Have you learned hiragana and katakana? Now you can step up your Japanese learning game by taking on some basic Japanese words and vocabulary.
- We have selected the top 100 Basic Japanese words you need to know and sorted them into 8 lists.
- This blog is meant to help you learn the words so that you can try to form basic Japanese sentences with these basic Japanese words.
Days of Weeks & Times in a Day
|おはようございます||Ohayou gozaimasu||Good morning|
|こんにちは||Konnichiwa||Hello/ good afternoon|
|ありがとうございます||Arigatou gozaimasu||Thank you|
|すみません||Sumimasen||Excuse me/ sorry|
|お兄さん||おにいさん Oniisan||Older brother|
|お姉さん||おねえさん Oneesan||Older sister|
|弟||おとうと Otouto||Younger brother|
|妹||いもうと Imouto||Younger sister|
Days of the Week
|辛い||からい Karai||Hot/ spicy|
|見る||みる Miru||To see|
|聞く||きく Kiku||To listen|
|話す||はなす Hanasu||To talk/speak|
|言う||いう Iu||To say|
|書く||かく Kaku||To write|
|食べる||たべる Taberu||To eat|
|飲む||のむ Nomu||To drink|
|歩く||あるく Aruku||To walk|
|走る||はしる Hashiru||To run|
|座る||すわる Suwaru||To sit|
|立つ||たつ Tatsu||To stand|
|水||みず Mizu||Water/cold water|
|お湯||おゆ Oyu||Hot water|
For the next step after learning these basic Japanese words, equip yourself with basic Japanese grammar.
If you wish to have a short-term study in Tokyo, Check out our 3-month intensive Japanese courses. Also, feel free to send us an inquiry if you have any questions!
Last Updated on February 11, 2020
12 Beautiful and Untranslatable Japanese Words
Team Japanese uses affiliate links. That means that if you purchase something through a link on this page, I may earn a commission (at no extra cost to you). Thank you for supporting my site!
“If we spoke a different language, we would perceive a somewhat different world.”
‒ Ludwig Wittgenstein
Do you agree with this quote? I know I do. Many languages have beautiful and unique words which cannot be translated. These words often represent concepts which are so unique to that culture, there is simply no equivalent in any other language.
We’ve collected 12 of our favourite Japanese words with no English equivalent.
The interesting thing about these words is that they reveal a lot about the Japanese character. Many of these words reflect Buddhist concepts which are unknown to many Westerners, but are central ideas in Japanese society.
By learning these unique Japanese words, you are one step closer to understanding the Japanese soul.
Shinrinyoku literally translates as ‘forest bath’. It refers to taking a walk in the forest for its restorative and therapeutic benefits. Can’t you feel yourself relaxing as you soak up all the lovely green light? Scientists have actually found that walking in the forest has many health benefits such as lowering blood pressure and stress hormones. It seems the Japanese are one step ahead with their shinrinyoku practise!
The sunlight filtered through leaves on trees. This is a beautiful word to describe a beautiful moment. You can enjoy some komorebi while taking your shinrinyoku!
100 Most Common Japanese Words (Learn 88% in 90 Days)
So you’ve decided to learn Japanese. Congratulations!
Japan has one of the most unique and interesting cultures in the world. It’s the home of anime, some of the best chefs in the world, and one of the safest places you can live in. However, it is also one of the most difficult languages you can learn.
If you’re up for the challenge, we would recommend that you start with the most common Japanese words. This may seem obvious, but you’ll be surprised to know the amount of trivial words and phrases you’ll be taught in traditional language classrooms.
As you may understand, learning the most common words that you’ll use in regular conversations will reap a huge benefit. The reason being, you don’t have infinite amount of time to learn every word in the Japanese dictionary. Most of us are busy living our own lives whether that’s focusing on advancing our careers, spending time with family, and other hobbies.
1,000 Most Common Japanese words = 88% of comprehension
There are studies that share some light around this topic as well. Here’s an excerpt around the Spanish language:
Studying the first 1000 most frequently used words in the language will familiarize you with 76.0% of all vocabulary in non-fiction literature, 79.6% of all vocabulary in fiction literature, and 87.8% of vocabulary in oral speech.
Studying the 2000 most frequently used words will familiarize you with 84% of vocabulary in non-fiction, 86.1% of vocabulary in fictional literature, and 92.7% of vocabulary in oral speech.
