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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.



迷宮入り
[めいきゅういり, meikyuu-iri] deadend, unsolved, unanswered, unresolved

目上
[めうえ, me-ue] a superior; a senior; someone above you in a hierarchy

目移りする
[めうつりする, me-utsuri suru] be embarrased or confused by many choices

目がある
[めがある, me ga aru] be careful; be attentive

目が多い
[めがおおい, me ga ooi] many people are looking, watching

目が遅い
[めがおそい, me ga osoi] be slow to understand; be slow on the uptake

目が肥える
[めがこえる, me ga koeru] have a trained eye; have a good eye

目頭が熱くなる
[めがしらがあつくなる, megashira ga atsuku naru] warm tears well up in one's eyes

目が少ない
[めがすくない, me ga sukunai] few people are present

目がすわる
[めがすわる, me ga sawaru] eyes are fixed

目が高い
[めがたかい, me ga takai] have advanced views; have lofty ideas

目が近い
[めがちかい, me ga chikai] be short-sighted

目が散る
[めがちる, me ga chiru] one’s glance is distracted

目がつく
[めがつく, me ga tsuku] look at carefully

目がつぶる
[めがつぶる, me ga tsuburu] sleep; die; shut one’s eyes

目がつぶれる
[めがつぶれる, me ga tsubureru] become blind

目が出る
[めがでる, me ga deru] be lucky; have good luck

目が遠い
[めがとおい, me ga tooi] be farsighted; have lofty ideas

目が届く
[めがとどく, me ga todoku] meet

目がとまる
[めがとまる, me ga tomaru] pay heed

目がない
[めがない, me ga nai] have a weakness for

目が速い
[めがはやい, me ga hayai] understand quickly; be a quick study

目が増える
[めがふえる, me ga fueru] the number of people

目から鼻へ抜ける
[めからはなへぬける, me gara hana e nukeru] do something quickly and cleverly

盲の垣覗き
[めくらのかきのぞき, mekura no kaki-nozoki] do something useless

盲のまぐれ当り
[めくらのまぐれあたり, mekura no magure-atari] lucky shot

目先
[めさき, mesaki] before one’s eyes; under one’s nose

目先の変わった
[めさきのかわった, mesaki no kawatta] new, novel

目先を変える
[めさきをかえる, mesaki o kaeru] do something new or different

目下
[めした, meshita] an inferior, subordinate; someone below you in a hierarchy

目印
[めじるし, mejirushi] sign, landmark

目立ちたがり
[めだちたがり, medachitagari] someone who wants to be the center of the attention have the limelight (lit.: wanting to have attention stand out)

目玉
[めだま, medama] top seller

目と鼻の間
[めとはなのあいだ, me to hana no aida] very close

目に浮かぶ
[めにうかぶ, me ni ukabu] remember

目に角を立てる
[めにかどをたてる, me ni kado o tateru] be angry

目に触る
[めにさわる, me ni sawaru] be a nuisance; be in the way

目にとめる
[めにとめる, me ni tomeru] observe with care; keep an eye on

目に残る
[めにのこる, me ni nokoru] linger in one’s memory

目には目を、歯には歯を
[めにはめを、はにははを, me niwa me, ha niwa ha] an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth

目の上のこぶ
[めのうえのこぶ, me no use no kobu] an eyesore; something that is in the way

目の上のたんこぶ
[めのうえのたんこぶ, me no ue no tankobu] constant hindrance; thorn in one’s side (lit.: bump above the eye)

目の薬
[めのくすり, me no kusuri] a little bit; only a little

目の覚める
[めのさめる, me no sameru] bright, vivid

目の正月
[めのしょうがつ, me no shougatsu] a feast for the eyes

目の毒
[めのどく, me no doku] something that shouldn’t be seen; a temptation

目は口ほどものを言う
[めはくちほどものをいう, me wa kuchi hodo mono o iu] the eyes say as much as the mouth does

目星
[めぼし, meboshi] aim, objective, mark

目を奪う
[めをうばう, me o ubau] be too beautiful to look at

目をかける
[めをかける, me o kakeru] be kind to

目を覚ます
[めをさます, me o samasu] awaken; become enlightened

目を三角にする
[めをさんかくにする, me o sankaku ni suru] be angry

目をつける
[めをつける, me o tsukeru] notice; catch onto; direct one’s attention

目を通す
[めをとおす, me o toosu] scan; read rapidly; pass one’s eyes over

目を盗む
[めをぬすむ, me o nusumu] do something stealthily

目を引く
[めをひく, me o hiku] draw one’s attention; catch one’s eye

目を丸くする
[めをまるくする, me o maruku suru] be astonished, surprised, or angry

目を回す
[めをまわす, me o mawasu] be very busy; lose consciousness

目をやる
[めをやる, me o yaru] look towards

面目を失う
[めんぼくをうしなう, menboku o ushinau] disgrace oneself; suffer a let-down

面目を施す
[めんぼくをほどこす, menboku o hodokosu] do honor to oneself


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