48 Japanese slang words you should know

Most Japanese textbooks and self-studying guides teach the average, grammatically correct, and Japanese that most of the Japanese population could understand. But this “textbook Japanese” is not what is actually used in everyday life in Japan. Like any language, it changes, and it is not something fixed and static. Every year that comes, every new generation has its unique additions and twists to the language. So, with this article, we are trying to give you a pocket guide and slang word bank, so you can understand what everyone is saying in slang wherever it is online, in real life or just on a TV show or youtube video.

It is interesting to see how flexible Japanese slang is, and it helps keep conversations fluid and short! Also, being able to understand them and, even better, applying them in your everyday conversations will make you sound more fluent and friendlier! Which in itself makes you look more approachable for a normal conversation and makes native Japanese speakers feel more confident in touching topics that, at the start, they might feel you might not understand because they don’t know how fluent you are in Japanese.

A textbook will only get you so far. As it is said at most Japanese schools, after the first few months, “most people don’t use “Watashi” to refer to themselves in everyday life.” Only communicating with textbook Japanese will make you sound stoic and too formal, sometimes even making you hard to approach. Or even give the feeling that you are not open to making friends or interacting. So when you feel close enough to someone, keep down the ~Masu ~Desu, and start talking more informally, adding some slang here and there! It is also essential to notice that, as always, there is a time and an occasion for slang and informality. We don’t recommend you to use slang when talking in front of an audience or when talking with a teacher or a boss when on the clock or during classes. Remember that in Japan, there is an always staying line of respect and position based on their social or workplace ranking, age or experience.

One interesting thing is that Slang in Japanese is different from English slang. It is most commonly used for descriptions, greetings, expressing emotions, and rarely referring to each other. There is also a great variety of slang that is not safe for work hours, but you shouldn’t be using slang in the office or with a teacher.

One of the unique things about slang is that their meaning sometimes can change by context and that sometimes there is no direct translation, so with each slang, there will be a little explanation of it and then some examples of how they are typically used.

Some written Japanese slangs shouldn’t be used in spoken Japanese and vice versa, so they will be marked with a (T) for text-only slangs and (S) for spoken Japanese only slangs. If there is no mark on them, it means that they can be used in both cases.

Most of the writing slang can be written in Hiragana or Katakana, but some are explicitly written in Kanji.

ヤバイ (Yabai)

The most common slang in Japan. It is a word that can convey any feeling, from happiness to sadness; it can mean danger and can mean excitement. Yabai is a word that has so many meanings that it is pretty much impossible to summarize it in a list like this, so we recommend giving a look at the article HERE to know more about this handy slang word. 

We will add some examples of its use as in English, it can be translated in some sentences as “Crazy” as it can also be used in both positive and negative meanings.

このケーキはやばい! 

(Kono Keeki wa Yabai!)

“This cake is crazy!”

それはやパイじゃん!

(Sore wa Yabai Jan!)  

“That is yabai!”

マジで(Maji De)

Maji is one of the most common words to use. It can be used the same way as “really” in English. It can be used in the middle of sentences with で(de) before the continuation of the sentence, and it doesn’t change the structure or meaning of the sentence; it only adds more emotion to it (Example 1). It can also be used to denote amazement at something specific, and it is hard for you to believe it (Example 2)

1. あの動画はまじで面白い!

               (Ano Douga ha Maji de omoshiroi)

               “That video is maji (really) funny!”

2. それ、まじ?!

        Sore, Maji?!

            “Is that Maji (really true) !?”

ガチで (Gachi de)

This word can be used to answer something hard to believe or in the sense of “Really” as it is the same with マジ (No. 2 example 2) or to denote that someone is doing something seriously and earnestly.

あの人はサッカーに関してガチだから上手だよ。

(Ano hito wa sakka ni kanshite gachidakara jouzu da yo)

“That person is Gachi (doing his best) when it comes to soccer, so he is terrific.”

