Category Archives: Word Origins

Omae (お前): a Japanese pronoun with confusing nuances

One significant difference between Japanese and a language like English is that words are more frequently omitted when they can be inferred from context. This applies to pretty much all types of speech: verbs, nouns, objects, and even particles (little grammatical helpers). In English, except for some special cases and slang usages, when referring to… Read More »

Japanese expression: どうにでもなれ (dou ni demo nare)

In this post I’d like to go over the meaning and derivation of the expression “どうにでもなれ” (dou ni demo nare). While this expression is made up of a bunch of basic words, the resultant meaning may surprise you. First, let’s look at the individual words with their basic meanings どう (dou) A question word that… Read More »

Japanese expression highlight: あるある (aru aru)

In this post I would like to go over the casual expression あるある (aru aru), which doesn’t have a literal parallel in English. I will also talk a little about where it is derived from. To give some context first to how you might see this phrase used, imagine an article titled “テレワークあるある” (terewaaku aru… Read More »

The origin of 幸せ (shiawase), a Japanese word for “happiness”

In Japanese, 嬉しい (ureshii) and 幸せ (shiawase) are two words that express happiness, but they have a very different connotation. “Ureshii” is more about a (potentially short-lived) feeling of pleasure or contentment, as in “You look happy today”, whereas “shiawase” is more about a big-picture (potentially long-term) state of happiness in terms of being fortunate… Read More »

Japanese Grammar: The mysterious connection between the volitional form and でしょう / だろう (deshou / darou)

In this post, I wanted to discuss an interesting connection between the volitional form in Japanese and the words “deshou” / “darou”. To begin with I will go over the meaning of each, and then see how they relate. The volitional form represents the speaker’s volition, or will, and for the verb “suru” looks like… Read More »

Japanese expression “〜なくてすむ” (~nakute sumu)

In this post I’d like to go over the Japanese expression “~nakute sumu” which is used fairly commonly in everyday speech. First, let’s look at an example sentence: 傘を持っていけば濡れなくてすむ。 (kasa wo motte ikeba nurenakute sumu.) すむ can sometimes mean “to live or inhabit” (住む), but from context here we know it has a different meaning,… Read More »