Japanese slang word: gyakugire (逆ギレ) [Getting angry at the angry]

By | November 2, 2018

In this post I’d like to go over an interesting Japanese vocabulary word: gyakugire (逆ギレ).

Gyakugire is a compound word made of two parts: gyaku (逆), which means opposite or reverse, and gire, which comes from kireru, a word with many meanings including “to get angry”. So literally, gyakugire means something like “reverse-anger”. (By the way, words composed of both katakana and kanji letters aren’t too frequent, but this is one of them.)

This word is used when someone who is the target of another person’s anger becomes angry back at them (hence the “reverse” part). Another way to write this out in Japanese would be 逆にきれる (gyaku ni kireru).

For example, let’s look at this simple dialogue:

  • Person A: 僕のペンを使うならちゃんとあったところに戻してくれ。 (boku no pen wo tsukau nara chanto atta tokoro ni modoshite kure)
    • If you are going to use my pen, put it back.
  • Person B: なに?それくらいで怒るんじゃねーよ! (nani? sore kurai de okoru n ja nee yo!)
    • What? Don’t get mad at something so trivial like that!
  • Person A: 逆ギレするなよ! (gyakugire suru na yo!)
    • Don’t you get mad at me!

Here, Person A is upset at Person B, who didn’t return Person A’s wallet to it’s proper place. However, when Person A asks Person B to return it next time, Person B gets mad ‘in reverse’ at Person A. The “getting mad at getting mad” is the key element here, and this Japanese Wikipedia article calls that out explicitly: (in fairly advanced Japanese, typical for a Wikipedia entry)


The part in bold above says something to the effect of “…unable to bear the fact someone is mad at them…”

While the word “kireru” that makes up the second half of gyakugire is a verb, as a whole this word is a noun. Hence it can be used with the helping verb する (suru), or other verbs such as される (sareru), できる (dekiru), etc. It can also be used as a noun in isolation (ex: また逆ギレか, mata gyakugire ka). You can also use it in the verb form 逆ギレる (gyakugireru, which conjugates like a typical ‘group 2 verb’), however I have rarely, if ever, seen that in practice.

From a translation perspective, there is really no direct mapping to any word in English that I know of, so if you have to translate this you can do as I did above and just refer to the act of getting mad without necessarily spelling all out the nuances (otherwise it might be too wordy, ex: “Don’t get mad at me just for getting mad at you!”). Generally, the reader/listener should be able to follow from context. A phrase like “また逆ギレか” would be a little tricker to translate.

The fact that it is challenging to translate this word to English is actually a good thing to me, since it means I can now describe a certain concept in a more succinct way. This is good not just for conversation, but also for thoughts themselves. Now that I have a specific word for this concept, my brain is more likely to think in terms of that, and more easily recognize I am on the sending or receiving end of a gyakugire-like response.

Another interesting bit mentioned in the same Wikipedia article is how this expression was first used by a comedian on a popular TV show and eventually became integrated into the language as a whole, such that nowadays the average person is familiar with it. It is not uncommon for words to evolve like this from single uses to societal-level popularity, but this is a good recent example of this phenomenon.



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2 thoughts on “Japanese slang word: gyakugire (逆ギレ) [Getting angry at the angry]

  1. Nys

    This is a pretty old article to be commenting on but I wanted to mention a potential English equivalent which could be “getting defensive”. It doesn’t quite encapsulate the meaning exactly (which is to be expected) but I do think that when we “get defensive” we often 逆ギレする. Do you have any thoughts on that?

    1. locksleyu Post author

      Hello, thanks for the comment.

      While I think there is some similarity to “getting defensive” and 逆ギレ, I think the meanings are different enough that it doesn’t really help to understand, nor for translation purposes (though I guess it may depend on the situation). By the way, I checked on that “getting defensive” really means, since I wasn’t that confident on my interpretation:

      * Very anxious to challenge or avoid criticism: he was very defensive about that side of his life.

      This confirms it is quite different than 逆ギレ. But still it’s an interesting connection, thanks!


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