What’s the meaning of “Daijoubu”(だいじょうぶ)?

皆さん、こんにちは!Hello everyone. If you pay attention to the conversation in Japanese, you must have found that there are numerous fixed phrases that appear several times during the talk. Since those phrases are everywhere in daily life, most of the time, it’s easy to remember the meaning.

This time, I’m going to introduce one of those phrases, which is “daijoubu”. Maybe some of you have already know that we can use “daijoubu” to tell others “I am okay”, which seems to be the most used function of this phrase. In this article, I will put the functions of the phrase into six big groups and explain how to use “daijoubu”. Besides, in the last part, several conversations are provided for you to know how to use it correctly in daily life and in the workplace.

Take a look into daijoubu

Pronunciation

Before the explanation, let’s check the pronunciation of “daijoubu”.

The first is in affirmative informal form.

The second is in informal interrogative form, which you can find the rising intonation in the end.

“Daijoubu” is a phrase that is commonly written in kanji “大丈夫”, which the hiragana form is “だいじょうぶ”. Depending on the context, this interesting phrase has various meanings that might be beyond your thoughts.

The Etymology

The Japanese for “the origin of a word / phrase” is 語源 (gogen). To have a better understanding of a world or phrases, knowing the origin or the story can be helpful. At the same time, this also helps to store the words in your long term memory. Let’s break the phrase into two parts, “大”, and “丈夫”.

  • 大 (dai) literally means “big”.
  • 丈夫 (joubu) in Japanese refers to something is strong or durable. 丈 (jou) is a measure of length in the ancient times. A unit of “jou” is around 180 cm, which is the average height of man. 夫 (bu) is a noun that means “man” and “husband”.

As many people know, some of the kanji have a certain relation with Chinese language. In Chinese, “大丈夫” means “a respectable man (in many aspect, such as health, strength, honor, and so on)”. Derived from Chinese language, according to the Japanese dictionary, “daijoubu” in Japanese mainly carries the two meanings below.

1. A condition of steady and without worries. Being strong and firm.
2. Without mistakes and being certain.

Affirmative informal大丈夫。    (daijoubu)
Affirmative formal 大丈夫です。  (daijoubu desu)
Informal interrogative 大丈夫?    (daijoubu?)
Formal interrogative 大丈夫ですか? (daijoubu desu ka?)

Classifying “daijoubu” by function

1. Question ー “Are you alright?”, “Is (something) alright?”

When you see someone feeling uncomfortable or meet someone who is in trouble, and you want to show your concern or give a hand, you can ask “大丈夫ですか?”

  • 体調は大丈夫ですか?       Are you feeling good? (Literal: Is your body feeling good?)
  • 顔色悪いですね!大丈夫ですか?  You look pale! Are you okay?

When you want to know if something is going well? Is something in good condition?

  • ここまでの説明は大丈夫ですか?  Do you have any question (for the explanation until now) ?
  • 天気は大丈夫ですか?       Is the weather good?
  • この前の試験大丈夫でした?    How was the test you mentioned last time?

2. Response ー to let others know “you feel alright” or “you think (something) is good”

On the other side, if you are the one being asked, and you think you are feeling alright or you can handle everything by yourself, you can answer with “daijoubu (desu)”.

3. Question ー to confirm & make a request

This phrase is also very useful when you want to make sure of something with others or when you are requesting for something / permission. In this category, you can put the information that you would like to know in front of “daijoubu (desu ka)?”

  • 月曜日は大丈夫ですか?       Is Monday okay for you?
  • 今電話しても大丈夫ですか?     Is it okay to call you now?
  • このコップを使っても大丈夫ですか? Is it okay to use this cup?

4. Response to an offer / request from others

The usage of “daijoubu” here can be ambiguous for a Japanese beginner, since it can be the answer that stands for either “yes” or “no”, which is quite tricky.

Reject an offer

When someone offers you something, you can say “daijoubu (desu)” to reject, which means “I don’t need, thank you” or “I’m fine, thank you”. Of course, there are many other expressions that you can use to reject an offer, such as “結構です (kekkou desu)”, “いりません (irimasen)”, and so on. Compared to other expressions, “daijoubu desu” is a much more polite way to refuse.

  • When purchasing, the clerk asks if you need a plastic bag / join the membership / receipt of the purchase …
  • In the restaurant, you are asked if you need more water.

Accept / Confirm a request

However, when someone requests something from you, “daijoubu (desu)” is used to accept the request, meaning “yes, no problem”.

  • When you are in the middle of your study or work, someone needs to interrupt you for a while.
  • When someone wants to borrow something from you.

5. Response to the apologize from others

There are many unexpected, unintentional accidents and mistakes that happen in daily life. Imagine someone apologizes for…

  • bumping into you in a crowded street.
  • dropping your pen in the classroom.
  • being late for 10 minutes.

If you do not consider the mistake a problem, you can say “daijoubu”, which means “It’s okay. Don’t mind.”, to forgive them.

6. To encourage others

When your family member or your friend is in the emotion of upset, worried, or sad. There are some expressions using “daijoubu” to tell others “everything will be alright”.

  • 心配しないで、きっと大丈夫ですよ! Don’t worry! You will be fine!
  • ずっとそばにいるから大丈夫!    I will always stay by your side. You will be fine!

Conversations

(Sam is absent from today’s class because of a fever. Tom is talking to Sam on the phone.)

Tom:熱があるって聞いたけど、大丈夫?  I heard that you had a fever. Are you okay?

Sam:さっき薬を飲んだから、もう大丈夫。 I just took the medicine. It’s alright now.

Tom:そうなんだ!お大事に!       I see! Take care!

(Tom is paying in convenience store)

Clerk:袋はご利用ですか?         Do you need plastic bag?

Tom:大丈夫です。            No, it’s fine, thank you.

(Tom is discussing with Sam about when to go to amusement park)

Tom:今週末は大丈夫?           Is this weekend okay for you?

Sam:ごめん、今週末は予定があって、来週末なら大丈夫だよ! Sorry, I already have plan for this weekend. But I am free on next weekend.

Tom:オーケー!じゃあ、来週の日曜日で!  OK! Then, let’s meet next Sunday!

(In the office)

Tom:今時間大丈夫ですか?新商品についてですが。 Do you have time now? I’d like to discuss about the new product.

Boss:ごめん、今はちょっと、午後でも大丈夫?   Sorry, I’m in the middle of work right now. Can I we do that this afternoon?

Tom:はい、大丈夫です!              No problem!

(On the phone. Tom and Sam are going to meet later.)

Tom:もう着いた?             Have you arrived there?

Sam:あと10分ぐらいかな。どうしたの?   I will arrive in ten minutes. What happened?

Tom:ごめん、ちょっと電車が遅れてて、30分ぐらいかかりそう。 I’m sorry. The train is delayed, so I will be late for around 30 minutes.

Sam:そうなんだ、私は大丈夫だから、急がなくてもいいからね! I got it! It’s okay. Take your time.

Summary

Is this the usages of “daijoubu” complex for you? 大丈夫ですか?

When learning a language, it is easy to just “understand” the meaning. “To use” in real life is another thing. “Daijoubu” carries a lot of meanings in different contexts. After understanding the usages, the next challenge is to be able to put it in practical use in various situations! 

ABOUTこの記事をかいた人

Hi! I’m Yujung from Taiwan. Decided to start my career in Kansai area Japan in 2019, I’ve always considered this a right decision ever made in my life. WHY? There are way too many things waiting for me to discover, such as the charming language, spectacular nature, colorful seasons and lovely people!