Do you want to sound like a native Japanese speaker? If so, you need to learn some Japanese slang! Slang words are used informally and are often different from the standard language. They can be used for description, to show affection and familiarity, as well as to express anger or frustration. Some are even used in specific regions of the country only.
This article will introduce you to some of the most common slang words in Japanese. We will also provide translations so you can use them in your conversations! So put on your best “cool” attitude, and let’s get started!
Japanese Slang Vs. English Slang
Japanese slang is a great way to make yourself sound like a local, and it’s also a lot of fun! It’s often very different from English slang. While English slang can be pretty harsh and filled with insults, Japanese slang is more familiar and playful.
This is because, in Japanese culture, there is a greater emphasis on politeness and formality. As a result, slang words are often created by shortenings words or using them in a familiar form instead of a polite form. Of course, it doesn’t mean the Japanese never swear or insult each other because they do. It’s just that their wording is a bit ¨softer¨ than you would expect.
Still, the words and expressions we will cover in this article aren’t meant to be used with anyone. They should be used:
- With close friends and family only, people you can joke around with.
- Never in a work environment, or you might offend someone without meaning it and get into real trouble…
How is Japanese slang created?
The internet is a breeding ground for new slang words. Japanese celebrities and social media influencers are often responsible for creating and popularizing new terms. It’s not uncommon for new slang words to be made by combining Japanese and English or by shortening and combining existing words. And because of the influence of social media like Instagram or Facebook, these slang words can spread like wildfire, becoming part of the country’s vernacular almost overnight… Those are then wildly re-used in dramas, animes, movies, and on the net.
You can only learn Japanese slang by spending time in Japan or watching and listening to recent media content in Japanese. As a result, many Japanese slang words have a unique flavor that can be difficult to translate into other languages or even teach to foreigners who wish to learn casual Japanese language. That is also why you will hardly find any real (and still in-use) slang in your classical Japanese textbook.
Now that you know a little about Japanese slang let’s look at some specific examples, their meaning, and how to use them in a conversation!
Japanese Slang for Everyday Use
Slang to Express Your Emotions
1 – Dasai (ださい)
Dasai is an adjective to describe someone or something that is lame or uncool. For example, you could say ¨kono fuku dasai!¨ (この服ださい), meaning ¨those clothes suck!¨.
2 – Darui (だるい)
When you feel ¨darui¨, it means you feel super lazy. So lazy that you don’t want to do anything else but lie on your bed with your phone… By the way, if you know the famous Japanese character Gudetama (the laziest egg in the world…), then you might know that his favorite word is ¨daruiiii¨.
3 – Kimoi (きもい)
Kimoi can be translated to mean “disgusting” or “creepy.” The word is a combination of two other words: kimochi, which means “feeling,” and warui, which means “bad.” Together, these two words create an intense feeling of revulsion and sickness. The expression kimoi is often used to describe people or things that make others uncomfortable. For example, someone might say that a particular food is kimoi if it looks very unappetizing.
4 – Uzai (うざい)
“Uzai” is used to describe someone annoying or bothersome. It can, for example, be used to describe a person who is always talking or asking for favors. Ultimately, the term “uzai” is meant to convey that someone is challenging to deal with and best avoided.
5 – Urusai (うるさい)
It means ¨noisy¨. It can be used as an adjective to describe someone who is overly loud. When you say ¨urusai¨ to someone directly, it just means ¨shut up¨.
6 – Mukatsuku (むかつく)
Mukatsuku is a common expression that can be translated as “to feel irritated.” It’s often used to describe the feeling of frustration or annoyance that comes from dealing with a difficult situation. For example, someone could say ¨ano hito majide mukatsuku!¨, (あの人まじでむかつく), meaning ¨he/she is seriously pissing me off!¨
7 – Muzui (むずい)
Muzui is relatively easy to understand if you already know the word ¨muzukashii¨, meaning difficult in standard Japanese. It’s just a short version of the word that young people like to use.
8 – Saikô (さいこう)
Saikô can be translated as “the best” or “the greatest” and can be used to describe something or someone. For example, ¨kono ryokô saikô da!¨ (この旅行最高だ!) would mean ¨this trip is the best!¨. The word can also be used to express excitement or happiness, in which case it can be translated as ¨amazing¨ or ¨awesome¨.
9 – Saitei (or saiaku) (最低 – 最悪)
Saitei is the opposite of saikô and means ¨the lowest¨ or ¨the worst¨. Saiaku has almost the same meaning. For example, you might say that a movie was ¨saitei¨ if it was terrible. You can also use saitei to describe someone who misbehaved. For instance, you could say ¨Ano otoko saitei!¨ (あの男最低!), meaning ¨This guy is a jerk (the worst)!¨.
10 – Yabai or yabê (やばい – やべえ)
Yabai (or yabê for young men) can be challenging to translate because it has a range of meanings depending on the context. Generally, it describes something dangerous, unexpected, or complex. For example, if you’re trying to solve a complicated math problem, you might say, “yabai, this question is tough.” The closest translation in English would be ¨damn!¨.