ウザイ (Uzai)

Uzai can be translated as Annoying, but not only in the sense of a kid that is annoying but also when a boss, a teamwork member, a teacher is always on top of you, checking every single thing you do and complaining about it.

あの人は何回も同じこと聞いてくるからまじでうざい。

(Ano ko wa nannkaimo onajikoto wo kiitekurukara maji de Uzai.)

“That person comes and asks the same thing time and time again, so it is Uzai (annoying).”

めんどい(mendoi)

           This word has the same meaning as めんどくさい (mendokusai) That means troublesome or bothersome, it is usually used in the exact same situations as the same words in English. While Mendokusai is precisely the same, hearing teens and university students use Mendoi is more common.

課題は多くてつまらないから本当にめんどい。

(Kadai ha ookute tsumaranai kara hontouni mendoi.)

“The homework is a lot and boring, so It is really mendoi (bothersome).”

ダサい (Dasai)

Dazai can be translated as Lame in English, it can be used in many situations, but it is most commonly used when referring to clothes or a person criticizing their style.

あの恰好はまじでダサいから着替えた方がいいよ。

(Ano kakkou ha majide Dasai kara kigaeta hou ga iiyo.)

“That attire is really Dasai (lame), so you should go and change.”

キモイ (Kimoi)

Kimoi is the abbreviation of 気持ち悪い (Kimochiwarui) that is used when something is terrible, disgusting, gross or unpleasant.

それはキモイからやめてくれ。

(Sore wa kimoi kara yametekure.)

“That is kimoi (disgusting), so please stop.”

ド引き(する) (Dobiki・suru)

It goes on the same lane of feeling as Kimoi. Dobiki suru is used to show that you would pull away, pull out because something is disgusting or out of your range of comfort. It means a great sense of disgust.

あの変な癖にド引きする。

(Sono Kuse ni dobiki suru.)

“I dobiki (just can’t stand) that weird habit.”

イケメン (Ikemen)

Changing the mood of the lousy, meaning slang, Ikemen is a word used when referring to a pretty and or cool boy. It comes from the combination from いけてる(Iketeru) “Cool // popular” and メン (Men) “Man.”

あの人見た? まじでイケメンだったよ!

(Ano hito mita? Maji de Ikemen datta yo!)

“Did you see that guy? He was really ikemen (a nice looking guy)! “

美人 (Bijin)

Bijin is the gender-neutral version of Ikemen, but it is more commonly used when referring to a beautiful female person. But it is still not unheard of when talking about a pretty guy either. The KanjiKanji themselves mean 美(Bi) Beautiful 人(Jin) Person.

芸術大学に美人が多いよ。

(Geijutsu Daigaku ni Bijin Ga ooi yo.)

“In the university of arts, there are a lot of Bijin ( Beautiful people).”

まじ卍 (Maji Manji) *T*

First, no, that is not the symbol you think it is! This comes from a Buddhist symbol pronounced Manji, and it spins to the opposite side than the one you might have thought it was. It was used as a word to express “Really” in Japanese and had precisely the same use as まじ (Maji), and for a time, it carried the whole meaning by just the 卍 (Manji) symbol. So it was common to see messages that only had 卍?! When expressing awe at something said before.

This was a popular word in 2017~2019, but recently has been becoming less and less common, and it now also gives the feeling of an older person or someone that got stuck in the past trying to pass as cool.

り (Ri) *T*

Well, first it was 了解です。 (Ryoukai Desu) then 了解 (Ryoukai) then 了 (Ryou) then りょ (Ryo) and now it has become り (Ri)。 This is a word that the younger generations have reached the peak abbreviation for this word. It carries the meaning of “got it!” or “Understood!” in English. And it is common to see りょ and 

了 users in the wild, but between the youngest generation, the most common form of this slang is り. The original 了解です or 了解しました (Ryoukai shimashita) can be used when speaking formally to denote understanding of a statement said before.

Aさん: 明日、あの本持ってきてくれない?

    (Ashita, ano hon mottekitekurenai?)

