Meccha Uzai! 10 Japanese Slang Words You Should Know
From the outside, Japanese may seem like one of the most polite languages out there. Because of all the bowing, calm gestures, and Japanese honorifics, you may be shocked to learn that Japanese slang does exist.
Slang is an important part of any language. It is, by definition, very casual speech or text. Japanese has a rich reservoir of slang vocabulary that is often thrown around in conversations, so if you’re studying the language, you should get to know a few.
こんちはー (konchiwa—) is just a shortened form of こんにちは (konnichiwa—), which means “Hello” or “Good day.” You would use this greeting with friends, family and small kids, not so much with your 年上 (elders) or your boss. こんにちは is the standard and appropriate greeting when you’re not sure yet about how the nature of your relationship.
イケメン (good-looking guy)
イケメン(Ikemen) is basically a good-looking guy, handsome dude or hunk. The first part of the word, “ike,” is derived from イケてる (Iketeru), which means “cool, stylish or turn-on”.
You might see it used in simple contexts like イケメンですね！ (Ikemen desu ne!) Commonly applied to many Japanese idols and celebrities, イケメン is a popular word you should know.
Notice how イケメン is typed in katakana. This is because katakana is often used for emphasis and for words that don’t quite fit into the original language, making it quite apt to use for slang words!
キモい (kimoi) is another abbreviation, short for 気持ち悪い (kimochi ga warui). It literally means that you have a bad feeling, but it translates into “gross,” “disgusting” or “offensive.”
If you’ve received unwanted text messages from someone, then you might say the situation isキモい.
「かわいい。彼女になりたいか」と言うテキストが本当にキモいです。 His texting me of “You’re cute. Do you want to be my girlfriend?” was really disgusting.
KY (Just doesn’t get it)
This isn’t one that can be easily guessed even if you know Japanese.
A form of text-able slang, KY is an abbreviation for空気読めない (kuuki yomenai), which literally translates into “cannot read the air.” It is a phrase applied to someone who misses the implied meaning. In other words, someone who can’t read between the lines.
Spoken, a friend might jocularly say “空気読めないね,” but texting, he might just write KY.
Watch for this abbreviation the next time you’re on a Japanese forum or other casual site.
マジ (really, seriously)
An abbreviation of 真面目(majime), マジ (maji) means “seriously,” “for real” or “really.” It is sometimes used intentionally to oppose the idea of “playfully” or “capriciously.”
It’s meaning and usage is similar to how “really” is used.
You’ll also see マジ used in the middle of sentences, in context.
彼はマジでスープを5杯飲んでしまいまいたよ。 He drank up five bowls of soup, for real!
マジだいじょうぶ？ Are you really okay?
You’ll hear these frequently in Japanese sources, such as movies, texts and daily conversations, so this is a handy piece of slang to commit to memory!
リア充 (Person who is satisfied with real life)
Again, here is slang that is a mash-up of two words, リアル (rearu) and 充実 (juujitsu). リアル means “real” and充実 means “fulfilled” or “satisfied,” and put together, the word denotes someone who is satisfied with their real life, as opposed to their online life.
This is an interesting word, since the fact that it even exists just shows how much we’ve come to depend on our online presence.
あなたはリア充ですか？Are you satisfied with your real life?
めっちゃ (very, extremely)
めっちゃ (meccha) is a casual word that means “very” or “extremely” and is used for emphasis. It has a similar meaning to とても (very) but has more of a cool and casual tone about it.
The word is derived from the Kansai dialect, which is a dialect used in the area around Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto, but people from all over Japan are likely to understand it and even use it.
I’ve seen めっちゃ used frequently on social media forums, often by Kansaijin (people from the Kansai area) to indicate their locality.
You’ll hear word often in popular speech, so it’s a good word to know.
ワロタ orワロス (I Lol’d)
Translated into English slang, ワロタ(warota) orワロス(warosu) means “I lol’d” for “I laughed out loud.”
It’s a distortion of the word 笑う(warau), which means “to laugh.” Warota or warosu sounds like you attempted to say “warau” through your laughing, so the word got muddled. This word is also frequently written in katakana, but you may also see it in hiragana.
ウザイ (annoying, what a pain)
ウザイ (uzai) is short for うるさい (urusai), which means “annoying” or “noisy.” You’ll hear this slang used in short statements frequently, when someone gets annoyed and just remarks, “ウザイだね” (“annoying” or “what a pain”).
As an adjective this word can be inflected, so you’ll see the negative form ウザくない (uzakunai) used.
テリさんがウザくない？ Isn’t Terry a pain?
This word is great for capturing your feelings of frustration when no other words will do.
ダサい (uncool, out of fashion)
Given how fashion-conscious Japanese culture can be, you need a word to describe those who make the fashion no-nos. ダサい (dasai) is a derogative, although sometimes endearingly or humorously used, for things, people or places that are just uncool-looking.
It has less to do with how handsome or pretty a person is than with their grooming and clothes, so you can have a ダサいイケメン (dasai ikemen), or handsome uncool guy.
The opposite of ダサい is おしゃれ (oshare), which is not a slang term but casual word that means “smartly dressed” or “fashionable.”
Learning Japanese Slang on LingQ
Alright, if you’re new to Japanese slang, you’re probably going to need to review the above words on a daily basis so you don’t forget them!
Using LingQ is the best way to learn Japanese because it allows you to import content you love and turn the into interactive lessons.
For example, I did a quick Google search for the slang “めっちゃ” to look for related content and one of the top results was a website with some song lyrics. As someone who enjoys Japanese music, I decided to import it into LingQ because I wanted to see how “めっちゃ” could be used in context. Importing is extremely easy, especially if you have the LingQ importer extension. See for yourself:
Thanks to LingQ, I can look up characters with a single tap and know their meaning and pronunciation. This makes reading Japanese a whole lot easier.
Afterwards, I can easily review the vocabulary on both desktop and mobile. LingQ provides various methods of review including dictation, flashcards, and spelling (as shown below). Audio is also provided too!
The beauty of LingQ is that you can do this with any content you find online. Just grab a chunk of text (a blog post, an article, etc.) and click the import extension. It’s that simple.
LingQ’s core learning strategy is to get you to learn new vocabulary through context rather than just a single word at a time. And since it’s available for both Android and iOS, you can study anytime, anywhere.
I hope you enjoyed a sampling of the rich repertoire of Japanese slang. A lot of slang words are packed full of emotion and emphasis, so they will be sure to add colour to your speech as you them. Good luck with your studies!
Connie Huang has self-studied the Japanese language for over a decade. In addition to Japanese, she knows Mandarin Chinese, Spanish and French.