Expressing bad intentions in Japanese and 「悪気」 (warugi)

By | July 21, 2017

When using Japanese in everday life there are some useful expressions you can pick up that are not commonly used in media like books and manga. One such word is 「悪気」 (warugi), which should not be confused with the similar sounding “Waluigi” character from the Mario world.

In Dictionary Goo, we see this word described as:

(Note: as usual, the English translations here and in the examples are done by me. I went more for literal translations than natural sounding English.)

  • 相手に害を与えようとする気持ち。悪意。
  • Feelings to (try to) cause harm to someone. Ill will.

Probably the simplest way to think of this word is “bad intentions”, which fits pretty well with the first character 「悪」 that means ‘bad’.  The second character 「気」has many usages but generally represents some time of ‘energy’.

The word 悪気 is frequently used in a negative sense together with some form of the verb ない (‘nai’, to not exist), sometimes followed by the particle は or が. Take a look at this simple example which uses the past form of ない (なかった).

  • 悪気はなかった。  (warugi ha nakatta.)
  • (I) didn’t have bad intentions.

The reason for the parenthesis around the “I” is because the subject is not specified, as omitting the subject is commonly done in Japanese. You can usually determine the subject from context, but in the vast majority of cases I think a sentence like this would be referring to the person speaking.

In practice, I have heard 悪気 used more often using the form “悪気があって〜” (~have bad intentions) in a negative sentence. For example,

  •  悪気があってやったわけじゃない。(warugi ga atte yatta wake ja nai.)
  • It’s not like I did it with bad intentions.  (= I didn’t do maliciously.)

You can replace “わけ” here with “の” (or its abbreviation “ん”) and the meaning is pretty much the same.

You can also  the word「わざと」(wazato), which means “purposeful”, in a similar way to express you didn’t do something intentionally.

  •  わざとやったわけじゃない。(wazato  yatta wake ja nai.)
  • It’s not like (I) did purposefully. (= I didn’t do it purposefully)

Coming back to 悪気, you can connect a lack of bad intentions with some other phrase using the following pattern:

  • 悪気はなかったんだけど。。。(warugi ha nakatta n da kedo…)
  • (I) didn’t have bad intentions, but…

Remember that the particle 「は」 is often used before negative words, and indeed it sounds natural here. Using 「が」instead would be a little unnatural, though in the above case where the verb is positive (悪気があって) it is completely fine to use it.

Here is an example of using “悪気ない” as an adjective to describe a person without bad intentions.

  • 悪気ない人は逃げないよ。 (warugi nai hito ha nigenai yo.)
  • A person who doesn’t have bad intentions wouldn’t run away.

I’ll end this post with one more sentence (its a little tricky) to test your understanding of 悪気:

  • 悪気がなければ人を傷つけても許されると思っている? (warugi ga nakereba hito wo kizutsukete mo yurusareru to omotte iru ?)

Can you figure out what it means?


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5 thoughts on “Expressing bad intentions in Japanese and 「悪気」 (warugi)

  1. Sam

    I’ll have a try…
    Do you think you can forgive someone who causes injury if they don’t have evil intent?

    1. locksleyu Post author

      Good try! I think you have got the meaning down good.

      As a minor point, some of your wording (like using ‘evil’ which is a bit extreme) is a little awkward.

      To make a mini translation exercise out of this:

      > 悪気がなければ人を傷つけても許されると思っている?

      Translating this phrase properly depends on the context. But assuming that the listener did something bad, you could say something like this:

      “Do you think you’ll be forgiven for hurting someone just because you didn’t have bad intentions?”

      Or, to say it more generally:

      “Do you think someone who has hurt another person will be forgiven just because they didn’t have bad intentions?”

      To make this slightly more natural (but a little farther from the literal meaning of the original text):

      “Do you really think that someone will be forgiven for hurting another person just because it was unintentional?”

  2. Kevin

    My take on the translation:
    “Do you think you can be forgiven if you hurt someone without having bad intentions?”

    1. locksleyu Post author

      I like your translation. It’s literally close and concise.

      I’ll tweak it a tiny bit to make it sound a little more natural (at least to my ears):

      “Do you think you will be forgiven if you hurt someone without having bad intentions?”


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