man carriage”.
If you like puzzles, then you probably have played sudoku before. This 9×9 grid of squares contains 3×3 boxes. Each box has the numbers 1 to 9, and every row of the grid also has to contain the numbers 1 to 9.
The word “sudoku” is actually the short form of the Japanese phrase “sūji wa dokushin ni kagiru”. This means “the numerals must remain single” — it’s saying that the digits can only appear once. The word “sudoku” itself only made it into English publications early this century.
Maybe not all of you know this word — heck, I didn’t — but “skosh” means “a small amount”. This word was introduced by the US soldiers who were stationed in Japan after World War II. They learned the word from the Japanese word “sukoshi” (少し). This Japanese word, when spoken, is pronounced “skoh-shee”.
Is your boss at work a hotshot? Then he’s a “honcho”. This word refers to the person in charge of other people. It was introduced by the Americans who were imprisoned in Japan during the Second World War.
“Honcho” comes from the Japanese word “hanchō” (班長) to mean “squad leader”. “Han” refers to “squad” and “chō” refers to “head” or “chief”.
That cotton-filled mattress on your bed, couch or chair is known as a “futon”. This is a word we all commonly use, but did you know it’s actually a Japanese word? Futon, spelled and pronounced the same in Japanese as 布団, is a staple of small apartments and dorms.
In English, futon is something that you sleep on, but in Japanese, it can refer to a thick comforter.
Don’t mistake this word for the tropical cyclone. A tycoon is someone who is a top leader, usually in politics, or a very wealthy businessperson. This word is often used in the latter meaning.
How the word came to be associated with the meaning of a political leader is interesting. The first time an American consul came to Japan after the country opened up its borders, the shogun (the military deputy) was assumed to be a secular emperor. The American thought the shogun’s title was “taikun”, like the Chinese characters “dà” to mean “great” and “jūn” to mean “prince.” The spelling “tycoon” became popular in America to refer to political leaders, but began to fade in usage.
It was revived in the 1920s in journalism to refer to wealthy businessmen.
Our last word is something you wouldn’t quite expect to be of Japanese origin. To be honest, the origin of this term is still a mystery to this day. “Hunky-dory”, as we all know, means “fine” or “satisfactory”.
The term “hunky” came from the Dutch “honk” to mean “home”. In the 19th century, this became an adjective to mean “all right” or “safe and sound”. A theory of how “dory” came about is when American sailors were stationed in Japan. There was a thoroughfare that the sailors often used and described it as “hunky”. The Japanese word for “road” is “tori” or “dori” (取). It could be said that the sailors might’ve combined the two words to refer to that as a “satisfactory street”.
Which word surprises you the most?
As we said earlier, there are more English words that are derived from the Japanese language, but I think that these 10 are the most unique ones. Out of them all, which ones did you not expect to be of Japanese origin?
The Japanese language is beautiful. There are tons of words that can’t fully be explained in English, let alone have an English word equivalent. In just one word, it can describe a whole scenario. And sometimes, just from the sound of it, it gives you a sense of what the word holds. The list of untranslatable Japanese words is endless, but we’ll start with 15 of the most beautiful ones.
1. Komorebi (木漏れ日)
Komorebi (木漏れ日) is such a beautiful word. This word translates to the sunlight that filters through trees. There’s no one word in English that can fully encompass the meaning of this word. When one thinks of this word, the image of a peaceful forest appears in their mind. Remember this one the next time you go wandering in the woods!
2. Shinrinyoku (森林浴)
This next word is also related to the forest. Shinrinyoku (森林浴) refers to taking a peaceful walk through the woods. When on this stroll, the aim is to relax, unwind and appreciate the peace of nature. There’s actually events and tours for shinrinyoku therapy. What better way to treat your mental health than a break away from civilisation?
3. Shibui (シブイ)
Have you ever heard of the phrase “age like fine wine” in English? In Japanese, just one word holds the same meaning: shibui (シブイ). However, this untranslatable word means so much more. It’s a very specific adjective that describes something or someone who has gotten cooler or more graceful with age.
