Several usages of “mono”(もの)in Japanese

By | March 13, 2023

“Mono” in Japanese (usually written in hiragana as もの, and sometimes in kanji as 物) is a word that has the basic meaning of “thing”, generally in the sense of a physical (often tangible) thing. 

  • 店でいいものを買ったよ (mise de ii mono wo katta yo)
  • I bought something good (=a good thing) at the store.

However this word has some other usages, so in this article I will go over a few more of them to help enrich your Japanese vocabulary.

First of all, “mono” can form a compound word meaning “something that you…” or “something that is…” Here are a few examples:

  • 食べ(tabemono) food [something that you eat]
  • 飲み(nomimono)  a drink [something you drink]
  • 書き(kakimono)   written text
  • (monogatari)  a story

It can also be used after a word to mean a product that is designed for that word.

  • もののアイテムがいっぱいある (otoko mono no aitemu ga ippai aru)
  • There are many mens’ items (of clothing).

Here it literally means “man-thing”, but we can interpret this to mean a thing worn or used by a man.

“Mono” can also be used to refer to a person, though this is a somewhat dated usage. You can still find it often in some compound words though:

  • 怠け (namakemono)   a lazy person
  • 人気 (ninkimono)  a popular person
  • 物真似 (monomane) copying something (mimicry)

Notice that in this usage the kanji 者 is used instead of 物, though you can still use hiragana.

“Mono” can also be used at the end of a sentence in a way similar to “kara”. It can have the nuance of “because”, but there can also be a bit of an emotional/nostalgic feel to it which is hard to describe (and harder to translate). In this usage, the word is often abbreviated as “mon”.

  • そんなの買わないよ。だって高いもん! (sonnna no kawanai yo. datte takai mon!)
  • I won’t buy something like that. It’s because it’s so expensive!

Even though “koto” (事) is often used instead of “mono” for abstract things, in some cases “mono” can also be used to describe non-tangible things. This meaning is similar to the previous one I just mentioned. Here is a common example of that.

  • 人生ってそんなもんだね (jinsei tte sonna mon da ne)
  • That’s how life is. (lit: “Life is a thing like that.”)

“Mono” is also be used as a prefix in several Japanese words with the meaning of “somehow” or “vaguely” (なんとなく). Here are a few examples:

  • ものかなしい (monokanashii)  somehow sad
  • ものしずか  (monoshizuka) somehow quiet
  • ものぐさい (monogusai)  having a slight scent (possibly with the nuance of being ‘suspicious’)

Finally, there are a few loanwords in Japanese that come from English, wherein the word “mono” means “single”. These include モノトーン (monotone) and モノレール (monorail).

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