Japanese Slang: The Top 40 to Know

By Melissa | Updated November 24, 2020

Here is the Japan Switch Guide to popular Japanese slang. We hope this list helps you sound more fluent and gain confidence in your Japanese, whether you are a beginner or an Advanced Japanese speaker!

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Why learn Japanese slang?

Do you want to learn recent and up-to-date Japanese phrases that don't come up in Japanese textbooks? Do you want to understand youtube comments written in Japanese or what your favourite character in a Japanese TV show is saying? Then look no further because this article has got you covered!

Japanese slang is great! Using Japanese slang will not only help you seem more friendly but it will also help you understand what others around you are saying. Using Japanese slang also helps you sound more fluent, no matter what your current level of Japanese is. Most of all, knowing Japanese slang will help boost your confidence and allow you to impress native speakers.

Using just a Japanese textbook will only get you so far when learning Japanese and most of them are outdated. Many don’t include modern Japanese slang, especially new Japanese slang from 2020. This article covers the latest and up to date Japanese slang as of 2020 to help you level up your Japanese!

These Japanese Slang have been divided into four easy groups to understand when and where they are used:

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    Popular 2020 Japanese slang

    The following are all Japanese slang that have been popular in 2020. Some are new and have come about due to the COVID-19 pandemic, others have been around 2 years or less but are picking up in popularity. For more information on learning Japanese check out our affordable online and offline courses at Japanswitch!

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    1. オン飲み (On-nomi)

    This slang refers to online meetups where people drink. The phrase became popular early this year in Japan when the government encouraged people to stay at home and work remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The slang is a mash-up of the words オンライン (online) and 飲む (to drink). 

    2. ぴえん (pien)

    Pien is a very popular internet slang that expresses the crying emoji. It is used in a joking way. It is mainly used by young girls but is spreading in popularity and most people will understand what is meant by this phrase. 

    3.盛れる (もれる, moreru)

    The phrase "moreru" literally means “to make one look better/to beautify.” It is commonly often used when discussing photo filter apps and which filter makes the photograph look the most aesthetic. 

    例:このアプリのフィルター、盛れるね!

    Kono apuri no firuta, moreru ne!

    example) The filter on this app makes the picture look great!

    4. まじ卍(まじまんじ maji manji)

    "Maji manji" can roughly be translated to be “for reals?!” Is mainly used by female high school students (otherwise known as JK or Joushi Kousei) and young people. The symbol itself is the one used in Japan to represent buddhist temples (not to be confused with the swastika). 

    5. パリピ(ぱりぴ pari-pii)

    This word is a slang abbreviation of the english word party people (パーティーピープル/パーリーピーポー). It literally means someone who likes to party or always seems to be in a party mood. 

    6. ワンチャン (wan chan)

    No this word does not refer to a puppy (also called wan-chan). This means “one chance.” It is sort of similar to the English slang “Yolo.” The phrase means you have the possibility of achieving something. In other words, there is a “chance” that you can achieve that!

    例)明日の試験、あの問題が出るならワンチャン受かるかも

    Ashita no shiken, ano mondai ga derunara wanchan ukaru kamo

    example) If that problem comes up in tomorrow’s test I might actually pass.

    7.インスタ映え (insta bae)

    Insta bae means that an image is instagrammable and aesthetic. The slang is made up of two words インスタグラム (instagram) and 映える (to look attractive). If you take a picture and it is very instragram-worthy make sure to call it インスタ映え!

    8. すこ(suko)

    "suko" means “like” on the internet. It can usually be found in the comments section of youtube videos. You won’t really hear people saying this in everyday conversation but if you head to a comments section online and type in Japanese you will definitely seem like a native!

    9. ○○しか勝たん( …. shika katan)

    "shika katan" means that “... is the best.” For instance, learning Japanese is the best! In Japanese, the phrase literally means “nothing can beat this.” (“○○に勝てるものはない”). The phrase has even made one of the top Japanese buzzwords of 2020!

    10. あたおか(ataoka)

    "Ataoka" means “you are crazy.” The slang is an abbreviation of “頭がおかしい” (atama ga okashii, your head is weird.) 頭 atama means head and おかしい okashii means weird.  In other words you are telling someone in a humorous way that they are crazy!

