An alphabetical list of common Japanese slang expressions and colloquial phrases. Most of them are used extensively in daily life. Note that some of them are very rude. We will continually work on expanding this list. If you happen to know other colloquial phrases or expressions, please share them with us by leaving a message in the comment section below or posting to the Japan Forum.
- Ahō, aho 【あほ】 – An insult along the lines of “stupid” or “idiot”. Note: In Tokyo, the insult is taken fairly seriously, while in Kansai, the term is regarded a bit more friendly and jokingly. (whereas baka is the opposite).
- Aitsu 【あいつ】 – A very impolite way to say “that person” or “that guy over there”. Sometimes it’s used in groups of friends(usually boys) to refer to anyone out of the range of their voice.
- Ano... 【あの。。】 – A term used a lot like the English “umm…”. Used to soften when making requests.
- Arasa 【アラサー】 – A term used in fashion-related media to refer to females around their thirties. The English phrase "around thirties" (アラウンド サーティーズ) is shortened into 'arasa'. Such phrases are also used for people around other ages: 'aratoue' (アラトゥエ)” or 'arahata' (アラハタ) for "around twenties"; 'arafo' (アラフォー) for "around forties"; 'arafifu (アラフィフ) for "around fifties"; 'arakan' (アラカン) for "around sixties" based on kanreki (還暦), someone's sixtieth birthday; 'arasebu' (アラセブ) or 'arakoki' (アラコキ) for "around seventies"; 'araei' (アラエイ) for "around eighties"; 'aranai' (アラナイ)” or 'arasotsu' (アラソツ) for "around nineties"; sotsu (卒寿) refers to one's ninetieth birthday.
- Are 【あれ】 – means “that” (and implies mutual understanding and knowledge), but depending on the context can refer to sexual activities or parts.
- Are? 【あれ】 – Used like the English “huh?!” in a moment of surprise. Can also be used as a general “huh?” when confused.
- Asoko 【あそこ】 – meaning “there” (and implies mutual understanding and knowledge) but depending on the context can refer to the sexual organs.
- Atashi 【あたし】 – A contracted form of “Watashi” that girls commonly use to say “I.”
- Baba 【ばば】 – An insulting way to say, old lady. Pops up often in anime and television shows. It is almost always used ironically.
- Baito 【バイト】 – Slang for “Arubaito” which is the Japanese adopted the term for “part-time job”. Comes from the German “Arbeit”.
- Baka 【ばか】 – An insult in the line of “stupid” or “idiot”. In Kansai, it is taken very seriously, but Tokyo is more of a friendly insult (whereas aho is more of a serious insult).
- Betsuni 【別に】 – A phrase used like the English “not really” or “nothing”. It can be used as a response to such questions as “Do you want to go?” or “Is it important to you?” (Be careful though) “Betsu” by itself means separate, and can also be used in that sense. It can be used as a response to such questions as “Do you want to go?” or “Is it important to you?” (Be careful though)
- Chibi-debu – a short fat person
- Chikusho 【ちくしょ】 – A basic Japanese equivalent of “Damn it!”. Used in times of frustration or failure.
- Choudai 【ちょうだい】 – A friend to friend way of saying “can you do it for me?/give it to me?”
- Chotto ii? 【ちょっといい?】 – A very soft way to precede a question (with friends or close acquaintances). Basically means “Can I have a second?” (to ask something)
- Chou~ 【超】 – A prefix that means somewhere along the line of “Super” or “really” as in “Chousugoi!” (Super Cool!)
- Chotto matte 【ちょっと待って】 – A colloquial and friendly way of saying “Can you wait for a second?”. A lot like “Wait a sec.” Take out the “Chotto” to make it more urgent.
- Daijoubu 【大丈夫】 – An ordinary word but useful for saying anything from “I’m ok.” to “I don’t need any more food.” This word is not slang, but very commonly used.
