余裕(yoyuu): a unique and useful Japanese word

By | May 1, 2014

余裕(yoyuu) is a great word to learn in Japanese because it has no direct translation to a word in English with the same nuance, and also because you’re likely to hear in in daily life once in awhile.

Generally speaking, 余裕 represents some sort of resource, and oftentimes it is used in the negative sense to specify that resource is lacking.

It’s uses can be broken up into four broad categories: space, time, money, and emotion. I’ll go over an example of each so you can see the usage.

Space

  • うちの部屋に置く余裕がないよ。
  • I have no space to put (that) in my room.

Time

  • 今日はばたばたしててゆっくりする余裕があまりなかった。
  • Today I was very busy and had almost no time to relax.

Money

  • 俺、金がなくて新車を買う余裕ないかも。
  • I don’t have (much) money and might not be able to afford a new car.

Emotion

This usage is the hardest to understand and the most difficult to translate to English. You can think of it as a mental energy, or “bandwidth” of sorts.

  • 彼は余裕で敵を倒しました。
  • He defeated his enemy with ease.

I have a strange memory where at times I can forget important things, but sometimes I can clearly remember the first time I heard a Japanese word. This is true for 余裕 – I first heard it playing an old Playstation snowboarding game called ‘SSX’. There was a Japanese character, and when she did some great trick she yelled “余裕! 余裕!” which I now understand is similar to the last example above, and basically means she was bragging about how easily she outdid the other participants.

References

http://dictionary.goo.ne.jp/leaf/je2/78609/m0u/余裕/

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7 thoughts on “余裕(yoyuu): a unique and useful Japanese word

  1. claymyers5

    This is my first time on your site, I really like it. I’ve got it bookmarked now.
    But anyway, I had heard 余裕 before in the type of context given in the last example, and I never quite understood it, so thank you for writing this post. I really love words and phrases like these that have a lot of meaning to them that’s not always easy to translate. Reminds me of がんばる and 仕方が無い.

    Reply
    1. locksleyu Post author

      Thanks claymyer5 for reading my site and for the compliment. Glad my explanation helped you.

      I have a lot of past articles so feel free to check them out. Also if you have any suggestions for topics to post on (words, phrases, whatever), let me know.

      Reply
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  4. Stephanie Lloyd

    I’ve been in Japan for a few years and recently, I’ve been picking up on 余裕 as in the emotional sense… I had a general understanding but have been unable to really connect with the meaning until now. I know this piece is quite old, but thanks!

    Reply
    1. locksleyu Post author

      Thanks great, glad it was helpful!

      I hope you have developed some 余裕 with respect to your Japanese ability while living in Japan (:

      Reply
  5. Hamish

    Hi,

    I just visited Japan after a long time. I spent a lot of my working life there. During this trip it was a vacation for me and my experience was quite different from when I worked there. A Japanese friend said to me you have “余裕” and I realised the remark was in reference to the emotional space I had.

    Thanks for your information.

    Reply

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