Japanese is well known for its complex layers of politeness that involve different verbs, verb endings, and nouns, among other things. Japanese classes often focus more on the polite side of Japanese since it’s generally safer to be more polite, especially with people you don’t know well. However, many Japanese learners are also interested in casual slang terms that can be used with friends.
In this post I’d like to focus on the slang term あざす (azasu). There are a few ways to pronounce this so I’ll mention those first.
- あざす (azasu)
- あざーす (azaasu) [also written あざあす or あざぁす]
- あざーっす (azaassu) [also written あざあっす or あざぁっす]
The first time I heard this word I had no clue what it meant. It may surprise you to learn that is actually a shortening of the polite expression for “thank you”, ありがとうございます (arigatou gozaimasu). (In case you are curious I wrote an email about the origin of this latter phrase here)
While the meaning of あざす (and its variants I mentioned above) is basically the same as ありがとう, the nuance is very different: very casual and a bit rough, perhaps with the feeling of a jock on a sports team. This expression is generally used by the younger generation, and probably more by men than women.
Because of the nuance of “azasu”, it is generally not a good idea to use it with anyone who is above you in social rank or age (a senpai or sensei). While your meaning will surely get across, they may be offended by your rough and casual tone. I think it would be safe to use with anyone who you generally speak in casual language with (non-dessu/masu forms), especially if they are younger than you.
Having said that, I personally prefer to present myself in a polite way to others so I would generally avoid this word and stick to the standard expressions ありがとう(arigatou) or ありがとうございます (arigatou gozaimasu), depending on whether I want to be a little extra polite or not. I occasionally use サンキュー (sankyuu), which is another way to say thanks that derives from the English “thank you”, though I wouldn’t recommend this for beginning Japanese learners to use.
“Azasu” has two other meanings. The first is a very light apology (think of “my bad”), and the second a light greeting used within friends (a more casual form of “konnichi wa”, perhaps similar to “wassup!”). But again, I personally would prefer to use a more traditional expression in these cases.
While I would recommend you don’t use あざす (or be very careful when using it), I think it’s important to understand its meanings and nuances. Because if you go to Japan you’re likely to hear it eventually. By the way, if you want to get a taste of what あざす “feels” like, you can look at some of these images on Google Image Search.
If you want to read more about あざす, you can check out this article in Japanese that gives a good overview of it.