It can also be a positive expression to show amazement, like in ¨yabai, keshiki chô kirei!¨ (やばい、景色ちょうきれい), meaning ¨oh my God, the landscape is so beautiful!¨.
11 – Mendokusai (めんどくさい)
Something ¨mendokusai¨ means it’s too troublesome to bother with. When you feel lazy or uninterested in doing something that requires effort, like work or studies, you can say ¨iyada, mendokusai¨ (no way, it’s too much trouble) to show you don’t feel like doing it. The expression can also describe someone difficult to deal with. For example, if you say that someone is mendokusai, it means they’re being a pain.
12 – Sugoi or sugê (すごい – すげえ)
Sugoi (or sugê for young men) is used to express admiration, amazement, or excitement and can be translated as “amazing” or “awesome.” Sometimes it can also mean ¨very¨, like in ¨kono pan sugê umai!¨(このパンすげえ旨い!), meaning ¨this bread is very tasty!¨. Note that grammatically, saying ¨sugoku umai¨ is more correct than ¨sugê umai¨, but people don’t care much about grammar when using slang…
13 – Umai (うまい)
Umai has two meanings. It can be used to describe something delicious like in ¨koko no udon cho umai!¨ (ここのうどんちょう旨い!), meaning ¨udon are super yummy here!¨. It can also describe someone skilled at doing something: ¨e ga umai¨ (絵がうまい), meaning ¨ I’m good at drawing¨.
14 – Maji or Majide (まじ – まじで)
Majide is often used to express surprise or disbelief. The best translation would be ¨really¨ or ¨seriously¨. For example, if someone tells you that you just won $1000, you could answer ¨majide?!¨, meaning ¨Are you serious?!¨. You can also use it the same way as ¨cho¨. So saying ¨majide oishii¨ and ¨cho oishii¨is the same thing (it’s really delicious).
15 – Gachi (がち)
It’s the same as ¨maji¨ or ¨majide¨ and means ¨really¨.
16 – Cho or chô (ちょ – ちょう)
Chô is used to emphasize an adjective just like ¨gachi¨ and ¨maji¨. You could say, for instance, ¨kono shashin chô kawaii!¨ (この写真ちょう可愛い!), meaning ¨this picture is sooo cute!¨.
17 – Ikemen (イケメン)
Ikemen is a combination of ¨iketeru¨ (meaning cool) and menzu (the way Japanese people pronounce the word men). It’s a popular word used to describe a good-looking man. It can refer to a celebrity, a model, or even a handsome guy you see on the street.
While “ikemen” can technically be used to describe any good-looking guy, it is often used to describe young men who are considered trendy. If you ever see a group of Japanese girls giggling and pointing at someone, chances are they’ve spotted an ikemen…
18 – Ukeru (うける)
Ukeru is a verb young people commonly use. When you say ¨ukeru¨, it means that whatever was done or said was funny, and you want to mention it. It’s a bit like ¨lol¨ in English.
Slang to Curse
19 – Kuso (くそ)
Kuso is an expression used the same way you would use ¨crap¨ or ¨shit¨ when you feel frustrated, or something goes wrong, and you want to curse. For example, you can say ¨kuso! Machigaeta¨ (くそ、間違えた), meaning ¨dammit! I messed up¨.
20 – Chikusho (ちくしょう)
Chikusho is the same as ¨kuso¨ and is used to curse.
21 – Baka or Boke (ばか – ぼけ)
This means ¨idiot¨ or ¨dumb¨. It is one of the most commonly used insults in Japanese, but it can also be used to joke around.
22 – Busu (ぶす)
This adjective is mainly used when talking about a woman. It means ¨ugly¨ in Japanese and is kind of mean…
Talking to People
23 – KY (ケーワイ/ 空気読めない)
The Japanese expression KY is a combination of two words: ¨kûki¨ and ¨yomenai¨. Kûki means “air,” while yomenai means “can’t read.” Together, they form a phrase often used to describe someone who is not very perceptive. In other words, someone who is KY is not very good at reading the situation or understanding what is going on around them.
24 – Donmai (どんまい)
Donmai comes from the English ¨ don’t mind¨ and can be translated as ¨no big deal¨, ¨nevermind¨ or ¨ it’s ok¨. For example, you could say to a fellow soccer player who just missed the goal ¨donmai¨. In Japan, saying donmai to someone is a way of comforting the person when he or she made a mistake or something went wrong.
25 – Ossu (おっす)
Ossu is the short version of ¨ohayougozaimasu¨ (おはようございます) often used by young people to say hi.
26 – Azasu (あざっす)
Azasu is a shortened form of the phrase “arigato gozaimasu” (ありがとうございます). The full phrase, which means “thank you”, is used in more formal situations.
27 – Otsu (おつ)
If you’ve ever been to Japan, you may have heard the expression “otsukare sama¨ (お疲れ様です) before. This expression is often used to thank someone for their hard work, and it can be shortened to simply “otsu”. You can use it at work, but only with very familiar colleagues and people you can joke around with.
28 – Iyada (いやだ)
It’s a versatile expression that could mean ¨no way¨, ¨I don’t want to¨, or ¨not a chance¨. It is often used to reject an offer, but it can also be used as an intensifier, to emphasize the negative. For example, if you spill your coffee on your shirt, you might say ¨iyada!¨ (oh no!) to express your dismay.
