The Language Detectives - find the Japanese equivalents!

Welcome, curious minds, to the Language Detectives! Don your silliest hat, grab your best magnifying glass, and join on in!

Goal: exposing ourselves to more fun Japanese terms by answering the question: Does this word exist in Japanese?

For example:

Word: miezerregen (Dutch)
Meaning: a light but “dense” rain – the raindrops are tiny, but there is just so much of it that you’re soaked in no time

Equivalent found: Numerous! I’ll just list the top two

小雨 こさめ - light rain; drizzle​
小降 こぶ り - light rain; drizzle

Interesting variations:

涙雨 なみだあめ - light rain; rain falling at a time of sadness
晴一時小雨 はれいちじこさめ - clear, with brief light rain

Sometimes, there is no Japanese version of a word, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to learn!

Word: glimlach (Dutch)
Meaning: a closed-lipped smile

Equivalent found: None that this mediocre detective could turn up at this time!

Not equivalent but interesting words:

I was amused by the numerous different ways to talk about forced/insincere smiles:

愛想笑 あいそわら い - insincere smile; ingratiating smile; forced smile
苦笑 にがわら い - bitter smile; wry smile; forced smile; strained laugh
つく わら い - forced laugh; forced smile​
苦笑 くしょう - bitter smile; wry smile; strained laugh; sarcastic laugh​

And being in a funny situation where you have to suppress laughter is always fun, so I also took to:

ふくわら い - suppressed laugh; smile; giggle; chuckle

I think the myriad of nationalities represented here will mean we’ll see many interesting terms, both in Japanese and in many other languages! :purple_heart: Idioms are fun, too!

think of a word/nuance/idiom – try to find the Japanese version of that word – have fun with other Japanese nuances (even if you can’t find the word you were looking for)!

I just did some searching on Jisho – not exactly world-class detective-ing. Feel free to share if you have other resources/ideas on how to go about sleuthing!


I figured that the English (possibly just American?) term “son” as used by an older man to refer to an unrelated younger man in a respectful way that is also generally considered to be condescending (as in “let me give you some advice, son”) would be hard to translate.
However jisho immediately pointed me to 坊ちゃん (ぼっちゃん) which refers respectfully to “son of others” but with the implication of naivety. Pretty much the exact same concept.


I am going to think of some good stuff to add this afternoon! I tried full, as in a full stomach, and couldn’t find anything. :slight_smile:

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Regarding the rain terms I’ve bumped a few times with
にわか雨 : rain shower. That quick rain that gets you soaked and quickly vanishes.

Then as for “glimlach” I think 微笑む could well approach this. Is that smiling with lips closed and not making much sound.

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Continuing on the topic of rain, I was curious about the turn of phrase:

“It’s raining cats and dogs.”

I found something directing me towards

土砂降 どしゃぶ り - downpour; pouring rain; cloudburst; pelting rain; heavy rain​

Jisho came up with an example sentence if you just search for “raining cats and dogs:”

土砂降 どしゃぶ りがながつづ くと、洗濯屋 せんたくやさんは、仕事しごとがはかどらず苦労くろうする。

When it continues raining cats and dogs for a long while, laundrymen have a hard time doing their work.

That sounds like a really apt approximation. Thanks! :smiley: :purple_heart:

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What about Sated or Satisfied?

For sated, I found a kanji: 飽 … but not a word. Apparently also means “bored of” or “tired of” according to Jisho.

Satisfied I found a bit more, but it seems to mostly be in regards to feelings of contentment.
Here are my best two guesses: 釈然 (しゃくぜん) to be complete; to be all present; to make a full set; to be satisfied (of conditions)​
満ち足りる (みちたりる) to be content; to have enough; to be happy; to be sufficient; to be satisfied​


I once discovered that “hit two birds with one stone” was borrowed as an idiom in Japanese.
In Japanese, it is: 一石二鳥 (いっせきにちょう), literally one stone, two birds.


This made me want to look up stuffed, to see if it would yield anything relating to feeling full after eating.

It didn’t. D:

I did come across:

はなまる - to have a stuffed nose; to have a stuffy nose​

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I think 満足 is quite a common way for refering to satisfaction. :yum:

腹一杯 comes to mind… but I’m sure I’ve heard something mixing 腹 and 爆発 … though it could just have been a joke :man_shrugging::sweat_smile:


In Germany we also use the small thing “ne?” in a casual way like Japanese do. Like saying “Das ist gut, ne?” Means literally “it’s good, isn’t it?”

We have more words like this. I was very happy when I found out Japan does this kind of thing, too. They just do it more often and more smoothly I think. Here it always sounds a bit childish haha


I decided to look for Misogyny and Misandry. I found 男嫌い(おとこきらい) and 男性差別(だんせいさべつ). The first literally means man hate and the second means something like discrimination against men. The female equivalents are basically the same but replace 男 with 女 for 女嫌い(おんなきらい) and 女性差別(じょせいさべつ).

Guess those translate fairly well.

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Hello fellow Dutch person :slight_smile: (?)

A word I always wonder about if it exists in another language is “Gezellig

It’s a word that’s kinda hard to describe, it’s basically a mix of cozy, pleasant and sociable. This might not even be an exhaustive list of what that word describe, it can even describe a homely feeling.

Germany might have that word too, but I’m not completely sure. (According to Google it’s gesellig, or Gemütlich)

The English language just doesn’t have a word like it, which is a shame, as it’s a word I really love to use.

Would Japanese have an equivalent?

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“sociable” in the same word including cozy / pleasent seems to be the foreign element here considering japanese culture :laughing::laughing:
otherwise both 伸び伸び and even 懐かしい could aim at that feeling.

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Yep yep yep. I’ve not yet come across a word that can replace “gezellig” when you’re all together and it’s… well… gezellig! :sweat_smile:

Also: waves Hiya! Er zijn hier aardig wat Nederlanders

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Alright here we are again. I tried something I didn’t think would work: “in flagrante.” To my surprise, it exists. 現行犯 (げんこうはん).

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Oh yeah… I like Gemütlich. It’s true, we don’t have a word for it in English… but to me it brings up “comfy”… when you’re comfortable at home with a small intimate group of friends… Just close friends and some wine or coffee and a fire-place, or board games, or something like that… “Comfy and relaxing”… however that doesn’t really specify it’s a social setting, does it?

Is that the Danish hygge?

Also I don’t think there’s a good English word for the Brazilian saudade, but I don’t know if Japanese has one or not.

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English has no good single word for “to turn off”. You might use “stop”, but stopping something is different than turning it off.
In my local English dialect (Pennsylvania Dutch) we have the word “outen.” A person might outen the lights, or outen the car, or outen the computer. It is so nice to have a verb for this.

I suspect the reason why is that we have only been turning things off for less than 200 years, since the advent of machines. Even the phrase “turn off” probably comes from literally “turning” a valve. (I didn’t look it up, sorry.)

Ohh, it looks like Japanese has 消す(けす)! What a nice kanji! And a nice word.


Yes, that’s the kanji in 飽きる あきる to be fed up with; to be tired of

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Is it really a closed-lipped smile? I ain’t no Dutch, but I’ve been there and learned a word or two, and I’d guess that “glimlachen” means to smile with at least partially exposed teeth by the very definition of the “glim-” part.

That being said, “monkelen” could be a snigger or a smirk — what I understand is a closed-lipped smile.

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