Japanese Slang is perhaps one of the most peculiar in the world. Where slang often changes between generations, Japanese slang words haven’t really. The only real “new” slang terms are thanks to internet slang!
When it comes to Japanese itself, it is one of the most sophisticated languages on the planet, not to mention being one of the most spoken languages as well.
If you’re traveling to Japan, the ability to use a few slang terms will certainly impress the locals.
15. wwwwwwww – LOL
When we covered Chinese slang, we covered the “text speak” slang of 牛牛牛 (niuniuniu) roughly akin to hahahaha in English. As with their neighbors, Japan also has their own simulation of laughter.
For the Japanese, their term is a series of w’s, arranged something akin to wwwwwwww. As with its English counterpart, a series of w’s in Japanese sounds a lot like laughter, and hence, a series of w’s insinuate laughter!
Naturally, the longer the set of w’s, the more laughter is implied. With that being said, it isn’t the only Japanese Slang term for laughing, with them also using the American slang terms LOL and LMAO.
14. ウケる (Ukeru) – Haha!
Alternatively to wwwwwwww, you could also use ウケる, which is used to mean roughly the same thing. However, this is becoming less common each year (mostly as it is seen as “old” although many will still use it!)
Unlike most other Japanese slang terms, ウケる does indeed have a literal meaning. As you can probably guess, this meaning is something like “hilarious” or “funny” and hasn’t deviated much from this meaning in slang.
Where you will see wwwwww written down, you will hear ウケる spoken aloud. Both are generally interchangeable in text, although wwwwww is more common and vice versa for real life.
13. さいてい (Saitei) – The Worst
Sometimes, something or someone is just bad. But they’re not just bad, they are the worst. We don’t really have something similar in English, at least, not entirely, however, the Japanese have become quite fond of さいてい.
In Japanese, there is technically a non-slang term meaning “The worst”. This term, 最悪, whilst still quite well used, has fallen out of favor in recent years. It has been replaced by さいてい.
Literally, さいてい means “the lowest” which, when you think about it, isn’t too far away from meaning the worst. In slang, it is often translated to mean this instead!
12. おっす! (Ossu!) – Hey
Almost every language’s slang has some equivalent of おっす! Sometimes, it’s too much effort to say the extremely long こんにちは (Kon’nichiwa), and you just want something short and sweet.
To accomplish this goal, the Japanese have begun using おっす! roughly translated as hey, hi or even yo!. As usual, おっす! has no literal meaning in Japanese, being exclusively used in slang.
Whilst this goes as a general for most slang, but おっす! in particular, using it in front of older people, especially people’s parents is seen as extremely rude. They may know what you’re saying, but it certainly breaks etiquette!
11. かまちょ (Kamacho) – Let’s Hang
As with several other Japanese slang terms, hasn’t really got an English equivalent. This is perhaps due to how young かまちょ is, having only appeared in recent years, thanks to the internet.
The term originates from a much longer Japanese phrase, 構ってちょうだい (kamatte choudai). This phrase roughly asks someone to talk to them as they are extremely bored and have nothing to do.
However, this term was too long to be typed on a keyboard. As such, Japanese teenagers shortened down the phrase to かまちょ. This has allowed it to be somewhat manageable.
10. 微妙 (Bimyou) – Kinda Sucks
Sometimes you find something out that is disheartening but not necessarily the end of the world. In English, we have a few words/phrases to say this, but Japanese slang only really uses one: 微妙.
微妙 has a literal meaning, something that is for some unknown reason completely unrelated to the slang meaning of the term. Literally, 微妙 means subtle, where it has several different meanings in slang.
Most commonly, 微妙 is used to say something akin to “kinda sucks” however, depending on the context, it also has completely different meanings as well. These range form “iffy” to “questionable” to “bizarre”!
9. ダサい (Dasai) – Old-Fashioned
When you look at things from the 1980’s or 1990’s, you probably think that they’re pretty outdated, and/or somewhat inferior to modern products. Whilst there are several terms in English, Japanese tends to use ダサい.
In English, ダサい can be translated to mean several different things, most commonly as old-fashioned, but also lame as well as ugly. However, the term usually connotes that it is from an outdated era.
Thanks to an uptake in 60’s, 70’s and 80’s inspired fashion among teenagers in Japan (and other parts of the world!) it can also be used to say that it is cute, but in a old way, almost akin to vintage.
8. おつ！ (Otsu!) – Good Work Today
おつ！ is a rather strange one in my opinion. To a non-Japanese person, the concept of it is rather strange, with almost no language having a similar translation for it! However, to the Japanese, it makes total sense!