- Dame 【だめ】 – A colloquial word for “no good”,
- Dasai 【ダサい】 – An exclamation for something very uncool. I heard it had some connection with Saitama prefecture. Who knows…
- Ee 【ええ】 (Falling tone) – Used in conversation to acknowledge that you are listening (something important in Japanese conversation). Use liberally!
- Eeee…. 【エエ。。】 (Rising tone) – Used to show disbelief in what someone is saying. “No, I did get a new car!” “Eeeee….” (disbelief and excitement)
- Eto 【えと】 – Another Japanese way to say “Umm….” and is also used to soften up questions or requests. It is also common to make it longer as in “Ettoo…..” to match the amount of puzzlement or thought.
- Eroi 【エロい）】 – The Japanese word for perverted. It can be combined with other words to make combinations as is done in “ero-oyaji” or “eroguro” which means erotic grotesque, or something like that.
- Faito! 【ファイト!】 – A Japanese loan word translating to “Fight!” but used in the context of sports or competitions like the English “Do your best!”. Often used like “Gambatte!”
- Furita【フリーター】 – Freeters are part-time labourers or freelanced workers who could not or did not want to work full-time.
- Gomen ne 【ごめんね】 – An informal way of saying “I am sorry”. Don’t use this with superiors, teachers, etc.
- Ha, Ha 【は、は】 – The older generation’s filler. It is used in conversation to acknowledge you’re listening (something essential in Japanese conversation)
- Hanpa nai 【半端ない】 – Similar in meaning to yabai (やばい): "wicked", "insane", or "sick". Hanpa means as much as "unfinished" or "half-done". Therefore, hanpa nai means as much as "complete" or "not half-assed" but "outstanding".
- Hara Heta 【腹へた】 – A slang way to say “I’m hungry”. Not too polite to older people.
- ~hen 【~へん】 – Ōsaka-ben for “~nai”, e.g. “shinjirarenai” (I can’t believe it) becomes “shinjijrarehen,”, “tabehen” for “tabenai.”, or “Wakarahen” for “Wakaranai”(I don’t know)..
- Hidoi 【ひどい】 – Used for “it’s terrible” or “you’re mean!” and can also extend to “messy” and other related terms.
- Hora 【ほら】 – Means “Look!” or “See?”. If lengthened to “Horrraaaa….” (with a descending tone) can mean “I told you so….”
- Ikemen 【イケメン】 – Used to refer to handsome-looking men dressing sharply; derived from いける (ikeru, to look good) and メンズ (menzu, from the English "men"). Compared to bishōnen【美少年】, pretty men, ikemen are more masculine and handsome.
- Iyada 【イヤだ】 – A phrase meaning “I don’t want to do it” or “I don’t want to see”(disgust or fear). Usually, the “I” is omitted or shortened so much it’s hard to hear in the beginning.
- Iya 【いや】 – An exclamation of disgust.
- Ja 【じゃ】 – A contraction of the more formal “De wa” that in effect means “Well…”, “So…”, “Well then…” and so on. Can also mean “bye!” depending on the context. Also can be used to hint that you’re ready to end the conversation or that you have to go.
- Jaa ne 【じゃあね】 – An informal way of saying “see you later” Don’t use it to teachers, bosses, and the like! Sometimes the “Ne” is changed to “Na” or even “Nya”(?!?) depending on the person. Foreigners will probably want to stick with “Ne” to avoid sounding stupid accidentally.
- Jiji 【ジジ】 – An insulting way to refer to an older man. Used more often in anime and television shows than real life.
- Jouzu desune 【上手ですね】 – This means “You’re very good, aren’t you?”. The only reason it is mentioned is that even if you are not very good, the Japanese will often say this to be nice. Don’t get cocky.
- Kai 【かい】 – A colloquial way of saying “desu ka”. Used mostly by men.
- Keitai 【携帯】 – Though not literally, in effect it means “cell phone”. The longer version would be “Keitai Denwa”.