This may not directly translate to learning the most basic Japanese words, but you can transfer this analogy.
Learning the first 1,000 words will help you become familiar with the majority of the language, as they’re the most commonly used.
This is similar to the Pareto’s Principle, which states that 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort. Learning Japanese or any other language is no different.
100 Most Common List of Japanese Words
With that said, we’ve accumulated a list of the first hundred words in Japanese that you can start learning.
If you want to learn beyond the initial 100 Japanese words today, here they are:-1,000 most common Japanese words (flash card version)
-5,000 most common Japanese words (memrise)
Basic Greetings in Japanese
|Hello (on the phone/Skype)||もしもし||moshi moshi|
|How are you?||おげんきですか？||ogenki desu ka?>|
|I’m good.||げんきです||genki desu|
|Long time no see.||おしゃしぶりです||oshashiburidesu|
|Thank you so much||どうもありがとうございま||doumo arigatou gozaimasu|
Japanese Conversation starters
|Are you busy now?||いまいそがしいですか？||ima isogashii desu ka?|
|What are you plans this weekend?||こんしゅうまつよていがありますか？||konshuumatsu yotei ga arimasu ka?|
|How is your family?||かぞくのみなさんわいかがですか？||Kazoku no minasan wa ikaga desu ka?|
|Tell me about yourself||じこしょうかいをおねがいします||jiko shoukai o onegaishimasu|
|What do you think?||どうおもいますか?||dou omoimasu ka?|
Important questions in Japanese
|How do you say that in English?||それわえいごでなんといいますか？||sore wa eigo de nanto iimasu ka?|
|I don’t understand.||わかりません||wakarimasen|
|I don’t know.||しりません||shirimasen|
|Can you please say it slowly?||もとゆっくりはんして?||moto yukkuri hanshite?|
Common responses to questions
|Every day||まいにち||mai nichi|
Transition words during conversations
|That’s a good question||それはよいしつもんですね||Sore wa yoishitsu mondesu ne|
|Wait a moment||ちょっとまってください||chotto matte kudasai|
|Don’t worry||くよくよするな||kuyokuyo suru na|
|Thank you for your time||おいそがしいところありがとうございました||o isogashii tokoro arigatou gozaimashita|
|see you later||じゃあまた||jaa mata|
Best method to learn the list of Japanese words
To help you accelerate your Japanese learning journey, we’ve got 3 resources to recommend to you today.
Quizlet is a digital quiz tool that allows you to create, organize, and view your own quizzes online. In this case, you’d be better off leveraging the quizzes around learning Japanese words that other people have already created. You’ll find dozens of templates that you can consume.
Memrise is a digital flashcard creator where you can find thousands of courses for Japanese, English, Spanish, and dozens of languages. It’s 100% free for anyone to use and offers a simple user interface that makes it easy to learn.
If you want to work with an online Japanese tutor to help accelerate your speaking ability, then we’d encourage you to check out Rype. We have hundreds of pre-vetted tutors that are ready to teach you Japanese. Best of all, you can do it from the comforts of your own home, at anytime that’s convenient for you.
Come check out a free 7-day trial to get started, 100% risk-free.
If you’re serious about learning Japanese this year, we recommend you connect with a professional Japanese tutor for 1-on-1 lessons. The immediate feedback you get in addition to a personalized lesson plan will enable you to learn much faster.
With Rype, you get access to the world’s most popular foreign languages including Japanese in your membership.
Your first 99 Japanese words
Are you ready to start speaking Japanese, right now?
Even if you just thought about learning Japanese today, you can start speaking from Day 1!
Whether you are learning Japanese to prepare for travel to Japan, or for a language exchange, it’s a good idea to learn Japanese essential words and phrases to get the ball rolling. I’ve got your back with this list to help you get started!
It can be a bit intimidating to know where to begin. Any time you learn a new language, especially one where the writing system is very different, it can become difficult to make the connections between grammar, memorized words, and creating sentences. Don’t get too stressed about it, though.
Even though I speak often now with Japanese language exchange partners, it wasn’t always that way. I found it hard to truly start speaking Japanese at first, too.
These basic Japanese words and phrases helped me start to get to know others in Japanese. And that’s the whole point, isn’t it?
- Learning some stock phrases and words to fall back on to keep the conversation going or ask questions is the key to relaxing a bit when speaking.