Literally, おつ！ has no meaning. However, after a long day at work/school, you want to tell people something akin to “Good work, see you tomorrow, I’m going home”.
However, this in Japanese is far too long and wordy. As such, the Japanese simply invented a new, shorter term, おつ！Many teenagers have also began writing it as otsu! rather than in Japanese characters.
7. それな！(Sore na!) – Exactly!
Sometimes, someone says something to you that you completely, 100% agree with. You probably want to tell them that you agree with what they are saying, to do this in Japanese, you’d use それな！
Literally, それな！ means something akin to “That’s it”. In many ways, it’s slang and non-slang meanings are the same, with Japanese people using それな！more to mean “exactly” or even “I agree”.
Thanks in part to American media, それな！ is also used in the context of “That’s what I was going to say!” (mostly thanks to that line being translated as それな！ in translated American TV shows).
6. めんどい (Mendoi) – A Lot of Trouble
When we were growing up, we all knew someone who was always getting themselves into trouble. When they were getting in it, you probably had a few different slang terms for it, the Japanese equivalent is めんどい.
Unlike most other Japanese slang words, めんどい does have an actual translation. As you can probably guess, its real and slang meanings are not too far apart, with it literally meaning troublesome.
With that, Japanese teenagers have reinvented the term in order to serve as a warning. If someone does something borderline illegal, someone may use めんどい as a warning, or to tell their friends when a policeman/adult catches them.
5. ブスカワ (Busukawa) – Cute
As with several other Japanese slang words, ブスカワ is a rather strange one. If you were to translate it into English, there aren’t really any words that you could use… I guess it’s more of a cultural thing.
Let’s assume that you found a small animal. This animal is incredibly and unquestionably ugly, yet, inside this ugliness, there is a cuteness to it too. This is where you’d use ブスカワ!
As with many other Japanese slang words, ブスカワ has no official or literal meaning. The word had originally been developed by Japanese teenagers in the late 1990’s to describe new breeds of dogs, having since become quite common.
4.ドンマイ！- (Donmai!) – Don’t Worry
Most language’s slang tend to have some sort of equivalent to this. For instance, in French slang, they have laisse tomber, which actually has somewhat of a similar origin story.
ドンマイ！has no literal meaning. Instead, ドンマイ！was developed by Japanese teenagers as an insult to someone’s intelligence (often said in Japanese’s equivalent of sarcasm).
Since then, however, ドンマイ！ has grown beyond just its insult-based past. Today, it is used in a genuine way. If your friend does something silly, and they apologize, but it is no issue, you could use ドンマイ！
3. KY – Lacking in People Skills
KY is one of Japanese’s few Latin-character-based slang terms. With that being said, sometimes, you meet a person who has little to no personal skills whatsoever, and you want to tell others such. However, no term really existed.
This led several Japanese teenagers to take the term 空気読めない (kuuki yomenai) and reinvent it. Beforehand, 空気読めない had meant “can’t read the air” however this was too long for Japanese text speak.
What resulted was the teenagers looking at how it would be spelled in English (kuuki yomenai). Eventually, this would be shortened down to only KY. Despite its literal meaning, most people translate it to mean “lacking in people skills”.
2. ムカつく (Mukatsuku) – P!ssed Off
Sometimes, someone says or does something that really annoys you. This is to such a point that you either need to walk away, or you’ll do something you regret. In English, we have the term “P!ssed off”, the Japanese have ムカつく.
ムカつく (mukatsuku) is used to say the same thing. Although, unlike p!ssed off, ムカつく can have a variety of meanings, ranging from very annoyed to extremely p!ssed off, to a point where there isn’t an English equivalent really.
Alternatively, Japanese people also use the term uzai, however, this is more to describe being very annoyed, rather than p!ssed off. It all depends on context really.
1. やばい (Yabai) – Anything
やばい (Yabai) is perhaps Japanese slang’s most versatile term. Depending on the context and who is using it, it could mean almost anything! If you can use this well, you’ll certainly impress the locals!
Literally, やばい translates as “dangerous”. However, depending on the context, it can mean anything from “terrible” to “great” to “so-so”. Some Japanese people, especially young men may also pronounce it as ヤバ (yaba).
In many ways, やばい is akin to the similarly diverse Italian slang term of boh! As with boh! やばい is used in pretty much every context you could imagine!
Which are your favorite Japanese slang words? Tell me in the comments!