4. Tsundoku (積ん読)
This word is a combination of two words. Tsundoku (積ん読) makes up of “tsun”, which means “pile up”, and “doku”, which means “to read”. Together, it means the act of buying so many books and ending up not reading them. You’re just piling them up. Who else is guilty of that? It’s amazing that there’s one word that describes it all in Japanese.
5. Karoushi (過労死)
This next work is something we all don’t want to be. Karoushi (過労死) translates to “death from overwork and mental stress”. Japan has a very overworked culture. Sometimes the pressure and stress from working too much can cause some to have illnesses or even take their own life. That feeling is the definition of this word.
6. Wabi sabi (わびさび)
Onto a lighter note, our next word is wabi sabi (わびさび). I bet some of us have seen this word on a few books in the bookstore. This word refers to the appreciation of the beauty of imperfection and impermanence. It’s a traditional Japanese aesthetic as well as a style of art. It focuses on restraint and simplicity. At the end of the day, wabi sabi is being at peace and calm with temporary things.
7. Ikigai (生きがい)
Ikigai (生きがい) is a combination of two words. It combines the word for “to live”, “ikiru” (生きる), and “gai” (がい), which means “reason”. When combined, it means “the reason to live”. It’s the purpose you have for living. It could be a hobby, a person or cause. It can quite literally be anything, as long as it gets you out of bed in the morning. What a beautiful concept in a word!
8. Nekojita (猫舌)
Here’s a fun word: nekojita (猫舌). This word literally translates to “cat tongue”, but it has another meaning. A lot of Japanese people love to eat their food and drinks when it’s super hot. People who blow on their food to cool it down are said to have “nekojita”. It’s said that it’s based on the fact that cats generally don’t like to eat hot food. This usage can be dated back to the Edo period!
9. Kuchi sabishii (口寂しい)
Kuchi sabishii (口寂しい) is another fun one. This word literally means “lonely mouth”, but of course, it has another meaning. Those of us who eat just because we’re bored, we’re basically ‘kuchi sabishii”. I know I’m guilty of munching on chips just because I have nothing else to do.
10. Kouyou (紅葉)
One of the best things about autumn in Japan is its kouyou (紅葉). Translated to “autumn foliage”, this word beautifully encapsulates the beauty of the vibrant reds, oranges and yellows of the fall season. From Japanese locals to foreign tourists, everyone travels around to see “kouyou”.
11. Kogarashi (木枯らし)
Japan loves its nature. Here’s another word that beautifully describes an aspect of mother nature: kogarashi (木枯らし). It can translate to “leaf-shaking wind”. This word refers to the first cold wind you feel in autumn that lets you know that winter is coming real soon. For some of us, this is a sign to start shopping for winter jackets and sweaters!
12. Batankyuu (ばたんきゅう)
Ever felt so exhausted that you immediately flop into bed and fell straight to sleep? That, my friend, is “batankyuu” (ばたんきゅう). This is an onomatopoeia used mostly in written form rather than spoken. “Batan” is the action of falling onto the bed, and “kyuu” is the stillness of when you sleep. The Japanese people work so hard that everyone might as well be “batankyuu” every night.
13. Mikka Bouzu (三日坊主)
“Mikka bouzu” (三日坊主) translates to “three-day monk”. That can give you an idea of what it actually refers to. If someone gives up really easily or quickly, then this word is for them. It can also refer to someone who initially starts off with so much passion for something and then falter just as quickly. The referral to monks is quite interesting because monks are known to have a very strict routine. Throughout history, more than a few people have called it quits not too long after they’ve started.
14. Betsu bara (別腹)
Ever eaten so much for a meal, but still have the appetite for dessert? You might have “betsu bara” (別腹). This translates to “separate stomach”. Some of us might be able to relate to this. No matter how full we are, there’s always room for dessert!
