Slang Words
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Learn these 7 useful Japanese slang words for your everyday conversation

These popular words and phrases will get you through any conversation with the younger crowds

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Written by
Emma Steen
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Slang words hold a lot of power – used correctly, they can make you seem cooler, more approachable and part of the gang. Use them in the wrong context, however, and you risk looking like a baby boomer trying a bit too hard to fit in with the cool kids. 

Buzzwords go in and out of fashion as quickly as certain genres of music, but a handful of them have stuck around long enough to be pervasive through the last two decades. Here are some of the most commonly used Japanese slang words that will get you pretty far in most casual conversations.

RECOMMENDED: Japanese words and concepts anyone can relate to 

Yabai
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Yabai

People in their 40s or older tend to despise this word that young people seem to utter in every other sentence.Yabai’s popularity can be attributed to its sheer flexibility, where it can be applicable to just about everything.

‘Yabai’ is used in both positive and negative contexts when something very good, very bad or simply overwhelming is taking place. You’re running late for work – ‘yabai!’; you just spotted a celebrity you adore – ‘yabai!’; you’re horrifically underprepared for an exam you’re about to sit… you get the idea.

Kimoi
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Kimoi

Kimoi’ is used when you find something unbelievably repulsive. The word is an abbreviation of the phrase ‘kimochi warui’, which everyone uses when they’re feeling ill and nauseous, or unsettled by something. Rather than being used to voice your physical discomfort, the slang  ‘kimoi’ is exclaimed when you find something detestable.

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Darui
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Darui

A lot of things can be considered to be ‘darui’, which describes the monotonous, tiresome aspects of mind-numbingly dull tasks. ‘Darui’, rather conveniently, can also be used to describe your state of mind when you’re faced with these tasks. Anytime someone is feeling sluggish, ambivalent and uninspired, they can be considered to be ‘darui’.

Uzai
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Uzai

Another Japanese word that’s handy to know is ‘uzai’, which is an exclamatory remark reserved for when you find something (or someone) terribly annoying. People who are hard to please can often be considered ‘uzai’ , as can acquaintances who like to stir up gossip. ‘Uzai’ can be anything you’re sick and tired of at the moment.

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Maji
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Maji

A commonly used word that is as versatile as ‘yabai’ is ‘maji’, which is equally scorned by the elders. ‘Maji’ is the Japanese equivalent of the word ‘seriously’ when used in a casual colloquial setting. You can exclaim ‘maji?’ when a friend delivers a big piece of news, or when you find something to be unbelievable.

As it happens, ‘maji’ can be used in conjunction with any of the words on this list to emphasise their meaning. When something is ‘maji yabai’ it is seriously crazy, and when something is ‘maji kimoi’ it is seriously gross.

Saitei
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Saitei

Here’s hoping you’ll never need to utter the word ‘saitei’, which is used to describe a person with a detestable persona or an awful situation. ‘Saitei’ is the person who ghosted your friend on a date, or broke up with them over text message. It also describes situations like having a passing car splash rainwater all over your shirt, or if a flight delay leaves you stranded at an airport overnight.

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Ukeru
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Ukeru

Ukeru’ is the closest Japanese translation to the common acronym ‘LOL’. You can say ‘ukeru’ anytime you find something funny or hilarious. Unlike its English-language counterpart however, ‘ukeru’ is used more often in face-to-face conversation than over text.

If you’re wondering if there is a useful Japanese equivalent for ‘LOL’ when messaging via text or social media, you can still use ‘ukeru’. Better yet, simply stamp the letter ‘w’ at the end of your message to signify ‘warau’ (the Japanese word for laugh).

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