Master the Art of Japanese Greetings: 17 Unique Ways to Say "Hello"
Are you interested in learning how to greet people in Japanese? In Japanese, greetings are called 挨拶 (aisatsu), and they are essential for starting conversations. Even if you only learn a few simple phrases, you will use them frequently.
You may already know the word "konnichiwa" to mean hello, but it's not the most casual greeting to use with friends and acquaintances. Knowing the appropriate greeting for the situation and person is key to showing respect and politeness.
Below is a list of common Japanese greetings to help you get started:
- - "Hi" - やあ! (Ya-)
- - "Hello" - こんにちは (Konnichiwa)
- - "Hello" on the phone - もしもし (Moshi moshi)
- - "Good morning" - おはようございます (Ohayou gozaimasu)
- - "Good evening" - こんばんは (Konbanwa)
- - "Yoohoo" - ヤッホー (Ya-ho-)
- "Hey" - おす! (Osu!)
- "Yo!" - よー! (Yo-!)
- "How are you?" - お元気ですか (O-genki desu ka)
- "How's it going?" - 調子はどうですか (Choushi wa dou desu ka)
It's important to note that some greetings are more casual than others. For example, "ya-" is a simple greeting used between friends, while "konnichiwa" is more formal and used in semi-formal situations like the workplace.
Learning how to introduce yourself in Japanese is also important. You can say "my name is" like this:
- - 名前は______です (Namae wa _____ desu.)
- - ______です (______ desu.)
Simply fill in the blank with your name. For example, "Namae wa Keitorin desu" means "my name is Caitlin," while "Keitorin desu" means "I am Caitlin."
Remember, knowing the appropriate Japanese greeting for the situation shows respect and politeness. Use these common greetings to start practicing your Japanese conversation skills!
The full phrase to introduce yourself in Japanese is 私の名前は＿＿＿です。(Watashi no namae wa **** desu._). However, the "watashi no" (meaning "my") is often not necessary since it's understood in context. Only use "watashi" when you need to clarify the subject.
In very formal situations, you can introduce yourself with the less common phrase "と申します。" (___ to moushimasu) which is a polite way to say "My name is" or "I call myself." This phrase is considered humble and is used to talk to someone of much higher status. It's typically used in business situations when introducing yourself to a new company client or the company president.
In the morning, greet people with "おはようございます" (Ohayou gozaimasu). This is a formal way to greet someone and should be used when saying hello to your boss in the morning.
In informal situations, drop "gozaimasu" and simply say "ohayou." This is a common greeting to say to everyone. Friends may exaggerate the sounds and draw out the "o" at the end like "おはよー！"
In the evening, greet others by saying "こんばんは" (Konbanwa). This is a polite and formal way to say "good evening" and can be used with almost anyone. However, it's more common to greet friends and family with an informal greeting on this list instead.
Before going to bed, say "おやすみなさい" (Oyasumi nasai) which literally means "Go take a rest." In casual settings, leave off the "nasai" to make the phrase less formal. Instead, simply say "おやすみ－！"
If you haven't seen someone for a while (three weeks or longer), say "お久しぶりですね" (Ohisashiburi desu ne) which means "It's been a while, huh?" or "Long time no see!" The "o" at the beginning adds respect, and the "ne" at the end means "huh" or "right?" Both can be dropped to make it a less formal statement.
You can combine this phrase with other greetings like "あー、すずきさん。久しぶりですね。元気だった？" (Aa-, Suzuki-san. Hisashiburi desu ne. Genki datta?) which means "Ah, Suzuki-san. Long time no see, huh. How have you been?" This is a casual greeting often used between young kids or close friends. It's more feminine but can be used by anyone.
"ヤッホー" (Yahho) is another exclamation type of greeting used to grab a close friend or child's attention. It's like yelling "Yoohoo!" and waving for attention. You would follow it with your friend's name.
For a more masculine greeting, use "おす" (Os, pronounced like "ohss"). It's a slang way to greet other guys and is not used by girls. It's an exclamation that's more often used when you already see and have the person's attention, so you don't need to follow it up with their name. It can also be used as "Yes, sir!" or "Roger!" Some anime use this, but it's not common in everyday speech.
Like in English, you can greet a close friend informally with a simple "yo!" However, you wouldn't say this to anyone older than you. This greeting is also more masculine but can be used by young girls or women to get someone's attention. Another option is "おーい！" (Oi!) which is only used as an exclamation and is a more masculine expression. It can be a bit rude or harsh, so it should only be used with people close to you.
If you want to ask someone in Japanese how they are doing, you can use the phrase "お元気ですか" as a greeting. The "o" at the beginning shows respect, and "ka" is the question particle. To make it informal, you can remove the "o" and reply with "元気です" which means "I'm healthy" or "I have energy," depending on the context. Asking someone "how are you" often is not common in Japanese, so you might instead ask "元気だった？" which means "how have you been?" If you want to simplify it even further, you can ask "Genki?" and raise the inflection on the last syllable.
Another way to ask how someone is doing is to use the phrase "いかがですか" which means both "how are you?" and "how's it going?", but it's more formal and usually used to ask a higher-status individual about something specific, like their job or school. For example, you might say "お仕事はいかがですか" to ask "how's work going?"
If you want to follow up with a friend after discussing something, you can ask "調子はどうですか" which means "how's it been since." When you come home, you can announce your arrival by saying "ただいまー！" which means "I'm back!" At work, you can use it when you've been away and returned. If someone greets you in return after you arrive, they might say "お帰り" which means "welcome back."
When you meet someone for the first time, you can say "はじめまして" which means "nice to meet you." You would normally follow it by giving your name and then saying "よろしくお願いします" which means "please look after me," but it's used in many other situations as well. To make it less formal, you can simply say "yoroshiku."
During the New Year, a common greeting is "あけましておめでとうございます。今年もよろしくお願いします" which means "Happy New Year! This year, again, please look after me." To close friends, you can simply say "あけおめ！今年もよろしく" which means "Happy New Year! Let's have a good year!"
When you walk into a store, you might be greeted with "いらっしゃいませ！" which means "welcome." But if you're going to someone's home, you should use the phrase "お邪魔します" which means "I'm sorry to bother you." The host will welcome you by saying "どうぞ" which means "please, after you," "come in," or "go ahead."
Initiating a phone conversation in Japanese follows a distinct etiquette! Upon receiving a phone call, reply with a raised inflection of the phrase もしもし(moshi moshi) to express “Hello?” This stems from the verb 申す(mousu), which is an honorable way of saying “to say.” Note that this greeting is exclusively used for friends and family.
However, using the same expression in a formal setting, especially in business, is deemed impolite. Instead, respond with はい(hai, “yes”), followed by your family/commercial name.
Similarly to English, opening with a conversation about the weather is a suitable icebreaker. Among the standard phrases, popular ones include いい天気ですね(ii tenki desu ne, “Nice weather, isn’t it?”) and 暑い/ 寒い ですね(atsui / samui desu ne, “It’s hot / It’s cold, isn’t it?)
There exist countless greetings in Japanese! However, starting with a basic “hello” is the most effective way to initiate conversation and get comfortable with the language. Practicing these expressions is an ideal starting point for expanding your Japanese vocabulary.
To expand your vocabulary, check out our core Japanese words resource here: https://www.fluentin3months.com/core-japanese-words/
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