10 Adjectives You Probably Didn’t Know in Japanese : Hey, everyone! It’s time for some more Japanese vocabulary-building! Today, we’re going to focus on adjectives (形容詞, keiyoushi), and we have a list of 10 great ones that you probably didn’t know! Let’s begin!
1. 謙遜な (Kenson-na)
First on the list is 謙遜 (kenson), which means “humble” or “modest.” This is a characteristic trait of the Japanese, so it can be funny if used in a humorous way. Check out the example below!
Eigo wa amari shaberenai desu.
I can’t speak English very well.
Sore wa kenson-na hanashi deshou!
You’re just being humble!
2. 繊細な (Sensai-na)
One notable aspect of Japanese food is that it has a more subtle flavor than American food. The same goes for the simple nature of Japanese fashion: it doesn’t hit you over the head, it’s understated in a way that leaves a lasting impression. Therefore, when describing the subtle appeal of things such as Japanese food, clothing, art, etc., we can use the word 繊細 (sensai).
Washoku wa sensai-na aji ga shite imasu.
Japanese food has a subtle flavor.
3. 幼い (Osanai)
If you’re a fan of the Japanese reality show Terrace House: Tokyo on Netflix (like I am!), you’ll remember the young and cute Ruka Nishinoiri! The house members were pretty harsh on him throughout, calling him such things as 幼い (osanai, immature). I don’t blame them, though. I mean, the guy couldn’t even cook for himself! On top of that, the house members were worried that he would starve to death if they didn’t make sure he was eating! (I highly recommend Terrace House, btw, for Japanese learners!)
Nishinoiri Ruka wa osanai yo ne!
Ruka Nishinoiri is so immature!
4. 天然 (Tennen)
Another term that the Terrace House members used to describe Ruka was 天然 (tennen). If you look this up in the dictionary, you’ll get things like “nature; spontaneous.” You can see it used often in Japanese grocery stores; such as 天然水 (tennensui, natural water) or 天然魚 (tennen sakana), which means “wild fish” (as opposed to farm-raised fish). However, in the case of Ruka, it means “air-headed.” If you know anyone that’s a little ditzy and doesn’t seem to have a lot going on upstairs, then they would be a 天然な人 (tennen na hito)!
5. 気軽な (Kigaru-na)
気軽 (kigaru) means “light-hearted” or “cheerful.” If you or someone you know is a light-hearted, cheerful person, then they are a 気軽な人 (kigaru-na hito). Another useful expression is 「気軽にしてください」 (Kigaru ni shite kudasai, Make yourself at home). Try using the following expression on your Twitter or Instagram! 「気軽にフォローしてね」 (Kigaru ni foroo shite ne, Feel free to follow me!)
6. 卑怯な (Hikyou-na)
This one means “coward,” but, as with any language, calling someone a 卑怯な人 (hikyou-na hito) is very critical and not a nice thing to say.
Oh, by the way! The Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz is 臆病なライオン (okubyou-na raion) in Japanese. 臆病 (okubyou) also means “coward.”
7. あざとい (Azatoi)
This one is interesting. If you look it up in the dictionary, あざとい (azatoi) means “calculating; sly; cunning; unscrupulous; pushy; aggressive.” However, it goes a bit deeper than that according to modern-day usage. It has become a slang that refers to a woman who tries everything in her power to appeal to men in order to manipulate them to achieve her ultimate ends. Think of someone like a Bond girl, who is beautiful, charming, sexy, and intelligent on the surface, but really it’s all just a cunning ploy to fool James Bond into giving her what she wants. Another example would be your stereotypical Valley Girl who looks deeply and flirtatiously into the nerdy kid at school’s eyes when she needs a favor.
“I need to get an A on my term paper,” she says, “but I’m so busy I have no time to write it. Pretty pleeeeasse…” The then pouts her lips like a sad puppy.
The nerdy kid smiles, thinking if he writes the paper for her, she’ll like him. Maybe even go out on a date with him!
The Valley Girl would be azatoi in this situation.
8. 冷酷な (Reikoku-na)
冷酷 (reikoku) means “cruel.” Therefore, a 冷酷な人 (reikoku-na hito), is a cruel person. Another interesting phrase I’ve come across is a 冷酷な心 (reikoku-na kokoro), which is a “heart of steel.” Oo, harsh!
9. 誠実な (Seijitsu-na)
On the brighter side of the spectrum, we have 誠実 (seijitsu), which means “reliable” or “trustworthy.” 誠実な友達 (seijitsu-na tomodachi, trustworthy friends) are one of life’s most precious gifts. Are you a 誠実な人??
10. 有罪 (Yuuzai) and 無罪 (Muzai)
For number 10 on our list, what the hey, I’ll give you two words for the price of one! Any of you courtroom drama fans out there know that at the very end of the trial it’s all about the verdict. Guilty or innocent? Guilty is 有罪 (yuuzai) and innocent is 無罪 (muzai). You can differentiate between the two because “guilty” uses the kanji 有 (yuu, exists), and “innocent” uses 無 (mu, doesn’t exist). The final kanji for both is 罪 (tsumi, crime). So, either “crime” exists or doesn’t. Piece of cake!
Now that you have 10 new Japanese adjectives in your memory banks, it’s time to get out there and practice them! It took me a lot of practice with あざとい especially, and I still don’t think I have the subtle nuances figured out! It doesn’t matter, though, because I’m not afraid to practice a new word or phrase even though I might make a mistake. Mistakes are okay! So get out there already and practice, practice, practice!