- So, of course you should know your essential 挨拶 (aisatsu: “greetings”) and basic Japanese words.
- In this article, I’ll also go over questions, cool Japanese words, and cute Japanese words and expressions to really go far in your speaking.
- Once you've learned these Japanese words, you’ll sound めっちゃかっこい (meccha kakkoi: “very cool”).
Here's a Quick “Japanese Words for Beginners” Video I Made To Get You Started:
Now onto all 99 of the most important Japanese words and phrases:
Japanese Greetings for Everyday
おはようございます！ (Ohayou Gozaimasu: “Good Morning!”)
A formal way to greet someone in the morning, you’ll use this with co-workers, strangers, or superiors. With friends and family, you can shorten it by saying おはよう！(Ohayou: “‘Morning!”)
こんにちは (Konnichiwa: “Hello” or “Good Afternoon”)
This is a fairly formal greeting, and not usually how you greet friends and family. It’s used for strangers or formal situations. But it is the most standard greeting for hello.
あー、＿＿＿さん。(Ahh, _-san: “Ah, Mr./Mrs. _”)
17 English Words that Come From Japanese
Words at Play We may call them borrowings, but we're not giving them back
Although its name translates as “short song,” it is longer than the more familiar haiku, which has three lines containing usually five, seven, and five syllables respectively.
An old silent pond … A frog jumps into the pond, Splash! Silence again.
— Matsuo Basho
Another type of Japanese verse is senryu, a 3-line unrhymed poem that is structurally similar to haiku. However, whereas haiku tends to focus on nature and the seasons and usually has a serious tone, senryu tends toward irony and satire, especially about the human condition.
his favourite deli—the bald man finds a hairin his soup
— Michael Dylan Welch
Definition: any of various small images, symbols, or icons used in text fields in electronic communication (as in text messages, e-mail, and social media) to express the emotional attitude of the writer, convey information succinctly, communicate a message playfully without using words, etc.
The Most Common Loan Words in Japanese
The Japanese language has borrowed many words from foreign countries, firstly from China as early as the Nara Period (710-794).
Gairaigo (外来語) is the Japanese word for “loan word” or “borrowed word.” Many Chinese words were mixed into Japanese to the extent that they are no longer considered “loan words.
” Most Chinese loan words are written in kanji and carry the Chinese reading (on-reading).
Around the 17th century, the Japanese language began to borrow from many western languages. For example, from Portuguese, Dutch, German (especially from the field of medicine), French and Italian (not surprisingly many are from the fields of art, music, and food), and most of all, English. Today, English is the origin of most modern loan words.
The Japanese use English words to express concepts for which they have no equivalents. However, some people simply prefer to use English expressions for practically or because it is fashionable.
In fact, many loan words have existing synonyms in Japanese. For example, the Japanese word for “business” is “shoubai 商売”, but the loan word “bijinesu ビジネス” is also used.
Another example is “gyuunyuu 牛乳(Japanese word)” and “miruku ミルク(loan word)” for “milk.”
Loan words are generally written in katakana, except the ones of Chinese origin. They are pronounced using Japanese pronunciation rules and Japanese syllables. Therefore, they end up quite different from the original pronunciation. This makes it hard to recognize the original foreign word.
Many loan words are often abbreviated in ways they wouldn't get abbreviated in their original language.
- Maiku マイク —- microphone
- Suupaa スーパー —- supermarket
- Depaato デパート — department store
- Biru ビル —- building
- Irasuto イラスト —- illustration
- Meeku メーク —- make-up
- Daiya ダイヤ —- diamond
Multiple words are also shortened, often to four syllables.
- Pasokon パソコン —- personal computer
- Waapuro ワープロ —- word processor
- Amefuto アメフト —- American football
- Puroresu プロレス —- professional wrestling
- Konbini コンビニ —- convenience store
- Eakon エアコン —- air conditioning
- Masukomi マスコミ —- mass media (from mass communication)
A loan word can be generative. It may be combined with Japanese or other loanwords. Here are some examples.
- Shouene 省エネ —- energy saving
- Shokupan 食パン —- loaf of bread
- Keitora 軽トラ —- light commercial truck
- Natsumero なつメロ —- a once-popular song
Loan words are often combined into Japanese as nouns. When they are combined with “suru”, it changes the word into a verb. The verb “suru (to do)” has many extended uses.
- Doraibu suru ドライブする —- to drive
- Kisu suru キスする —- to kiss
- Nokku suru ノックする —- to knock
- Taipu suru タイプする —- to type
There are also “loan words” that are actually made in Japan. For example, “sarariiman サラリーマン(salary man)” refers to someone whose income is salary base, generally the people work for corporations. Another example, “naitaa ナイター,” comes from the English word “night” followed by “~er”, means baseball games played at night.
- Arubaito アルバイト —- part-time job (from German arbeit)
- Enjin エンジン —- engine
- Gamu ガム —- chewing gum
- Kamera カメラ —- camera
- Garasu ガラス —- glass
- Karendaa カレンダー —- calendar
- Terebi テレビ —- television
- Hoteru ホテル —- hotel
- Resutoran レストラン —- restaurant
- Tonneru トンネル —- tunnel
- Macchi マッチ —- match
- Mishin ミシン —- sewing machine
- Ruuru ルール —- rule
- Reji レジ —- cash register
- Waishatsu ワイシャツ —- solid colored dress shirt (from white shirt)
- Baa バー —- bar
- Sutairu スタイル —- style
- Sutoorii ストーリー —- story
- Sumaato スマート —- smart
- Aidoru アイドル —- idol, pop star
- Aisukuriimu アイスクリーム —- ice cream
- Anime アニメ —- animation
- Ankeeto アンケート —- questionnaire, survey (from French enquete)
- Baagen バーゲン —- a sale at store (from bargain)
- Bataa バター —- butter
- Biiru ビール —- beer (from Dutch bier)
- Booru pen ボールペン —- ballpoint pen
- Dorama ドラマ —- TV drama
- Erebeetaa エレベーター —- elevator
- Furai フライ —- deep frying
- Furonto フロント —- the reception desk
- Gomu ゴム —- rubber band (from Dutch gom)
- Handoru ハンドル —- handle
- Hankachi ハンカチ —- handkerchief
- Imeeji イメージ —- image
- juusu ジュース —- juice
- kokku コック —- cook (from Dutch kok)
Nationality is expressed by adding “jin 人”, which literally means “person”, after the country name.
- Amerika-jin アメリカ人—- American
- Itaria-jin イタリア人 —- Italian
- Oranda-jin オランダ人—- Dutch
- Kanada-jin カナダ人—– Canadian
- Supein-jin スペイン人—- Spanish
- Doitsu-jin ドイツ人—- Germany
- Furansu-jin フランス人—- French
20 Japanese Words That Will Make You Think
Japanese calligraphy | © Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Public Domain)
Social values, aesthetics, and culture are deeply entangled in the Japanese language. These factors can make it a challenge to translate from Japanese to English, especially when it comes to words and phrases that rely heavily on understanding the background and significance behind them. Here are 20 Japanese words that are difficult to express in English, yet can help you to better understand Japan and its culture.
Wabi-Sabi (WAH-bi SAH-bi)
Wabi-sabi is the most quintessential of Japanese aesthetics, but also one of the hardest to express in English.
Whereas Western ideas of beauty are often rooted in the concept of the “perfect” form, the Japanese concept of beauty lies in appreciating the imperfections found in nature as all things of the natural world are impermanent and thus beautiful. Ginkaku-ji temple in Kyoto is one of the most famous examples of wabi-sabi with its natural, unfinished appearance.
Shibui is a term used to describe objects that are attractive in their austerity and restraint. If you’re a person who prefers unadorned or understated designs, then you may have a shibui sense of style.
The concept of yugen says that beauty is not just about the seen, but the unseen. One famous example is the image of “subtle shadows of bamboo on bamboo” as described by the playwright Zeami.
Mono-no-Aware (MOH-no no ah-WA-reh)
Mono-no-aware says that beauty is subjective, and it’s our sensitivity to the world around us that makes it beautiful. In particular, the transience of the physical world and our awareness that beauty is impermanent makes us appreciate it more. The epitome of mono-no-aware is the sight of cherry blossom petals falling in the springtime.
Komorebi, the Japanese expression for the sunlight as it filters through the trees, is made up of the kanji characters for tree (木), shine through (漏れ), and sun (日).
Wa refers to the natural order when members of a group are in harmony. In a country that views itself as a homogeneous society, conformity is highly prioritized in order to not upset the natural order of things.