- Kimochi Warui 【気持ち悪い】 – meaning “bad feeling”. This phrase can be used anywhere from feeling sick (stomach) to seeing something disgusting to seeing the creep down the street.
- Kimoi 【キモイ】 – The same meaning as kimochi warui, but more slang.
- Ki ni shinai de 【気にしないで】 – Means “Don’t worry about it.”
- Koitsu 【こいつ】 – A very impolite and confrontational way to say “This guy….”. Also used often to refer to people you don’t like once they cannot hear you anymore.
- Kora 【コラ】 – A term used to get someone’s attention harshly. Roll the “r” for extra emphasis.
- Kure 【くれ】 – Colloquial for “Kudasai” (used at the end of a request). Gives a bit of a rough tone.
- Kuso 【クソ】 – The Japanese way of saying “****”. A direct translation (so it can be used as a verb with suru). Doesn’t have quite the negative overtone as its English counterpart.
- KY【空気読めない】'kūki yomenai' – an English abbreviation that means as much as "cannot read the air", describing a person that cannot grasp the complexities of a given situation and therefore react to it appropriately. Someone who is extremely ignorant and dense might be called 'SKY' or 'super kuuki yomenai' (スーパー空気読めない).
- Kyapi Kyapi Gyaru 【キャピキャピギャル】 – Means bimbo but originally means “happy, happy girl.”
- Maa 【マー）】 – An interjection often used between speaking for a break between parts.” Sore wa, maa, yokattayo”. It has the power to slightly dampen any sort of happy meaning in the sentence though it can be used solely as a filler as well.
- Maa ne… 【マーね】 – Used when someone asks you a question, and you have a bad answer, so you don’t want to say. “How was the test?” “Maa ne…”
- Majide 【マジで】 – A trendy way to say “Really?”, “No way!”, etc. It is the slang version of “hontou ni” and often shortened to “Maji??”
- Mazui 【まずい】 – used for food that doesn’t taste good, it can also be applied to other things that just flat out aren’t good. (like I lost the report I have to turn in to the teacher, or my friend just found out I lied to him).
- mecha 【めちゃ】 – Osaka-ben for “a lot”, “extreme”, “absurd”, etc.
- Mendokusai 【面倒くさい】 – A normal word used for something that’s “bothersome” or “annoying”.
- Mukatsuku 【ムカつく】 – derived from mukamuka suru (ムカムカする), "to get angry". Tsuku derives from tsukuru (作る), "to make", as in "to make someone angry". Not uncommon, but not to be used lightly.
- Muri Shinaide 【無理しないで】 – A phrase meaning “Don’t overwork yourself”, “Don’t kill yourself” or “Take it easy”.
- Muzui 【ムズイ】 – A contracted slang form of “Muzukashii” meaning “difficult”. Combine with Chou for greater emphasis!
- Nandake 【何だけ】 – Used when trying to remember something and you can’t. A lot like “what was it?..” (to yourself).
- Nani utten no? 【何売ってんの】 – Ōsaka-ben for “what the hell are you saying?”
- Nanka 【何か】 – Shortened form of “Nanika” which means “something”,
- Nanpa 【ナンパ】 – flirt, scam, scope, skirt chaser, etc.…
- Ne 【ね】 – A Japanese particle that's asking for agreement as in the English phrase “….isn't it?”. It is also used (most often by girls) to get other people’s attention as in “Ne,ne…!”
- NG【エヌジー】 – Meaning "no good" and pronounced as 'enuji': used to express that doing something is not good or not okay.
- Oitoite 【置いといて】 – A shortened form of “Oite Oite” which means “set it there for later” (like food on a table).
- Oi 【オイ】 – An informal way (and sometimes impolite) way to get someone's attention. A lot like the English “Hey!”, but a bit less polite.
- Omae 【お前】 – An informal term for “you”. Though once considered extremely well-mannered, it’s modern-day version is undoubtedly regarded as impolite. Use only to your close friends (or enemies at your own risk), and even then you have to be careful about the type of person your friend is. On the other hand, it is often used in martial arts and like things by higher ranked members/teachers to their kouhai or students. It is uncommon but occasionally used by girls.