“Can you bring me that book tomorrow?”

B さん: り // (Ri.) // “Ok.”

ドンマイ (Donmai)

ドンマイ Is a word that comes from the English phrase “Don’t mind it” with its Japanese twist. It has been shorted to just the start of “Don-“and “Mi-“to become ドンマイ (Donmai), it is used when someone fails or does something wrong, and the user is trying to comfort them by saying, “Don’t mind it.”

Bさん: ごめん! 本を持ってくるの忘れた!

 (Gomen! Hon wo mottekuru no wasureta!)

” I am sorry! I forgot to bring the book!”

Aさん: あー。ドンマイ。

             (a-. Donmai.)

               “Aahh… Donmai (Don’t mind it)”

それな (Sorena)

Sorena is a convenient word to show affirmation to a statement. It is like “That!” in English, and it is possible to use it by itself.

Aさん: この授業はまじで面白くない 

              (Kono Jugyou wa majide omoshirokunai)

               “This class is really boring.”

Bさん: それな。

せやな (Seyana)

Seyana possesses the same meaning as the above-explained それな (sorena) it is just a variation that started in the 関西(Kansai) region but thanks to the widespread use of the internet and the media, it has become customary to hear it all around the country.

せな (Sena)

It is a contemporary twist to No. 15 せやな Where it becomes even shorter removing the や in the middle, but the meaning and use don’t change, but it is mainly used in text form, but some people do use it when speaking.

笑 (Wara)

Wara is the Kanji for laughing in Japanese, and it is used as LOL in English. It can be used at the end of a sentence or alone, just as its English counterpart.

www (wara wara wara)

It is the first chapter typed to write 笑, and it signifies more laughter than 笑 by itself. It can be stacked as much as needed and can replace 笑 with just one “w”

草 (Kusa)

               Born from a Japanese comment online where it was said that a long line of “wwww” looks like manga grass. 草 has become the most recent replacement for “www.” While for 20+ aged people 草 feels off to be used vocally, younger generations usually use it as a spoken word between them.

ワロタ (warota)

               To keep it simple, it is a geekier word than the other variants explained above, and it possesses more of an “LMAO’ feeling than “LOL” in English. It is usually used as a one-word response to a message to someone, and while it is not common to hear it used when talking, it is not something unheard of.

感ある (~Kan aru)

               A literal translation of this slang word would be “has a feeling of.” It is used after a sentence to denote that it feels like that without ultimately affirming or negating something. It can be understood as “in my opinion “in English, just that instead of going at the start of the sentence, it goes at the end. Some examples of its use would be

嘘ついてる感ある。

(Uso tsuiteru Kan aru)

“It gives me vibes that it is a lie.”

安っぽい感あるよ。

(Yasuppoi Kan aru yo)

“It gives vibes that it is something cheap.”

ありよりのあり (Ari yori no Ari)

It’s quite a recent word, and some people over 20 might not understand it. It is simply used to say there is a high possibility that something will happen. A translation could be “a possible laying possibility” It uses the あり from “あり得る “(Ari Eru) “possible.” 

And it is generally used on a cheerful nuance.

A: テストどうだった?黒点とれる?

(Tesuto dou datta? Kuro ten toreru?)

“How was the test?, do you think you got a passing grade?”

B: ん~ありよりのあり!

(Nnn~ Ari yori no ari!)

“Hmm, I might have!”

ないよりのあり (Nai yori no Ari)

It is the counterpart to “ありよりのあり” (Ari Yori no ari) as it is the same meaning but with a negative connotation. There is a really slight possibility of something being true or becoming a reality.

A: まさか、あの二人、付き合ってる??

(Masaka, Ano futari, Tsukiatteru??)

“Don’t tell me, are those 2 a thing??”

B: イヤーないよりのないでしょー。

 (Iyaaa, Nai yori no nai desho-)

“Naah, It can’t be right?”

