Japanese Idioms & Proverbs

A Japanese friend visited me a few weeks ago and I as showed her around London the topic of idioms came up. I was helping her with her English and I mentioned “the grass is always greener on the other side” which does have an equivalent phrase in Japanese.

So I’d like to discuss some of the mJapanese Idiomsore useful phrases you might want to use when meeting Japanese people or when travelling in Japan. I know there are a few other sites that talk about these (I’ll link them at the bottom), but I asked a friend for ones that he found interested so these are mixed in with what I think are the most useful.

Each phrase comes with the equivalent English, the Japanese in kana and kanji, and the literal word-for-word translation to help you pick out key vocabulary (because it’s difficult to just remember a long phrase).

English Phrases which have Equivalent Japanese Phrases

1. The grass is always greener on the other side
隣の芝生は青く見える(となりのしばふはあおくみえる)
(Next door’s lawn is blue looks)

2. Two birds one stone
一石二鳥(いっせきにちょう)
(One stone, two birds)

3. The early bird catches the worm
早起きは三文の得(はやおきはさんもんのとく)
(Early riser cheapness gets)

4. A once in a lifetime opportunity
一期一会(いちごいちえ)
(One time, one meet)

5. Better safe than sorry
安全第一(あんぜんだいいち)
(Safety number one)

Or

後で悔やむより最初から安全でいるのがよい(あとでなやむよりさいしょからあんぜんでいるのがよい)
(Later worry less, start from safety is better)

6. Out of the frying pan, into the fire
鍋の中から火の中へ(なべのなかからひのなかへ)
(Pan center from, fire center in)

7. One thing after another
一難去ってまた一難(いちなんさってまたいちなん)
(One problem passes, another one problem)

*Very similar to 鍋の中から火の中へ

8. Speak of the devil
噂をすれば影(うわさをすればかげ)
(Rumours if you do, a figure)

Or

悪魔の話をすれば悪魔が現れる(あくまのはなしをすればあくまがあらわれる)
(Devil’s talk if you do, devil will appear)

9. You reap what you sow / Getting one’s just deserts / Pay for your mistakes
自業自得(じごうじとく)
(One’s work, one’s reward)

 

Purely Japanese Phrases (With kind of English Equivalents)

11. Even monkeys fall from trees
猿も木から落ちる(さるもきからおちる)
(Monkeys also tree from fall)
English equivalent: Everyone makes mistakes

12. Not knowing is Buddha
知らぬ仏(しらぬほとけ)
(Know nothing Buddha)
English equivalent: Ignorance is bliss

13. Different body same mind
異体同心(いたいどうしん)
(Different body same mind)
English equivalent: Great minds think alike; Brother from another mother

14. Ten men, ten colours
十人十色(じゅうにんといろ)
(Ten men ten colours)
English equivalent: Different folks, different strokes (everyone has different tastes, ideas, interests)

15. The future will bring fields and mountains
後は野となれ山となれ(あとはのとなれやまとなれ)
(Later will fields bring, mountains bring)
English equivalent: I don’t care what follows; the future will take care of itself

16. After the festival
後の祭り(あとのまつり)
(After the festival)
English equivalent: Too late!; It won’t do you any good now

Other websites/articles with even more idioms and proverbs!!!

 

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