    Japanese Slang used Online

    Japanese slang can always be found in the comment sections of Japanese youtube videos and online forums. Here are some of the top Japanese slang you will come across and what they mean. If you are new to watching Japanese videos on youtube, check out our article on How to learn Japanese through youtube.

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    11.ググる (guguru)

    "Guguru" means “to google.” The word works in Japanese because it conjugates the same as any other Japanese verb (all ending in る). The word can be conjugated in the following way:

    Plain Polite:

    Negative:

    Negative Polite:

    Past:

    Te Form:

    Progressive: 

    ググります

    ググらない

    ググりません

    ググった

    ググって

    ググっている

    12. 推し (oshi)

    "Oshi" means a person who you support and someone you are a fan of. It literally means “push.” Think of it like you are promoting someone and “pushing” them forward. If you are a big fan of someone, it means that oshi(推し) them.

    If someone asks you “Dare oshi(誰推し)?” they are asking “Who are you a fan of?”

    13. おk (ok)

    おk is a humorous way of writing “okay” using a mixture of English and Japanese. The Japanese (o) comes before the English “K” to spell “OK.” This is one of those slang that cannot be spoken but will look fluent if you use it over messenger or online.

    14. WWWW

    This slang is hard to translate, however, the English lololololol is most similar. The wwwww comes from the pronunciation of the Japanese character “laugh” 笑う warau. Many people also write wwww as (笑). Think of it like (lol). 

    15. なう (nau)

    "nau" literally means “now.” Often girls will post on their instagram stories phrases like “カラオケなう” meaning “Karaoke now,” which in more fluent English translates to “We are at Karaoke right now.” This is a really easy to use slang for instagram stories or social media posts because you can say what you are currently doing + なう.

    16. り(Ri)

    "Ri" is short for 了解 ryoukai meaning understood and is both spoken and written. It is often used over messenger with friends. Beware - not all age ranges and people will understand this slang and it can seem quite rude to someone who does not understand you and is not a close friend.

    17. リア充 (riajuu)

    "Riajuu" can roughly be translated to mean “normies” in English. It refers to people who are invested in reality aka, work, fashion, hanging outside and extroverts as opposed to introverts, people who like anime and people who do not consider themselves living a fulfilled social life.

    18. ファボる (faboru)

    "Faboru" means to favourite someone’s tweet on twitter. Similar to the previous ググる (guguru) slang that was turned into a verb, this slang turns the word “favourite” into a Japanese verb. 

    19. 4649 - yoroshiku

    "4649" has been around a while and is a pun on the Japanese sounds of the numbers. The numbers 4649 can be read out as yo-ro-shi-ku which is how the japanese word for “nice to meet you” or literally “please take care of me” is pronounced. Again, this can only be used as written slang and will not work when spoken.

    Japanese slang used to express opinions

    The next selection of Japanese slang all express emotions and are all very popular slang. For the slang ending in “い” (i) try elongating the ending to sound even more native! For example,  キモいいいいいいい kimoiiiiiiiiiii expresses the fact that you find something really disgusting! For more tips on improving Japanese speaking, check out our article the ultimate guide to Japanese speaking!

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    20.やばい (yabai)

    "yabai" is much like the English “oh my god” and “crazy” and can be used in both a negative and positive way. If something is “yabai” it can be amazingly good or horribly bad and guessing which will really depend on the context.

    例)あの服やばいね

    Ano fuku yabai ne

    Example: Those clothes are great/hideous 

    21. ダサい (dasai)

    "Dasai" means “lame” and can refer to fashion sense and people. Many children will call their parents ダサい (dasai) because they don’t know what the latest trends are or about certain celebrities. You could also call someone’s outfit ダサい (dasai). 

    22. キモい (kimoi)

    "kimoi" means gross. It is a shortened version of the phrase “kimochi warui” 気持ち悪い which means disgusting. Use this word to describe anything gross, be it people or food. Personally I find the Japanese food Natto (fermented soy beans) to be very kimoi. 

    23. ズルい (zurui)

    "Zurui" means “unfair,” “no fair” or “that’s cheating.” It is really Zurui if your friend copies your homework and then gets a higher score than you!

    24. ムカつく (mukatsuku)

    "Mukatsuku" means means “irritating” and comes from the onomatopoeia mukamuka (pissed off). You use it when something’s really gotten on your nerves. Let people know you’re annoyed!

