Ever wonder what the “kakkoii” craze is all about in Japan? Today, we’re going to take a look at this popular Japanese slang word and show you how to use it in conversation just like the natives do! Here we go!
If you look かっこいい (kakkoii) up in your Japanese-English dictionary, you’ll get a number of results. However, the most notable one—and the one Japanese people will use when they’re speaking English—is “cool.” In addition, kakkoii is also used to mean “handsome” or “hot” when talking about the appearance of a man. Check out some of the other meanings I found:
“da bomb; bad; bool; coolarific; hype; gravy; buttaz; dope…” (Are you laughing yet?)
One important thing to note, however, is that kakkoii is used when someone or something’s physical presence meets your enthusiastic approval. It is NOT used when talking about ideas that sound cool (examples on this later).
Where did this word kakkoii come from?
The Meaning of Kakkoii
Kakkoii is rooted in two separate words: 格好 (kakkou) and いい (ii), which means “good.” Let’s take a closer look at the root word kakkou to understand how kakkoii came to mean what it does today.
The first kanji 格 is pronounced “kaku.” It is made up of three radicals. The one on the left side is 木 (moku); the one at the top right is 夂(chi); and the one on the bottom right is 口 (kou).
木 + 夂 + 口 = 格
The first radical means “tree” or “wood.” The second radical means “winter.” The third radical means “mouth.”
Put all three radicals together, and you get the kanji character 格, which means “status; rank; capacity; character.”
The second kanji in 格好 is 好, which is pronounced “kou.” It is made up of two radicals, 女 (jo) and 子 (shi).
女 + 子 = 好
The first radical means “woman,” and the second means “child.”
Therefore, when you put 格 and 好 together, you get the first half of the word kakkoii: 格好—meaning “form” or “appearance.”
Kakkoii and Its Modern-day Usage
In the past, Japanese speakers would have combined 格好 and いい with the particle が (ga) in the middle to make 格好がいい (good appearance). In modern times, however, this phrase has become so commonly used in everyday life that it has evolved. Now, for brevity’s sake, the Japanese do away with the が and leave it as 格好いい.
Furthermore, these days, 格好いい is only rarely written using its original kanji and instead is written in hiragana, katakana, or both, depending on the user’s preference. The “u” has also been dropped at the the end of “kakkou.”
Here are some examples of how kakkoii is written in modern-day Japanese:
Or, if you want to sound ultra rough and slangy, you can say it like this:
How to Use Kakkoii in Conversation
Kakkoii has two main meanings: 1. “Cool” (something physically present meets your enthusiastic approval), and 2. “Hot” (a man whose appearance is overwhelmingly pleasing to you).
Kakkoii nihongo wo takusan manabitai ne!
I want to learn lots of cool Japanese!
Nihon no dansei no aidoru wa chou kakkoii!
Japanese male idols are so hot!
If you want to use kakkoii in its past or negative form, you have to change いい into its dictionary form 良い (yoi) before you conjugate it.
〇 かっこよかった (kakkoyokatta, was cool)
✖ かっこいかった (kakkoikatta)
〇 かっこよくない (kakkoyokunai, not cool)
✖ かっこいくない (kakkoikunai)
Sutantoman ga kuruma wo kabe ni doshin to butsukeru no wa totemo kakkoyokatta!
It was so cool when the stuntman rammed his car into the wall!
Kakkoyokunai otoko to deeto ni ikenai.
I can’t go on a date with an unattractive man.
Kakkoii is also used as an interjection when seeing something cool or finding a man attractive. The final い (i) sound is often elongated depending on the speaker’s enthusiasm.
Hot Japanese Idol:
Nice to meet you.
I love you soooooo much!
Skateboarder:(Does really cool trick.)
That was badass!
BE CAREFUL, THOUGH! As mentioned earlier, kakkoii is only used for people and things physically present. It isn’t as flexible in usage as “cool” is in English. Remember that 格好いい means “good appearance,” NOT “good idea!”
〇 A: これからゲームセンターに行こう？
Korekara geemu sentaa ni ikou?
You wanna go to the game center after this?
✖ B: カッコいい！
Kakkoii is a common phrase meaning “cool” or “handsome.” It can function in a sentence as a normal i–adjective or on its own as an interjection. It is used in reference to things that are physically present that meet your enthusiastic approval. It is NOT used in reference to ideas that sound cool. When using the past or negative form of kakkoii, you have to change いい into its dictionary form 良い before conjugating it.
Now that you have a new common phrase under your belt, get out there and show everyone how kakkoii you are! Drop the word in a sentence or two! Experiment! The more comfortable you are with using kakkoii, the more kakkoii you’ll seem in the eyes of the Japanese!
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