めっちゃ (Meccha)

A commonly used slang word to denote “Very,” “Extremely,” or “Excesively,” it is used by a lot of people, and it is one of the long lasting slang, so it is common for some older people to understand the meaning and use of it. It is used before the object of the word.

このケーキめっちゃ甘い!

(Kono Ke-ki, meccha amai!)

This cake is very sweet!

ちょう // ちょ // 超 (Chou // Cho // Chou)

 Added at the start of an adjective, such as 面白い(Omoshiroi) “Interesting/funny” 、辛い(Tsurai)” Harsh” 、きれい(Kirei) “Beautiful” 、楽しい(Tanoshii) “Fun” to denote emphasis of that word. It could be translated as “Super” So ちょう綺麗(Chou Kirei) would be translated as “Super beautiful!” or ちょ辛い (Cho Tsurai) “Super harsh” It can be used both, in speaking format or in text. The use of Kanji is optional, but it is normal for advertisements that use this word to use the Kanji form of it.

ハズイ (Hazui)

It is just the abbreviation of the word 恥ずかしい (Hazukashii) “Embarrassing.” It is a word coming from the Kansai Dialect, but the younger generations have adopted it all around the country.

すこ (Suko)

Supposedly it started from a typing mistake, recently it has been adopted by the anime and the idol otaku community to say 好き (Suki)” Like” more informally. It is generally directed at an idol or a character.

わっかんない (Wakkanai)

Quite a common abbreviation from わからない (Wakaranai) “I don’t understand.” It is used both in text and when speaking as it is easier to pronounce than the grammatically correct version. Extending the ん pause can denote how much the user is lost with the information given.

推し (Oshi)

Oshi is the way to call your favorite character in a series or a member of a group or band. The one you like the most. You can just say 推しは__. “Oshi wa ___” (My favorite is __).  

推し活 ( Oshi Katsu)

Going together with the previous word, 推し、and the kanji 活 for “Life” or “activity” Oshikatsu, is used to refer to the activity of going to events, buying goods or simply watching something just because you want something related to your favorite character. It is mainly used online and when talking to oneself.

DD (Daredemo Daisuki) (t)

It refers to someone who likes everyone and says that every character or artist is their favorite. It is only used in a text message. When speaking, it is customary to use the whole words instead of the pronunciation of “DD.”

A: あーBさんとCさんの声めっちゃいいよね!あ!でもZ君もすてっき!

(Aaaa, B-san to C-san no Koe meccha iiyone! A! Demo Z-kun mo sutteki!)

“ahh, B-san and C-san’s voices are really great, right? Ah! But Z-Kun is also lovely!”

B: DDじゃん!

(DD Jan!)

尊い (Toutoi)

The direct translation would be “Precious” or “Valuable.” Still, recently, it has been taken by the Otaku and Idol community to refer to some image, action or information about their favorite characters online. It can be used alone or with それ” Sore” 、あれ” Are” 、これ” Kore” は尊い “wa toutoi.” It is mainly used online, but it is common to hear people use it at certain events of the idol or otaku genre. But it is not typical for ordinary people on the street to understand it.

(Oshi ga toutoi!)

(インスタ)映え ( (Insta) Bae)

With the combination of the abbreviated version of Instagram インスタ “Insta” and the Kanji 映 for “Flow” or “shine.” It is used for pictures or actions posted online to get fame or likes. Recently the インスタ part has been lost, and 映え has taken a verb form by itself, so it has been used recently as 映える “Baeru” to say that it will become famous online.

めっちゃきれいじゃん!これ絶対映える!

(Meccha Kirei Jan! Kore Zettai Baeru!)

“This is super beautiful! This will surely become popular online!”

ぐぐる//ggr (Guguru) (T)

It is the verb form of the abbreviation of Google. So used just as a verb, ググる means searching for something online. Then recently, it has become even shorter by using only the word’s consonants.

ちょっと待ってググってみる

(Chotto matte Gugutte miru.)

“Wait a bit; I will search for it.”