    25. ウケる (ukeru)

    "Ukeru" means “interesting”, although not always in a good way. It can also mean “laughable.”

    例)あの俳優ウケるんだけどー

    Ano haiyū wa ukerun da kedo

    Example: That actor is...interesting

    26. ウザい (uzai)

    "Uzai" means “annoying.” The word is quite harsh, more so than it’s English equivalent. While bickering siblings may use this at one another, as well as Japanese gyaru, I wouldn’t recommend using it with people unless you are close enough to both find it funny.

    27. ダル (daru)

    Daru or darui means “lazy”. Got homework? Housework? Too much to do but you just want to lie on the couch and watch a movie? You’re feeling darui.

    例)仕事忙しくてダルい

    Shigoto isogashikute darui

    I’m busy at work but I don’t want to do anything

    28. 激 (geki)

    "Geki" means “super” or “really.” The word is a prefix and comes before another adjective to make it mean “really” something. A few examples include:

    激辛 geki kara “very spicy”

    激安 geki yasu “very cheap”

    激うま geki uma “super delicious”

    29. マジで (maji de)

    "Maji de" also means “really.” You say it to show your surprise at something that is hard to believe. You can also use the phrases uso (嘘)and gachi de (ガチで) interchangeably with this Japanese slang. 

    Japanese slang used when talking with others

    The following Japanese slang can be used when chatting with others to comfort them, describe them or express agreement. If you don’t know where to get started meeting Japanese people then check out our article on making Japanese friends.

    30.ドンマイ (donmai)

    "Donmai" comes from the English word “don’t mind.” You would say this to a friend who has just just lost a sports match. You can also say it to a friend who has been jokingly teased in an attempt to make them feel better!

    31.それな (sore na)

    "Sore na" is almost identical to the English slang “ikr” or “I know right.” If someone said “That person over there is hot” you would reply “I know right” or “sore na.”

    32. ケーワイ/ KY (keewai)

    KY literally means “kuuki yomenai” 空気読めない, “someone who can’t read the mood.” For example, if everyone was crying because their favourite character in a TV show just got killed off and someone was laughing they would be called a “KY.”

    33. 調子どう? (chōshi dō)

    "chōshi dō" is a casual way of asking someone “what’s up” or “how you doing?” This is a very popular slang that has been around for a while now so both young people and adults will likely understand you. 

    34. カッケー (kakkee)

    "Kakkee" is an abbreviation of the phrase カッコイイ or “cool” in Japanese. Pronouncing the word as Kakkee instead helps show that you really find the person attractive.

    35. オタク (otaku)

    "Otaku" is a well-known Japanese slang in the West that refers to someone who is very invested in a sub-culture. However, in the West most people think this term only refers to people who like anime. There are actually many types of otaku. For instance there are also train-otaku (densha-otaku) and idol-otaku and even recently Japanese people who are really into kpop are being referred to as kpop-otaku!

    36. おしゃれ (oshare)

    "Oshare" means fashionable or stylish! It will often be used to talk about the people that go shopping in areas of Tokyo such as omotesando or shibuya

    37. イケメン (ikemen)

    Use this phrase when you see an attractive guy! It comes from iketeru (cool) and men (face). It means a pretty boy, a guy with a nice face. 

    例)いい性格よりイケメンが好き

    Ii seikaku yori ikemen ga suki

    Rather than a good personality I like hot guys

    38. おっす!(Ossu!)

    "Ossu" is a greeting/response you hear often in sports anime. People definitely say it in real life, but it’s waning in popularity. It’s a greeting between guys and is short for ohayō gozaimasu (good morning) by taking out everything in between.

    39. かまちょ (Kamacho)

    "Kamacho" means “clingy” in English. You can say this to someone if they are being too touchy-feely or not giving you any space. 

    40. ブスカワ (Busukawa)

    "Busukawa" means “ugly-cute.” The easiest way of explaining this phrase would be to imagine a pug. They can be described as both ugly and cute!

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    Final Remarks: Japanese Slang

    Thank you for reading to the end! I hope these top 40 slang help you sound more fluent in Japanese! Remember practice makes perfect so get out there and start using them! If you aren’t sure where to start your Japanese journey, check out our Japanese learning site Japanswitch!

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