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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.



蛙の面に水
[かえるのつらにみず, kaeru no tsura ni mizu] water on a duck’s back

顔がいい
[かおがいい, kao ga ii] be in good standing; have a good reputation

顔が利く
[かおがきく, kao ga kiku] have influence; be influential

顔が立ちません
[かおがたちません, kao ga tachimasen] have lost face

顔が立つ
[かおがたつ, kao ga tatsu] maintain one’s status; keep face

顔がつぶれる
[かおがつぶれる, kao ga tsubureru] lose status; have lost status

顔が広い
[かおがひろい, kao ga hiroi] know a lot of people; be widely known; have a large circle of acquaintances

顔が汚れる
[かおがよごれる, kao ga yogareru] lose status; lose all status

顔から日が出る
[かおからひがでる, kao kara hi ga deru] blush deeply; redden in the face

顔に泥を塗る
[かおにどろをぬる, kao ni doro o nuru] put to shame

顔の広い人
[かおのひろいひと, kao no hiroi hito] a person with many acquaintances

顔を売る
[かおをうる, kao o uru] become more popular; gain influence

顔を売れた人
[かおをうれたひと, kao o ureta hito] a well-known person

顔を貸す
[かおをかす, kao o kasu] assist someone in gaining status

顔を出す
[かおをだす, kao o dasu] come; arrive; appear; put in an appearance

顔を汚す
[かおをよごす, kao o yogosu] be ashamed

陰口をきく
[かげぐちをきく, kage-guchi o kiku] mutter darkly; backbite

火事後のポンプ
[かじあとのぽんぷ, kaji-ato no ponpu] something belated or unnecessary

火事後の用心
[かじあとのようじん, kaji-ato no joujin] be too late in doing something

火事場の泥簿
[かじばのどろぼ, kajiba no dorobou] a thief at the site of a disaster

風の便り
[かぜのたより, kaze no tayori] something heard as a rumor; something told by a "little bird"

肩が軽くなる
[かたがかるくなる, kata ga karuku naru] be relieved of a burden; releived of a responsibility

肩たたき
[かたたたき, kaka-tataki] pressuring employees to take early retirement

肩で風を切って歩く
[かたでかぜをきってあるく, kata de kaze o kitte aruku] swagger; strut along

肩を並べて走る
[かたをならべてはしる, kata o narabete hashiru] run neck and neck

肩を持つ
[かたをもつ, kata o motsu] support someone; side with someone

花鳥風月
[かちょうふうげつ, kachou-fuugetsu] expression of the traditional themes of natural beauty in Japanese esthetics

かっかする
[かっかする, kakka suru] be hot under the collar; be fuming (mad)

勝手にする
[かってにする, katte ni suru] do as one pleases; do as one likes

蚊の涙
[かのなみだ, ka no namida] something very small

兜を脱ぐ
[かぶとをぬぐ, kabuto o nugu] acknowledge defeat

痒い所に手が届かぬ
[かゆいところにてがとどかぬ, kayui tokoro n te ga todokanu] not know where the trouble is

体が続く
[からだがつづく, karada ga tsuzuku] stand the strain

がり勉
[がりべん, gariben] grind, hard period of study
(lit.: stiff/strict studying)

軽口をたたく
[かるぐちをたたく, karuguchi o tataku] speak unthinkingly

過労死
[かろうし, karoushi] sudden death caused by overwork and mental stress, typically occurring among middle-aged male corporate employees

かろうじて
[かろうじて, karoujite] just barely, narrowly, with difficulty

棺おけに片足をつっこむ
[かんおけにかたあしをつっこむ, kanoke ni kata-ashi o tsukkomu] have one foot in the grave

簡単のため
[かんたんのため, kantan no tame] for the sake of simplicity

勘のいい
[かんのいい, kan no ii] be quick to understand; be quick on the uptake; be quick to catch on

勘の悪い
[かんのわるい, kan no warui] be slow to understand; be slow on the uptake; be slow to catch on

看板持ち
[かんばんもち, kanban-mochi] flatterer; brown-noser

勘弁する
[かんべんする, kanben suru] lay off; leave it; let go; overlook


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