There are a lot of body part names when it comes to humans. Some of the most useful ones have to do with the ten digits attached to our hands. Today we’re going to talk about fingers in Japanese and some important words that are related.
In addition, there are also some verbs and phrases that get used regularly and it will help to go over them so that you can understand the meaning behind them the next time you encounter them.
What Is Finger In Japanese?
The Japanese word for finger is 指 (yubi) and is actually a pretty common word. This word is generic, meaning that it can be used for any finger in general, but not any specific one.
It can also be used for “fingers” since the language doesn’t distinguish between singular and plural with its nouns.
I’ve also seen the word 手指 (te yubi) used for finger which is specifically saying “the digits of the hand” since the word 指 can sometimes be used when talking about toes.
That being said, it’s way more common to use it for the digits on your hands.
Now, let’s start at the thumb and work our way through the five fingers to the pinky!
Japanese Names Of The Five Fingers
The Japanese word for thumb is 親指 (oya yubi) which literally translates as “parent finger” which I always found to be pretty funny as it creates an image that the thumb is the mom (or dad) who has to take care of the four “children” fingers.
This is going to be a common pattern with each finger, having some additional kanji attached onto the word 指 and should be helpful in distinguishing them from one another.
The Japanese word for index finger, also known as the forefinger, is 人差し指 (hito sashi yubi) which has three parts to it.
The first part it 人 which means person, the second part is 差し which is used in many phrases as the action of pointing, and then of course there is 指 for finger.
If it helps, you can think of 人差し指 as “the finger used to point at people” which is a natural and easy way to remember that this is the index finger.
By the way, it’s not polite to point at people!
The Japanese word for middle finger is 中指 (naka yubi) which literally has the kanji for “middle” in it. Apparently the middle finger can also be called any of the following:
- long finger
- tall finger
- second finger
These names make sense, I’ve just never heard them used in real life.
At any rate, this one might be the easiest to remember out of the bunch since it is composed in exactly the same way in both English and Japanese.
That’s not something that happens very often, so take advantage of it!
The Japanese word for ring finger is 薬指 (kusuri yubi) which uses the word for “medicine” in it.
I had no idea why, so I did some research (just a Google search, lol). I found this article that talks about the finger’s Latin name which is digitus medicinalis.
Alright, so I get the first word means “digit” and by extension a person’s finger. That second word looks like “medical” right? Well, as the article explains, it was believed back in the day that this finger could “heal by magic” which is where that second part comes from.
Interesting. Very interesting!
This finally brings us to our last finger. At least, I hope it’s your last finger! Do you have more?
The Japanese word for pinky is 小指 (ko yubi) which just means “little finger” and makes a lot of sense just like the middle one did.
Important Related Words
You now know all of the Japanese words for fingers, but there are some related ones that will be helpful to go over now in case you run into them later.
The first one is 指先 (yubi saki) which means fingertip.
Another important word is the suffix 本 (hon) which is counter for long slender objects. The reading of this word will change between several options (hon, bon, and pon) depending on the number that precedes it, so be careful about that.
There is also a lessor used word for the index finger which is 食指 (shoku shi) which means “food finger” and actually contains a phonetic change for the 指 part.
And what about those nails? That word is 爪 (tsume) which can also mean claw!
Finally, we have 指の腹 (yubi no hara) which is an expression that literally says “the finger’s belly” but really it refers to the pad part of your fingers.
So now you know about the tips, the pads, the long parts, the nails, and even an alternative word for one of them. Let’s check out some common phrases next.
Phrases With Fingers
The first one is super common and is 指差す (yubi sasu) which means “to point at” somebody or something. As you can see, it shares the same kanji as the index finger does which should help visualize what this verb is doing.
Another verb is 指し示し (sashi shimesu) which means “to indicate” and can be used to say that you are showing something or pointing something out to a person.
Finally, we have a completely new kanji 弄る (ijiru) which means “to finger (with); to fiddle with (something)” and can be used when a person is messing around with something such as a toy or an object.
Time For A Hi-Five?
We covered a lot of new words in this post, and they are all contained on your hand!
There are many other expressions that utilize the same kanji that we covered, such as 突き指 (tsuki yubi) which means “jamming a finger” and it a total ouch!
But I think that if you just get familiar with the ones listed here, and maybe spend a little time review the primary five words then you should be good to go.
Let me know down below if you have any questions!
Further Resources for Learning Japanese: