Japanese Idioms

8 Feb

An idiom, by dictionary definition, is

An expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent elements…

(according to Dictionary.com)

In Japanese, it’s 慣用句 (kanyouku).

An example of an English-language 慣用句 (idiom) is “kick the bucket“…which, far from it’s literal definition, means “die“.

Here are some Japanese 慣用句 (idioms):

  • へそを曲げる (Heso-o-mageru): (lit. “bend your belly-button”) means: “To sulk“.
  • 尻尾をまく(Shippo-o-maku): (lit. “Coil your tail”) means: “Be defeated and demoralized” (same as “Run away with your tail between your legs”).
  • 目を丸くする(Me-o-maruku-suru): (lit. “Make round eyes”) means: “Be very surprised“.
  • 胸を打つ(Mune-o-utsu): (lit. “Beat your chest”) means: “Feel touched / emotional“.
  • アゴが外れる(Ago-ga-hazureru): (lit. “Dislocate your jaw”) means: “Laugh loudly“.
  • ゴマすり(Gomasuri): (lit. “Grind sesame”) means: “Brown nose / Sucking up“.
  • 花に嵐(Hana-ni-arashi): (lit. “Flowers to storms”) means: “Misfortune often follows happiness“.
  • 花より団子(Hana-yori-dango): (lit. “A snack rather than flowers”) means: “Practical things are preferred over the aesthetic“.
  • 根も葉もない(Ne-mo-ha-mo-nai): (lit. “Without roots nor leaves”) means: “Groundless / Unproven“.

I’ll add some more later.

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6 Responses to “Japanese Idioms”

  1. Tokyo Mike March 7, 2010 at 12:37 pm #

    Congrats on actually having an idioms page which contains idioms that Japanese people actually regularly use. I just confirmed this with a Japanese coworker. So many books and web sites list so many that aren’t used at all.

    Like

    • tokyo5 March 7, 2010 at 1:28 pm #

      >Congrats on actually having an idioms page which contains idioms that Japanese people actually regularly use.

      Thanks.
      But I don’t know if I should be congratulated…I just wrote things I hear or say in daily speech.

      >So many books and web sites list so many that aren’t used at all.

      Is that right?

      Your username is “Tokyo Mike”…so I assume you live in Tokyo too.
      What country are you from? And how long have you been in Japan?

      Like

  2. tokyo5 February 12, 2009 at 11:17 pm #

    Mom…

    Yeah, the English is just the translated meaning…the idioms are Japanese. They don’t have much meaning if you don’t say them in Japanese.

    Like

  3. Mom February 12, 2009 at 4:17 am #

    Very interesting…i am glad i tell anyone that were dislocating my jaw, they would think i was out of my mind. I enjoy reading about things like this.

    Like

  4. tokyo5 February 10, 2009 at 10:32 am #

    Mom…

    >I like the bend your belly button the best! very cute.

    Yeah, it sounds strange when you translate it to English.

    >beat your chest-I always thought that one meant when someone is victorious or they are beating their chest out of grief or loss.

    Actually, I think that expression is an English idiom used to describe someone acting tough…like a gorilla does. But maybe I’m wrong.
    But in Japanese it’s mune-o-utsu, and means to be emotionally touched.

    >I’ll have to remember to use “dislocate your jaw” the next time I am at the movies and someone is laughing too loudly. I’ll tell them they are dislocating my jaw, is that the right usage?

    Actually, no. Ago-ga-hazureru would be used like the English idiom “crack me up“.

    >“Grind sesame” means brown nosing or sucking up? that’s funny because I thought brown nosing and sucking up were both idioms in themselves.

    Yes, they are. Gomasuri is the Japanese equivalent.

    Like

  5. Mom February 10, 2009 at 3:24 am #

    I like the bend your belly button the best! very cute.
    beat your chest-I always thought that one meant when someone is victorious or they are beating their chest out of grief or loss.
    I’ll have to remember to use “dislocate your jaw” the next time I am at the movies and someone is laughing too loudly. I’ll tell them they are dislocating my jaw, is that the right usage?
    “Grind sesame” means brown nosing or sucking up? that’s funny because I thought brown nosing and sucking up were both idioms in themselves. like when a person is accused of sucking up to their boss, what is really meant is that person is doing whatever it takes, whether it is sincere or not doesn’t matter, because the purpose is to gain favor with their boss. but now you mean that when someone says “grind sesame” they are giving compliements to gain favor-isn’t it the same meaning for both terms? that one is a little confusing for me.

    Like

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