乙 (Otsu)

The Kanji means” second party in an agreement” or the defendant in a jury. Still, recently, more than the meaning of the Kanji, what has made it popular is its pronunciation; おつ “Otsu” as it is the standard way that you say to someone close お疲れ様 “Otsukaresama.” So when a friend finishes something, you say to them おつー! “Otsuu” or in text, you only send them 乙! Instead.

A: テストおわったー! (Tesuto Owattaa!) “The test finisheeed!”

B: 乙! “Otsu!”

いってら、// Itr (Ittera) (t)

It is the abbreviation for いってらっしゃい. And it is commonly used when someone is just going somewhere else for a slight period and then coming back. As the same as ぐぐる “Guguru,” in-text, it loses the vowels and becomes a word made only by the consonants left.

A: ちょっとコンビニ行ってくる。

(Chotto Konbini ittekuru)

“I will go to the convenience store for a bit.”

B: 行ってら!

“Ittera!”

なう (Nau)

Nau is the phonetic pronunciation of the English “Now,” It also carries the same meaning, as it expresses that something is “now.” It also carries a slight joyful nuance, as if waiting for what is about to come.

コーヒータイムなう!

(Koohii taimu Nau!)

“Coffee time now!”

だっる!//だりぃー (Darru // Darii)

Both are slight variations of the word だるい // 怠い (Darui) That is used when doing something that is bothersome and you would prefer to not do it instead. The use of だっる is more gender-ambiguous, but the use of だりぃー (Darii) is mainly used by guys, as it gives a slight cool feeling.

明日また同じ授業があるよ!だっるー!

(Ashita mata Onaji Jugyou aruyo! Darruu!)

“I have the same class tomorrow! Such a bother!”

やん (Yan)

It is based on that in the Kansai region, some pronunciations of じゃ get turned into や、, and this one is not the exception, it is used just as a slight twist on じゃん (Jan) While still having the same nuance.

オシャンティー (Oshantii)

The word おしゃれ (Oshare) is used to mean, stylish and fancy, and オシャンティー is just a variation of that made by the younger generation. It is important to denote that it is considered old by some people. So it is better to wait until the other person uses it if you don’t want to be taken as an old person trying to pass as cool.

はにゃ? (Hanya?)

A cutesy way of saying you didn’t get something or that you are lost in the conversation. It is mainly used alone and then asking what you didn’t get.

ぴえん (Pien) (T)

It is the text that replaces the “About to cry” emoji. The one with the sobbing eyes. It is used in a lighthearted matter mainly by girls, and it is used to express that something is too good or bad to bring someone almost to tears.

景色きれいすぎてぴえん。

(Keshiki Kirei sugite pien!)

“The scenery is so beautiful I am about to cry.”

メンヘラ (Menhera)

Menhera is the way to call a person who is a bit odd and quickly falls into depression or into sad feelings. It is also used to call a girl of “short-leash” and is always stalking her boyfriend or a girl who asks for stuff just to dislike it 

afterward. While it is mainly used by guys to call girls a bit “special” to treat, it is not uncommon for girls to call themselves menhera or a guy to be called menhera either. It is simply used as a な形容詞 (Na-type adjective).

リムる (Rimuru)

It is a slang verb used to determine when removing or unfollowing someone from an SNS. Such as Twitter or Instagram.

A:あの俳優まだフォローしてる? 

(Ano haiyuu mada foroo shiteru?)

“Are you still following that artist?”

B:めちゃくだらないものを投稿するからもうりむったよw。

 (Meccha kudaranai mono wo toukou suru kara mou rimutta yo w)

 “They post a lot of really stupid stuff so I unfollowed already, lol.”

~してもろて (~~Shitemorote)//~してもろって。

This is a variation of ~してもらって (Shitemoratte) “Please do ~~.” It is mainly used online, but it is not weird for some people to use it in everyday life either. As it is the same with やん(Yan) and じゃん (Jan), It has the same use, just the pronunciation changes.

