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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.



歯が浮くようなお世辞
[はがうくようなおせじ, ha ga uku you na oseji] nauseating flattery

歯が利く
[はがきく, ha ga kiku] be of use

歯が立たない
[はがたたない, ha ga tatanai] be beyond one’s ability

歯が立たぬ
[はがたたぬ, ha ga tatanu] beyond one’s power

歯が立つ
[はがたつ, ha ga tatsu] be able to do; make understand

馬鹿ちょん
[ばかちょん, baka-chon] foolproof, idiot-proof (n.b.: despite claims, baka-chon is not derogatory toward Koreans, but nonetheless this word is not often used anymore)

馬鹿丁寧
ばかていねい, baka-teinei] polite to a fault; excessively polite (lit.: fool polite)

はきはき
[はきはき, haki haki] briskly; cleanly; crisply

歯応えがする
[はごたえがする, hakotae ga suru] have opposition

恥知らず
[はじしらず, haji-shirazu] shameless person (lit.: not knowing shame)

働き蟻
[はたらきあり, hataraki-ari] hard worker

働き蜂
[はたらきばち, hataraki-bachi] hard worker

ぱちぱち
[ぱちぱち, pachi pachi] crackly, snap

八文字を踏む
[はちもんじをふむ, hachimonji o fumu] walk parrot-toed

八方美人
[はっぽうびじん, happou bijin] one who shows people what they want to see

八方塞がり
[はっぽうふさがり, happou fusagari] cornered; embattled on all sides

初耳
[はつみみ, hatsumimi] haven't heard that before; that's news to me (lit.: first ear)

派手好み
[はでごのみ, hade-gonomi] showy, expressive person (lit.: someone who likes a showy, dramatic style)

派手好き
[はでずき, hade-zuki] showy, expressive person (lit.: someone who likes a showy, dramatic style)

派手にやる
[はでにやる, hade ni yaru] be excessive; be extravagant

鼻が開く
[はながあく, hana ga aku] be amazed; be bemused

鼻が高い
[はながたかい, hana ga takai] be proud

花金
[はなきん, hana-kin] happy Friday; TGIF (lit.: flowery Friday, when young men and others would stay out until the last trains headed in for the night)

鼻毛をよむ
[はなげをよむ, hanage o yomu] make a fool of a man; lead a man by his nose

鼻先の思案
[はなさきのしあん, hanasaki no shian] short-sighted thought

話にはならない
[はなしにはならない, hanashi niwa naranai] be out of the question

話の腰を折る
[はなしのこしをおる, hanashi no koshi o oru] interrupt someone

話を飲む
[はなしをのむ, hanashi o nomu] go along with; accept

鼻につく
[はなにつく, hana ni tsuku] be disgusted with; it stinks; stick in one's craw

花の給料日
[はなのきゅうりょうび, hana no kyuuryoubi] payday (lit.: flowery payday, when young men and others would stay out until the last trains headed in for the night)

鼻の先であしらう
[はなのさきであしらう, hana no saki de ashirau] turn up one’s nose; treat in a haughty manner

鼻の下
[はなのした, hana no shita] the mouth

鼻の下が長い
[はなのしたがながい, hana no shita ga nagai] be infatuated

花の十八歳
[はなのじゅうはっさい, hana no juuhassai] blossoming 18-year-old girl (lit.: 18 year flower)

鼻ぺちゃ
[はなぺちゃ, hanapecha] flat-nosed (person) (from “hana” [nose] and “pechanko” [flattened])

鼻を折る
[はなをおる, hana o oru] humiliate

花を咲かせる
[はなをさかせる, hana o sakaseru] have fun talking about something

鼻を高める
[はなをたかめる, hana o takameru] be proud; be boastful

花を摘む
[はなをつむ, hana o tsumu] peeing or pooping in the woods (used by women)

花を持たせる
[はなをもたせる, hana o motaseru] let someone have/take the credit for

歯に合わない
[はにあわない, ha ni awanai] be unsuitable

歯に絹着せない
[はにきぬきせない, ha ni kinusenai] speak frankly

歯の浮くようなお世辞
[はのうくようなおせじ, ha no uku you na oseji] nauseating flattery

歯の根が合わない
[はのねがあわない, ha no ne ga awanai] have one’s teeth chatter with fear

早とちりする
[はやとちりする, hayatochiri suru] jump to conclusions

腹が大きい
[はらがおおきい, hara ga ookii] be pregnant; have a potbelly; be big-hearted

腹が立つ
[はらがたつ, hara ga tatsu] be furious; get angry; be pissed off

腹ができている
[はらができている, hara ga dekite iru] be resolute; be prepared

腹がへこへこする
[はらがへこへこする, hara ga heko heko suru] be starving; be very hungry

腹が減る
[はらがへる, hara ga heru] be hungry

腹下し
[はらくだし, hara-kudashi] loose bowels; loose stool

腹黒い
[はらぐろい, hara-guroi] black-hearted, wicked, evil

腹立ち
[はらだち, haradachi] anger

腹違い
[はらちがい, hara-chigai] refers to children of the same father but different mother

腹の中で笑う
[はらのなかでわらう, hara no naka de warau] laugh in one’s sleeve

腹の身の内
[はらのみのうち, hara no mi no uchi] be temperate in eating and drinking

腹八合医者いらず
[はらはちごういしゃいらず, hara hachigou isha irazu] temperance requires no physician; “temperance is the best physician”

腹八分目
[はらはちぶんめ, hara hachibunme] do not overeat; do not eat too much; eat in moderation

腹をかかえて笑う
[はらをかかえてわらう, hara o kakaete warau] hold one’s sides with laughter

腹を立てる
[はらをたてる, hara o tateru] lose one’s temper; become angry with

腹を読む
[はらをよむ, hara o yomu] read someone’s mind

はらを割って言わせば, [はらをわっていわせば
hara o watte iwaseba] to be honest be frank

破廉恥人間
[はれんちにんげん, harenchi-ningen] shameless person

歯をならす
[はをならす, ha o narasu] be angry; be sorry

歯を見せない
[はをみせない, ha o misenai] remain serious

歯をむく
[はをむく, ha o muku] become angry

晩婚化
[ばんこんか, bankonka] later marriage; marrying when older


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