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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.



いい顔しい
[いいかおしい, iikaoshii] someone who wants to be everyone’s friend

息を引き取る
[いきをひきとる, iki o hikitoru] die; draw one’s last breath; breathe one’s final breath

以心伝心
[いしんでんしん, ishin denshin] tacit understanding

いたちごっこ
[いたちごっこ, itachi gokko] vicious circle, vicious cycle

鼬の最後っ屁
[いたちのさいごっぺ, itachi no saigoppe] a final defense when one is cornered or otherwise out of options (lit.: the last fart of a weasel)

いたちの最後屁
[いたちのさいごべ, itachi no saigobe] a last resort (lit.: the last fart of a weasel)

一概に言えない
[いちがいにいえない, ichigai ni ienai] cannot say for certain

一から
[いちから, ichi kara] from the start;, from the beginning

一段落
[いちだんらく, ichidanraku] complete the first stage

一日も早く
[いちにちもはやく, ichi-nichi mo hayaku] rapidly, fast, soon

一人前になる
[いちにんまえになる, ichininmae ni naru] become an adult; come of age; stand on one’s own

一命を取りとめる
[いちめいをとりとめる, ichimei o toritomeru] escape death; pull through

一網打尽
[いちもうだじん, ichimon dajin] make a wholesale/summary arrest; round up

いちゃもんをつける
[いちゃもんをつける, ichamon o tsukeru] pick a fight; niggle; find fault; needle

一家の面目となる
[いっかのめんぼくとなる, ikka no menboku to naru] be a credit to one’s family; bring honor to one’s house

一喜一憂
[いっきいちゆう, ikki ichuu] be glad and sad by turns; be unable to put one’s mind at ease

一挙手一投足
[いっきょしゅいっとうそく, ikkyoshu ittousoku] a slight effort; a small amount of work

一件落着
[いっけんらくちゃく, ikken rakuchaku] that is that; that takes care of that

一刻も早く
[いっこくもはやく, ikkoku mo hayaku] as quickly as possible, as soon as possible

一生懸命
[いっしょうけんめい, isshou kenmei] with all one’s might, with a great effort; diligently

一心不乱
[いっしんふらん, isshin furan] single-mindedly

いつの間にか
[いつのまにか, itsu no ma ni ka] before one becomes aware of

一般参賀
[いっぱんさんが, ippan sanga] open visitation of the Imperal Palace during Shogatsu

一匹の狼
[いっぴきのおおかみ, ippiki no ookami] lone wolf

一服
[いっぷく, ippuku] a rest, a break

一方では
[いっぽうでは, ippou dewa] on the one hand

一本槍
[いっぽんやり, ippon yari] one great effort; one final push

糸を引く
[いとをひく, ito o hiku] control; manipulate

犬と猿の仲
[いぬとさるのなか, inu to saru no naka] be on bad terms; get along like cats and dogs (lit. dog and monkey relationship)

犬と猫の仲
[いぬとねこのなか, inu to neko no naka] be on bad terms; get along like cats and dogs

いやでも応でも
[いやでもおうでも, iya demo ou demo] whether one wants to or not

いらいら
[いらいら, ira ira] angrily, fuming mad, hopping mad

色々な
[いろいろな, iro iro na] various, many different

陰隠滅滅
[いんいんめつめつ, inin metsumetsu] gloomy and depressing


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