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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.



大風呂敷を広げる
[おおぶろしきをひろげる, ooburoshiki o hirogeru] be bombastic

お陰様で
[おかげさまで, okage-sama de] thanks to you

お世話になる
[おせわになる, osewa ni naru] be in someone’s debt; be grateful

お茶を濁す
[おちゃをにごす, ocha o nigosu] speak amiguously; prevaricate

男よけにする
[おとこよけにする, otoko-yoke ni suru] keep men at arm’s length

驚いたことに
[おどろいたことに, odoroita koto ni] surprisingly

お腹を空にする
[おなかをからにする, onaka o kara ni suru] go to the bathroom; take a dump
(lit.: empty the stomach)

鬼に金棒
[おににかなぼう, oni ni kanabou] as strong as can be

鬼の腕
[おにのうで, oni no ude] great fondness

鬼の霍乱
[おにのかくらん, oni no kakuran] the illness of a very healthy person

お髭の塵を払う
[おひげのちりをはらう, ohige no chiri o harau] curry favor with someone

おまっとさん
[おまっとさん, omatto-san] I’m sorry to have kept you waiting

親の因果は子に報う
[おやのいんがはこにむくう, oya no inga wa ko ni mukuu] the sins of the father are visited upon the son

親の脛をかじる
[おやのすねをかじる, oya no sune o kajiru] live off of one’s parents

親の七光
[おやのななひかり, oya no nana-hikari] parental prestige endures; riding on the coattails of one's parents

泳ぎ腰
[およぎごし, oyogigoshi] on the fence; waffling; uncertain

折にふれる
[おりにふれる, ori ni fureru] when one has the chance; when the opportunity presents itself

女になる
[おんなになる, onna ni naru] lose one’s virginity (lit.: become a woman; n.b.: applies to girls only)

女の尻に敷かれている
[おんなのしりにしかれている, onna no shiri ni shikarete iru] be tied to a woman’s apron strings

恩をあだで返す
[おんをあだでかえす, on o ada de kaesu] repay kindness with betrayal


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