Japanese Slang 101 - Words that Japanese People Actually Use
When learning Japanese, it’s common to learn very polite phrases and sentence structure. However, after coming to Japan you might realize that the way people talk to each other is almost always completely different than that! While it is important to know polite Japanese, it’s always good to know colloquial Japanese as well!
With the following slang words, you’ll be on your way to talking natural Japanese in no time!
超 (chō): Super
Chō can be used as a word for “super” or “very”.
Example: “Chō oishii!”—Super tasty!
めっちゃ (metcha): Seriously
Although this word is more commonly used in eastern Japan, many Japanese use it on a regular basis! Metcha can be used like the word “very” or “so”.
Example: “Metcha kawaii!”—So cute!
半端ない (hanpa nai): Insane
Not meaning insane in the head, this word is used to describe something, well, totally insane! You can use this word to talk about something either very good or very bad.
Example 1: If you’re watching sports and see someone do something, well, insane, you can say it was “hanpa nai”.
Example 2: If it’s raining very hard outside, you could say “ame hanpa nai!”—The rain is insane!
マジで (maji de): For real, Literally
Similar to chō and metcha, maji de can be used as describing something as “very ___”. It can also be used alone as “maji de?!” (for real?!) or “maji de!” (for real!), although chō and metcha cannot.
Example: "Sore maji de hanpa nai!" — "That's literally insane!"
やばい (yabai): Cool/Awful...actually, anything!
Yabai is a useful word that you can use to describe just about anything. Yabai is a word that can be perceived as positive or negative based on the way you say it, and context of the situation. So if you’d like to describe your food, someone’s looks, or even the weather, “yabai” is a word that many Japanese people use!
ムカつく (mukatsuku): Irritating
This is a word you can use in a sentence or just on its own when you just want to complain about something or someone that’s rubbing you the wrong way!
うざい (uzai): Annoying
Much like the above-listed mukatsuku, uzai can also be used in a sentence or alone when you are feeling a bit irritable.
Example: “Ano hito, maji de uzai!”—“That person is so annoying!”
キモい (kimoi): Gross, Ew
“Kimoi” is a shortened version of “kimochi warui”, meaning gross or disgusting. If anything grosses you out, a simple “Kimoi!” would suffice to show your repulsion! This can be used to describe someone or something’s actions as well as looks.
ダサい (dasai): Ugly, Lame, Old-fashioned
This is another word that can be used to describe not only looks but also actions. If someone is completely inconsiderate, you can say that they are “dasai”, and if they are wearing some awful clothes you can also say “dasai”.
微妙 (bimyō): Questionable, Unsure
Bimyō is a word without a direct translation to English. It can be used to mean something is “questionable”. You can use the word bimyō to describe something that is neither good nor bad, however it usually is used to describe the bad. For example, if you’re trying on clothes and ask someone how it is and they reply with “bimyō”, you’d better put them back on the shelf!
ガチ (gachi): Totally, Seriously, For real
Gachi is a word that simply means “seriously”, and is used when something is very (blank).
Example: “Gachi de omoshiroi.”—“Seriously funny.”
それ (sore), それな (sore na): Exactly!, That’s what I was gonna say!
When having a conversation with a good friend, you’re bound to have moments when you completely agree with them—and in this instance, you can say “Sore!” or “Sore na!”. Sore really just means “that”, but it’s often used in agreement with whomever you are having a conversation with.
ウケる (ukeru): Hilarious
This is another helpful word that is used often in conversations. When something is funny or ridiculous, you can say “ukeru” to show your amusement!
Knowing conversational and colloquial Japanese will definitely help you out when learning the language, as it’s almost completely different from polite Japanese! Knowing this slang can make your Japanese sound much more natural and you may even surprise some people just by knowing some of these simple words!
Written by Lindsey Schultz
*Photo Credit (main image): ondakkarachai / Shutterstock.com
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