フォローしてもろて。

(Foroo shite morote)

“Please follow me”

マウント(をとる) (Maunto (Wo toru) )

It could be considered the Japanese version of English’s “Flex on someone” slang. It is used when showing off to someone.

A: 今回のテスト、満点とったよ!Bさんは?w

 (Konkai no tesuto, manten totta yo! B-sanha? wara)

“ This time I got a perfect score on the test! And you B-san? Lol”

B: こんなくだらないテストでマウントとるなよ!

 (Konna kudaranai tesuto de maunto torunayo!)

“Don’t be flexing on a stupid test as this one!”

ワンチャン (WanChan)

No, it is not Doggy. It is used as an abbreviation from the English phrase “One Chance,” which means there is a possibility, albeit small, that something might happen in Japanese. Customarily used to denote that something good might happen. Depending on the generation, it can be considered dead or in life support slang. So, there is a possibility that it might become entirely obsolete in a short time.

A: 今回のテストマジでやばかったやん!受かるとおもう?

(Konkai no tesuto maji de yabakatta yan! Ukaru To Omou?)

“The test was super hard this time! Do you think you will pass?”

B: ん~、ワンチャン90点取れると思う。

(Nnn、Wanchan kyuujuu ten torero to omou.)

“Hmm, I think I was able to score a 90 this time.”

A:がち?! 

(Gachi?!)

“For real?!”

ばっか (Bakka)

Again, continuing with the slangs that at first sight might be confused with another word, no it is not ばか (Baka) “Stupid,” but ばっか(Bakka), it is taken as an abbreviation for ばかり (Bakari) “Only,” “nothing but.” It possesses the same meaning as the original word, and while it was first only used by guys, it is recently used by anyone in everyday life. It is essential to say that if you try to use this one and don’t feel fully confident with your pronunciation, or the context is a bit ambiguous, you might end up calling your friend stupid by mistake.

A: K先輩から聞いたけどY先生の授業に女性が多いんだって? どう? 今回こそ彼女作れそう?

 (K Senpai kara kiitakedo Y-Sensei No Jugyou ni Josei ga Ooin datte? Dou? Konkai koso Kanojo Tsukuresou? )

“I heard from K-sempai that Mr. Y’s class has a lot of women, right? How was it? Do you think that you will be able to get a girlfriend at last?”

B: マジで先輩に騙されたよ!K先生の授業は本当につまんないよ!しかも男ばっか!最悪!

(Maji de senpai ni damasareta yo! K-Sensei no Jugyou wa hontouni tsumannai yo! Shikamo otoko bakka! Saiaku!)

“I really got tricked by our senpai! Mr. Y’s class is super boring! And what is worse, there are only guys! It really is the worst!”

A:草!

(Kusa)

“Lmao!”

We hope that this list will become useful in learning the Japanese that is actually used between close friends and while having fun so be free to use them or at least we hope that with this you are able to understand more what people are saying between themselves so you can join the conversation. And remember that these are just the most common of the slangs present in the Japanese language. Between the regional variations, accents and special slang used in specific circles, the amount of Japanese slang that exists is innumerable, but that only means that if there is one slang that is not here, it might be that it has been brought to life, or is a new one that has just been brought to the world. In that case, don’t be ashamed and ask the one who said it what does that means? Because the only worst thing that is not knowing something is faking that you do and simply staying in doubt!

ABOUTこの記事をかいた人

Hello, My name is Alejandro H. I am an international student currently residing in the Tochigi prefecture and majoring in Biological Engineering. My hobbies round from cycling, traveling, practicing martial arts to studying languages and cooking. And have always been intrigued by the singularity of the Japanese culture and language. In my opinion, to be able to understand a culture; the two best ways is through its idioms and its culinary delights!  When it comes to the Japanese language, my curiosity has brought me to study the different origins and ideas conveyed through those now considered normal or even filler words in everyday Japanese, such as greetings and slangs. In addition to my ample variety of hobbies and tastes, I am always open to interact with new people and their way of seeing and living the world.