Words generally have an explicit meaning (what it says in the dictionary) in addition to an implicit meaning, also called the nuance or atmosphere of the word. When learning a foreign language it is good to understand both, and sometimes there is much more to the nuance than the explicit meaning.
“Meccha” (generally written in hiragana as めっちゃ, though occasionally in katakana as メッチャ) is one such word. In this post I’ll go over the explicit meaning first, then give some more information about the history and nuances of the word.
First, I wanted to clarify the pronunciation for this word. Because it resembles the English word “mecha” (a loan word referring to giant robots) you may think “meccha” is similar, but in fact the sound of the “cha” is different. The English word “mecha” sounds more like “meka” (メカ), whereas the Japanese word “meccha” sounds like “me-cha”, where there is a pause between the syllables and the “cha” sounds like it does in the phrase “cha-cha-cha”.
The meaning of めっちゃ is pretty straightforward and quite easy to use. It is generally used as an adverb to mean “to a great extent” or “extremely”. Lets look at an example sentence:
- これはめっちゃ美味しい (kore wa meccha oishii)
- This is super tasty.
Other Japanese words that can be used in a similar way include すごく (sugoku), 非常に (hijou ni) and とても(totemo).
You may recall that adverbs can modify not only adjectives (“oishii” is an adjective), but also verbs. This goes the same for “meccha”, for example:
- その犬はめっちゃ食べるよ (sono inu wa meccha taberu yo)
- That dog eats like crazy.
Now I’d like to talk about the origin of this word, since it affects the nuance. “Meccha” comes from “mecha”––I’m talking about Japanese here, not the English loanword about giant robots––and these in turn come from the words “mechakucha” and “mechamecha” (I’m not sure which was first historically). Besides meaning “to an great extent”, all these words can be used to mean “unreasonable” or “chaotic” (with the longer two words having a more emphatic feel). But “meccha” itself is primarily used to mean “to a great extent”.
There’s more to the story though: “meccha” was originally a word primarily used among youths in Kansai dialect (関西弁). However, in the last decade or two this word has spread to other regions (probably due to media influences), and nowadays seems to be commonly used by some Tokyo youths.
The second point is that, discussions of language evolution aside, some people probably still consider this is a Kansai term, and that carries with it certain cultural nuances. I won’t go into too much detail here, but I will say that some consider Kansai and Tokyo to have very different cultures.
Because of the above reasons, I personally stay away from using “meccha” unless I am extremely comfortable with the group I am in. It’s generally safer to use “sugoku” as a default, though keep in mind this is the adverb form. For the adjectival form you would use “sugoi” (ex: “sugoi hito”)
Finally, from a translation point of view it is best to try and incorporate the slang nuance into the English word choice. In the above two examples, I have used “crazy” and “super”, words that are somewhat casual/informal. A more formal-sound word like “considerably”, on the other hand, probably wouldn’t be appropriate.
(Note: featured image of girls in a classroom taken from Pexels.com)
I loved reading this! Thank you for an insightful and interesting discussion. 🙂
Thanks for the comment. I’m glad you enjoyed it!
Fascinating. I just spent a year living in Kansai. (We were discouraged from traveling between prefectures, due to covid. So I stuck pretty much to Osaka / Kyoto / Kobe / Nara.) I had no idea めっちゃ was Osaka-ben. Ha!
Thanks for the explanation! I hear this phrase on Gaki no Tsukai a lot and wondered what it meant. Make’s sense it’s a Kansai thing