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Japanese Idioms





The Japanese language is filled with idioms of all sorts, from classical references from ancient Chinese to modern colloquialisms used by college students and young salaryman. Whether you are traveling to Japan for fun or on business, or are living there, you'll find idioms indispensible to understanding and using the daily language. Browse below to find the ones you want or simply explore the many possible ways to express yourself in Japanese.



あいかわらず
[あいかわらず, aikawarazu] same as ever; just like always

挨拶回り
[あいさつまわり, aisatsu-mawari] process of visiting all of one’s colleagues or coworkers to say hello

揚げ足を取る
[あげあしをとる, ageashi o toru] trip up somebody

顎を出す
[あごをだす, ago o dasu] give up; give in

朝飯前
[あさめしまえ, asameshi-mae] easy as pie; piece of cake; simple

足が遅い
[あしがおそい, ashi ga osoi] be slow; be a slow walker; be slow on one’s feet

足がつく
[あしがつく, ashi ga tsuku] leave tracks

足が遠退く
[あしがとおのく, ashi ga toonoku] be far away; keep away; visit less often

足が速い
[あしがはやい, ashi ga hayai] be fast; be a fast walker; be fast on one’s feet

足が速める
[あしがはやめる, ashi ga hayameru] pick up the pace; walk faster

足でまとい
[あしでまとい, ashi de matoi] a drag; a person who is a burden

足止めをする
[あしどめをする, ashidome o suru] slow down; stop

足取りをする
[あしどりをする, ashidori o suru] trip someone up

足並みをそろえて
[あしなみをそろえて, ashinami o soroete] cooperate

脛に傷
[すねにきず, sune ni kizu] have a guilty conscience

足元に付け込む
[あしもとにつけこむ, ashimoto ni tsukekomu] have a person at a disadvantage

足元の明るいうちに
[あしもとのあかるいうちに, ashimoto no akarui uchi ni] a thing should be done before it is too late

足を洗う
[あしをあらう, ashi o arau] go straight; become a decent person; turn over a new leaf

足を奪われる
[あしをうばわれる, ashi o ubawareru] be deprived of

足を出す
[あしをだす, ashi o dasu] reveal a secret; let the cat out of the bag

頭がいい
[あたまがいい, atama ga ii] be smart; be quick

頭数
[あたまかず, atama-kazu] headcount; number of persons

頭株
[あたまかぶ, atama-kabu] leader, chief, head, executive

頭が悪い
[あたまがわるい, atama ga warui] be dumb; be slow

頭におく
[あたまにおく, atama ni oku] take under consideration

頭にくる
[あたまにくる, atama ni kuru] be angry; become angry; get pissed

頭の回転が遅い
[あたまのかいてんがおそい, atama no kaiten ga osoi] be slow; be slow on the uptake; be dull or dimwitted

頭の回転が速い
[あたまのかいてんがはやい, atama no kaiten ga hayai] be quick; be quick on the update; be sharp

頭割り
[あたまわり, atama-wari] sharing expenses

頭を抑える
[あたまをおさえる, atama o osaeru] keep under one’s thumb; keep someone under control; restrain somone

頭を刈る
[あたまをかる, atama o karu] have one’s hair cut

頭をはねる
[あたまをはねる, atama o haneru] take money on the side; be on the take

頭をもたげる
[あたまをもたげる, atama o motageru] rise into prominence

後の祭り
[あとのまつり, ato no matsuri] it’s too late; a day late and a dollar short

後よろしく
[あとよろしく, ato yoroshiku] hold the fort; take care of

後を絶たない
[あとをたたない, ato o tatanai] endless

危ない橋を渡る
[あぶないはしをわたる, abunai hashi o wataru] take risks; take a risk

油を売る
[あぶらをうる, abura o uru] idle one’s time away; loaf; dawdle

油をかける
[あぶらをかける, abura o kakeru] egg on a person; instigate

油を絞る
[あぶらをしぼる, abura o shiboru] tell someone off; scold; rebuke

油を乗る
[あぶらをのる, abura o noru] warm up to a subject; be interested

あほの話食い
[あほのはなしぐい, aho no hanashi-gui] an idiot will believe anything; an idiot will swallow anything

天下り
[あまくだり, ama-kudari] the practice of bureaucrats finding high-ranking jobs in private firms after retirement

蟻の這い出る隙もない
[ありのはいでるすきもない, ari no haideru sukima mo nai] there isn’t even space for an ant to go through

アルサロ
[あるさろ, aru-saro] a salon where the hostesses are supposedly part-time employees with other jobs

あんぐり口を開けて
[あんぐりくちをあけて, anguri kuchi o akete] with the mouth wide open, agape

暗黙の承認
[あんもくのしょうにん, anmoku no shounin] tacit approval; silent approval


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