- OL 【オーエル】 – OL stands for 'office lady' and is pronounced as 'o–eru'. It refers to female company employees.
- Omata(se) 【お待たせ】 – A shortened version of “Omatase shimashita” which roughly translates to “thanks for waiting”.
- Osu 【オス】 – An informal way of greeting someone (usually used with friends). Japanese doesn’t have a set word to use instead of “konnichiwa” for hello, but this one is pretty good. Can be used for pretty much anything in the Karate world.
- Purikura 【プリクラ】 – The term for those colourful pictures people take in the booths and decorate their phones and bags with. An interesting note, males, are not allowed inside the purikura area without a female companion, don’t want any Chikan!
- Rakki 【ラッキ】 – The Japanese way of saying “Lucky” and can be used without any other words to express happiness/luckiness.
- Riajū 【リア充】 – composed of "riaru wa-rudo" (リアルワールド, real-world) and "jūjitsu" (充実, satisfied), it refers to people who prefer the real world to the virtual reality.
- Ryoukai 【了解】 – A colloquial way to say “wakarimashita” or “I understood”. It has a military-like tone similar to the phrases “Got it!” or “Roger!”
- Shikata ga nai 【しかたがない】 – Very similar to Shougainai in the meaning that “it can’t be helped”, I guess we have to do it. Used in dismay when the ripoff landlords make you pay “key money”.
- Shimatta 【しまった】 – Another Japanese way of saying “Damn it” when you did something you didn’t mean to.<
- Shoganai 【しょうがない】 – A very common phrase meaning “It can’t be helped” or “I guess I just have to (do it)”.
- Shokku 【ショック】 – A Japanese way of saying “Shock” but with a bit different meaning. In Japanese shock is always a bad feeling and carries no good meaning whatsoever. You can think of it more like “I can’t believe you lied to me” than “I can’t believe you got me a new car!”
- So(u) Da Ne 【そうだね】 – An extremely common phrase meaning “It is, isn’t it.” For girls, “Sou ne” is more common.
- Suge 【スゲ】 – A more informal way of saying “sugoi“
- Sugoi 【すごい】 – A trendy term meaning “cool!” or “wow!” or any other word in the line of “really good”.
- Temee 【手前】 – A rude and confrontational way to say “you”.
- Urusai 【うるさい】 – Literally means “loud noise” but can be used as “be quiet” or “shut up” depending on the tone.
- Uruse(i) 【うるせ】 – A ruder and slang word for “urusai”
- Uso 【嘘 – うそ】 – Lit. “lie,” it can also mean “No way!”, “You gotta be kidding me!”, etc.
- Uzai 【ウザイ】 – A term referring to someone or something that is “annoying” or “bothersome”. Short for うるさい (urusai).
- Uze 【うぜ】 – A ruder and slang word for “Uzai”.
- Wagamama 【わがまま】 – A term for a spoiled and selfish person.
- Yabai 【ヤバい】 – An exclamatory phrase with many different meanings. While literally "dangerous", it can mean anywhere from “Woah!” to “Damn” to “Really Good!” and can also be used with another adjective like “Yabai Oishii” which means “Really Delicious!”. Often abbreviated to ヤバ (yaba), in particular by males.
- Yabei 【ヤベイ】 – An even more slang-like way of saying “yabai”.
- Yada 【ヤダ】 – See “Iyada (イヤだ)”
- Yariman 【やりマン】 – Meaning “****/bimbo” when referring to a girl
- Yaro 【やろ）-An impolite and confrontation insult for a person.
- Zannen 【ざんねん】 – Meaning “it’s a pity”. Often used for taunts.
- Zettai 【絶対】 – A common word for “definitely”, “absolutely”, and the like.
- Zurui 【ずるい】 – Adjective used in a negative sense. Means something along the line of “sneaky” or “playing dirty”.