15. Mono no aware (物の哀れ)
The last word on our list is “mono no aware” (物の憐れ). This word is pretty similar to “wabi sabi”, but it’s considered to be an older word that not a lot of people use now. The meaning of this word is to appreciate the fleeting beauty of something. It’s in line with the Buddhist idea of being in the moment as well as letting things go.
Which untranslatable word is your favourite?
In just one word, it can convey emotions, thoughts and wisdom. The Japanese language is very beautiful indeed. While this list is only of 15 words, there are dozens, if not hundreds, more of Japanese words that can’t be translated. For now, which one of these 15 words is your favourite?
When you learn Japanese from a textbook, you get all the useful words and phrases for communication. It can sometimes be a bit dry without the fun stuff. The Japanese language has an abundance of cute and fun words that aren’t always introduced when you first start learning Japanese. But that doesn’t mean they’re not worth knowing. Here is a list of the top 20 cute Japanese words that are definitely going to make your heart melt!
1. Doki doki (ドキドキ)
Do you remember the feeling of nervousness when you see your crush? Or when your heart beats fast as if it’s thumping to get out of your chest? In Japanese, you can describe this feeling as “doki doki” (ドキドキ). The word itself is like the sound of a fast heartbeat. You can use this word as a verb, too, by adding ”suru” (する) to make “doki doki suru” (ドキドキする). This translates to be excited (with a racing heart) or when you have butterflies in your stomach.
When you feel dizzy or giddy, you can describe the feeling as “kura kura” (クラクラ). Even though the act of being dizzy itself isn’t all that fun, at least the word has a cute ring to it. Use it as a verb by adding ”suru” (する) to make “kura kura suru” (クラクラする)
3. Kawaii (かわいい)
What’s a list of cute Japanese words without the Japanese word for “cute” in it, and that is “kawaii” (かわいい). While it translates to “adorable” and “cute”, this word covers a wider range than just that. You can call a kitty or puppy “kawaii”, but you can also refer to an action as “kawaii”. This is when the word holds the meaning of “adorable” that makes you want to show your affection.
“Kawaii” can also be written in kanji as 可愛い, but it’s more common to spell it out in hiragana.
4. Kirei (綺麗)
While “kawaii” is a common compliment, a step up from it is “kirei” (綺麗). This Japanese word means “pretty”. Not only does the word sound cute when spoken, but it’s also considered as a sweet compliment. You can say this to your girlfriend or among your group of friends (for the ladies). Since it has a more feminine tone, I don’t think it’s best to say this to your guy pals. They might even take it the wrong way, who knows!
5. Niko niko (ニコニコ)
The Japanese word for smile is “emi” (笑み). The same kanji is used for the verb “to laugh” (笑う). Those are the common ways to express those feelings, but why not try a new word for “smile”? “Niko niko” (ニコニコ) is a cute alternative to refer to your or someone else’s smile in Japanese.
6. Utsukushii (美しい)
So we have a word for “cute” and a word for “pretty”. What if you want to take it up another notch? The Japanese word “utsukushii” (美しい) translates to “beautiful”. I think it’s such a lovely way to compliment your girlfriend or friends. When said, the word sounds extremely cute. It’ll melt her heart more than it’ll melt yours!
7. Momo (もも)
This next cute Japanese word is quite common to use as a nickname for someone. In fact, some people have their real names as this, too! “Momo” (もも) in Japanese means “peach”. Because it’s such a cute and endearing word, a lot of Japanese people would name their children or pets as “momo”.
8. Mago mago (まごまご)
Have you ever been confused, it’s like your head is spinning trying to process the information? “Mago mago” (まごまご) is the Japanese word to mean “confused”. Similar to dizziness, being confused is not the most pleasant thing. But at least the word is cute to say. Who knows, the pleasantry of it might even help with your confusion!
9. Bara (ばら)
There’s a word in Japanese that translates to “scattered” or “disperse” and that is “bara bara” (バラバラ). However, if you only take half of the word, “bara” (ばら) actually is referred to a rose. You might want to be careful when referring to the beautiful flower a couple of times. If you say “rose, rose”, which is “bara, bara”, you might actually be conveying a whole different meaning!
