Japanese term “magari” (間借り): renting a room in someone’s house

By | September 25, 2018

In everyday conversation with a native Japanese speaker I came across another word that I hadn’t heard/read before.

The word was “magari” which confused me at first because I thought it was a form of the verb “magaru” (曲がる), which means “to bend” (intransitively, as if something bends itself). However, that didn’t fit the context: someone moving back to Japan and living with their parents temporarily.

When I expressed confusion, the person told me it basically means renting out a room, and from that I guessed it was comprised from the characters  間 (“ma”, which means many things, including “space” and “room (of a house)”) and 借り (“kari”, which comes from “借りる” [kariru], “to rent”).

Turns out I was right––the word is written as 間借り, and is used together with する (suru) to make a verb: 間借りする.

Based on the conversation I had, as well as the dictionary, this word seems to have the nuance of someone renting out a room of their house, so it would not typically be used for things like hotels. The dictionary says that money is involved but I didn’t ask the person whether they were actually paying money or not.

Another compound word used with 間 (ma) is 間取り (madori), which means a layout or floorplan (for a house, etc.).


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