29 – Faito (ファイト)
“Faito” comes from the English word ¨fight¨, but it doesn’t mean the same thing in Japanese. Faito is typically translated as “try hard” or “do your best.” It’s a popular mantra for students studying for exams, athletes training for competition, and anyone else facing a difficult challenge. The underlying philosophy is that even if you don’t achieve your goal, you’ll at least be able to look back and know that you gave it your all.
30 – Ataoka (あたおか)
Atatoka is the short version of the expression atama ga okashii (頭がおかしい), which literally means “your head is weird” and can be translated as ¨insane¨. It is used to describe someone who is behaving in a strange or crazy way. So ¨kare wa ataoka¨ would mean ¨he is crazy¨.
Slang You Write online
31 – ww or wwww
It’s hard to translate in English, but those w are similar to ¨lol¨ (lot of laughs). Japanese write several w in their texts when they find something funny. The ¨w¨ comes from the verb ¨warau¨ (笑う), meaning ¨to laugh¨ in Japanese. Instead of ww, you might also come across (笑) which is the kanji for warau.
32 – Nau (なう)
Nau comes from the English word ¨now¨ and is often used by young women to describe something they are currently doing using their social media. For example, a Japanese girl could post on her Instagram a picture of a Starbucks latte with the text ¨sutaba nau¨ (スタバなう), meaning she is at Starbucks right now.
33 – おK
This is a fun way to write ¨ok¨ in a message or online. It combines the Japanese hiragana ¨お¨ (o) and the English K.
34 – Guguru (ググル)
The word guguru is how Japanese people pronounce ¨Google¨, and they turn it into a verb you can conjugate in Japanese! It means ¨to google something¨.
Special Slang in Kansai Dialect (関西弁)
Kansaiben is a Japanese dialect spoken in the Kansai region, which includes the cities of Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe. The dialect is known for its informal, familiar speech and unique pronunciation and vocabulary.
So far, we have seen many slang words in what we can call ¨standard Japanese¨ (Kanto ben). But if you ever drop by the Kansai Region, there are some slang words specific to the locals that you want to know:
35 – Meccha (めっちゃ)
Mecha is the Kansai version of ¨chô¨ that we saw earlier. It means ¨very¨ or ¨really¨.
36 – Meccha kucha (めっちゃくちゃ)
Mecha kucha is an expression that means ¨all messed up¨ or ¨insane¨. For example, ¨mecha kucha na hanashi yan!¨ (めちゃくちゃな話やん!), meaning ¨this story is insane!¨.
37 – Honma (ほんま)
¨Honma¨ ou ¨honma ni¨ is the Kansai way of saying ¨hontô ni¨, which translates as ¨really¨ or ¨seriously¨. It is also very similar to ¨majide¨ in terms of meaning.
38 – Aho (あほ)
Aho simply means ¨idiot¨ or ¨stupid¨ and is the Kansai equivalent of ¨baka¨.
39 – Chau (ちゃう)
Chau in standard Japanese is said ¨chigau¨ and means ¨ it’s not that¨, or ¨ it’s wrong/different¨. You can also ask a question using ¨chau¨ such as ¨Tanaka chau?¨ (田中ちゃう？), meaning ¨ isn’t that Tanaka?¨.
By the way, chihuahua in Japanese is said ¨chau-chau¨, so people of Kansai like to play with words, saying ¨chau-chau, chau?¨ (isn’t that a chihuahua?).
40 – Akan (あかん)
Akan is the Kansai slang version of ¨ikenai¨ and expresses the idea that something is bad or that you shouldn’t or can’t do something. For example, you could say ¨iccha akan¨ (行っちゃあかん), which means ¨you can’t go¨. It’s very close to the Japanese word ¨dame¨ (だめ) in terms of meaning.
42 – Nandeyanen?! (なんでやねん ?!)
Most commonly, these words are used to express disbelief or incredulity. It’s the way of the Kansai people to say, ¨What the hell?!¨.
43 – Omoroi (おもろい)
Omoroi is an abbreviation of the word ¨omoshiroi¨ and can be translated to mean “interesting,” “amusing,” or “fun.” The term can also be used to describe people, such as when you say that your friend is very ¨omoroi¨. y the way, if you want to say the opposite, you can say ¨omonnai¨ (おもんない), which is omoroi in its negative form.
44 – Uttoshii (うっとしい)
Uttoshii is the Kansai equivalent for ¨mendokusai¨ and means ¨troublesome¨.
To Sum Up
This article lists some of the most commonly used Japanese slang words and their translations. We hope this will help you learn more about how to speak like a local!
Japanese slang can be difficult to understand if you’re unfamiliar with the abbreviations and how the Japanese use them in everyday life. However, once you know a few common expressions, you should be able to hold a casual conversation using slang without too much trouble. You must be careful with who you talk to, as most of those words aren’t supposed to be used during formal situations…
By the way, do you have any favorite Japanese slang expressions? Maybe something you heard in your favorite drama or anime? f we missed a few, don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments below!