10. Hoshi (ほし)
I find this next word extremely cute. “Hoshi” (ほし) is the Japanese word for “star”. I think it’s adorable because, not only is the pronunciation itself is cute, but it’s also because it’s close to the word for “desire” which is “hoshii” (欲しい). Try saying “hoshi ga hoshii” (ほしが欲しい): “I want a star”.
11. Momonga (モモンガ)
In Honshu, Japan, you can find flying squirrels in the forest. If you’ve ever seen one before, you know that they’re incredibly cute animals! And so is their name: momonga (モモンガ). This word can refer to flying squirrels in general, but it’s more commonly used to refer to the Japanese dwarf flying squirrel. I don’t know about you, but that extra fact just made this Japanese word even cuter!
12. Gaki (ガキ)
If you have a young sibling or any little kids around you, call them this when they’re whining: gaki (ガキ). This word has the meaning of “brat”, but in an endearing way and not too negative. It’s best to only use it with someone you’re familiar with and not a stranger.
13. Koneko (子猫)
Can anything beat the cuteness of kittens? Except for puppies, not really. “Cat” in Japanese is “neko” (猫), so what about kittens? We add the kanji for “young” or “child” at the start and that is “ko” (子), to make “koneko” (子猫). Even the Japanese word for “kitten” is cute. Very befitting.
14. Chou Chou (蝶々)
Whether big or small, butterflies are super cute. What’s even cuter is the name for it: chou chou (蝶々). You can even shorten it to just “chou” when referring to them. Either way, it’s still a cute word, especially if you see a kid pointing to a butterfly and saying “chou chou!”
15. Kisu (キス)
I don’t know about you, but I like the word “kiss”. In Japanese, they also use the word but in katakana form: “kisu” (キス). When someone asks their partner for a kiss, they would say: “kisu shite” (キスして), which is like saying “let’s kiss”. Isn’t that the cutest?
Do take note that this word should be used with only your partner. It can be quite inappropriate otherwise.
16. Tamago (卵)
One of the first few words in Japanese that we learn is “tamago” (卵), which means “egg”. And it really does just mean “egg” most of the time. However, in Japanese culture, it can be used to have a different meaning. On its own, it can have the meaning of “rookie” or “noobie”. If you attach it to something else, it can mean that you’re a beginner of that skill. “Dezainā no tamago” (デザイナーの卵) means that you’re a rookie designer.
17. Bigaku (美学)
One of the most popular words that people like to use in English is “aesthetics”. The Japanese equivalent is “bigaku” (美学), but this word has a cuter connotation to it. When you describe someone as “bigaku”, it’s describing their love of cute and adorable things. It’s common for people who are into Harajuku fashion to describe younger people dressing up in cutesy styles.
18. Aikyou (愛郷)
Not only is this word cute but it’s also quite heartwarming. “Aikyou” (愛郷) translates to “love for one’s hometown”. Literally, it means “love town” but when used, it’s always to describe the feeling of homesickness of the place you grew up in.
19. Koi (恋)
Nothing can make your heart melt more than the word for “love” itself: “koi” (恋). I think it’s beautiful in meaning and in the kanji used. But not only that, it has a cute pronunciation that you can’t help but to smile when it’s said.
20. Mamoru (守)
Last but not least, we have “mamoru” (守). Other than the word sounding cute itself, the meaning is simply magnificent. “Mamoru” means “to protect” or “to cherish”, and if someone says to you that they want to “mamoru” you, you’re definitely going to feel like your heart skipped a beat (or “doki doki”).
Which word is the cutest?
There are definitely loads more cute Japanese words. The list is endless. But hopefully, these 20 highlighted ones are more than enough to make your heart melt for now. Which do you think is the cutest Japanese word? Let us know in the comments if you plan on using any of these words in the near future!