Japanese equivalents of English Sayings

Hey there! I’m very new to wanikani (as in started literally yesterday) and I’m very excited to take another stab at learning this language that i’ve been attempting for several years lol. Here’s my question, what are your favorite english sayings, and do you know if theres a japanese equivalent? If you dont know, do you know any equivalents to the phrases other people have posted and dont know?

Heres one that I’d love to know the equivalent to, if there is one: Speak of the devil, and he shall appear. I know that in french the equivalent is translated to “Speak of a wolf and you will see his tail”. I find this kind of thing very interesting and a lot of fun, so let me know any you have!

Its also a real pleasure to meet all you guys! 宜しく! ヽ( ・∀・)ノ

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Yeah, there’s usually some equivalent proverb or idiom, though the nuances of them might not overlap.

Japanese has 噂をすれば影がさす (うわさをすればかげがさす, if you spread a rumor a shadow will appear).

It’s also shortened to just 噂をすれば影, dropping the verb at the end.


Hi @Seacucumbre!

I actually haven’t heard of that phrase before—in English, French, or Japanese! 笑

A couple of my favorites are:

あっという間に (あっというまに “in the time it takes to say ‘ah’”) — this is like the English “in the blink of an eye,” which can be kind of useful to know.

小春日和 (こはるびより “late autumn ideal weather”) — this is just the Japanese way of expressing “Indian Summer,” or a period of Summer-like weather well into Fall. This one’s not nearly as useful, but you will shock a few people if you find the opportunity to exclaim it!

小さな池の大きな魚 (ちいさないけのおおきなさかな) — this one is basically a 1:1 translation of “big fish in a small pond,” which has been really useful for me when talking about children. You can also say its opposite 大きな池の小さな魚 (“small fish in a big pond”) even though it’s not really an expression in Japanese. People should infer the meaning pretty quickly. ^^


Hello @andrewkaz!
I think its really interesting that you say you haven’t heard it before, because where I live its a very common phrase. Its usually shortened to just “Speak of the devil” though. You use it when you’re talking about someone and they happen to show up while or shortly after you talk about them.

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目くそ鼻くそを笑う - the pot calls the kettle black, or literally eye mucus laughs at snot.


OMGOSH okay I’m actually slightly embarrassed that I didn’t realize these were the same phrases… I don’t think I’ve ever heard the second half of that phrase before! :sob:


The frequency with which the Japanese language refers to shit deeply unsettles me. :mask: But that’s a really good one to know! I love that phrase in English.

I wonder if Japanese has an equivalent to “cutting off your nose to spite your face”?

It’s one of my favorite ones my mom says, referring to being self-destructive when you don’t completely get your way. Not sure how commonly it’s used though.

BWAHAHA! Oh man thats great! I know lots of people havent actually heard the full phrase, but in your defense I absolutely forgot to clarify what it meant :joy:

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This is delightful knowledge and I thank you for it :smiley:

尻の毛まで抜かれる - English equivalent would be along the lines of “they ripped me for every penny” but the Japanese version is basically “they took everything down to my ass hair!” :laughing:


One step at a time
Translates into “One day one step”


This is amazing, thank you so much :joy:

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I found this you might like! Its a book of Japanese proverbs with their English translations :blush: I personally like the title one, サルも木から落ちる。 Meaning, even experts fail sometimes. Puts things in perspective haha

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My favourite is 猫に小判 (ねこにこばん)which translates to “A gold coin before a cat” (koban was the name of a type of coin during the Edo period).

It’s used when somebody is given something which they are unable to or do not have the capacity to appreciate just like giving a gold coin to a cat.


English equivalent is “pearls before swine”. :slightly_smiling_face:


The term to search for if you wanna read these for days is ことわざ. Example site 1, example site 2.

There’s only one ことわざ I know by heart - 虎穴を入らずんぼ虎子を得ず “nothing ventured, nothing gained”. (I remember seeing it in neon lights over a restaurant/bar on vacation a while back and being like, “ah yes, I can read this… とらあな … とらこ” it’s actually こけつ … こじ Also I don’t understand the presumably classical ~んぼ grammar, some type of conditional?)

There’s also the 四字熟語 (よじじゅくご) of course, most of which are literal but some wonderfully figurative, which tend to have a more chinese aesthetic of conciseness. My favs are 画竜点睛 and 海底撈月.

Oh and japanese doesn’t make this list but other languages’ versions of “have your cake and eat it too” are wonderful.


I know two equivalent phrases…and ones that are exactly the same too!
Digging one’s own grave-墓穴をほる ぼうけつをほる

Kill two birds with one stone- 一石二鳥 いっせきにちょう


I’m not sure about the first one, but the second was imported and made as a translation.

I wondered if that was the case. Japanese people I’ve asked about this don’t seem to know where the first one comes from, but it is strange to have it since bodies are cremated here…

Were criminals cremated too?