In English, we have a couple different ways that we say man such as guy, dude, or fellow. In Japanese I have found at least seven different versions of this word! So how do you say man in Japanese?
That’s today’s topic and I’ll cover the most common words for it first. Following that, I’ll talk about another word you can use that will make you sound more natural when you’re in casual or laid back situations.
Then we’ll get to a really common word that appears in anime and manga, but it actually considered incredibly rude in real life. Learn this one so that you can be sure not to use it by mistake!
What Is Japanese For Man?
The Japanese word for man is 男 (otoko). This word is almost always used for men that are adults, as there are other words people typically use when talking about boys in Japanese.
This is also the symbol that you will see on restrooms to let you know which one that men should use and which one that women should use. It might be one of the most important kanji you learn for just that reason!
That being said, this word also brings the feeling of “male” to the other words it gets combined with. One of the most common ones is actually 男の人 (otoko no hito) which literally means “male person” but more naturally is just used for an adult man.
This word is probably the one that you will find in your textbooks or Japanese courses, but I wouldn’t say it’s actually the most common word used in Japanese. That one we will cover next.
As a last note on this section, sometimes people will just use the word 人 (hito) when talking about a person. Phrases such as あの人 (ano hito) can be understood to mean “that man” or even “that woman” since this word is actually gender neutral.
So keep in mind that the word 人 can mean “man” when it is specifically used to refer to a person whose gender is male.
A Casual Way To Say It
The word in the last section 男の人 has kind of a formal feel to it. It would be appropriate to see this word used in writing, but it’s less common to hear it when people are talking amongst themselves.
A much more common word for man is 男性 (dansei) which still uses the kanji 男 but also adds a new one 性 (sei) which means “sex; gender” in this case.
I mentioned a kanji in the last section that you will see at Japan’s public restrooms. There is another phrase that you might see about and it is 男性のみ (dansei nomi).
In this case, the のみ part means “only” and is restricting admittance to just guys. Perhaps it’s place near the entrance to the men’s changing room or something, but keep in mind that if you see those words listed somewhere that you can only go in if you a man.
A Rude Way To Say It
I love anime and manga, but who doesn’t?! You can learn a lot of Japanese through consuming content in these mediums, but sometimes you have to be careful.
A lot of the characters talk rudely as a way to give their character more personality. These stories also tend to be larger than life, which also adds to them using words that you would be better off not actually saying yourself.
One of these words is 奴 (yatsu) which is sometimes spelled in hiragana as やつ or katakana as ヤツ especially in manga.
This word just translates as “fellow; guy; chap” in English, but it has a derogatory meaning to it. I think it’s closer to saying something like “that bastard” with negative feelings towards whomever the speaker it talking about.
This word can be used for women, but it’s almost always directed towards a guy. What I find really interesting about it is that the kanji has a radical that comes directly from the kanji for woman 女 on the left.
If you use this word while hanging out with Japanese friends, they would probably think that it’s either funny that you chose this word, or that you don’t actually understand it’s connotations.
If you used it in a business or formal situation, you would land yourself in a lot of hot water for being extremely inappropriate and disrespectful.
The Word For Mankind
In English, we sometimes use the word man when we are really talking about mankind or humanity in general. I thought it would be a good idea to include those words here as well in case that it what you are looking for.
The first word is 人類 (jinrui) which is probably the most common way to say “mankind; humanity” in Japanese. It’s interesting to see that it uses the neutral 人 in it along with 類 which means “genus.”
Another word that you might encounter is 人間 (ningen) which normally just means “human” but in certain contexts, such as a goblin or an elf in a fantasy novel, it can be used to refer to “all humans” since the word can be both singular and plural depending on the context that it is used in.
- ningen kara nigero!
- Run away from the humans!
Something else that might be a little off topic is all the different readings for the kanji 人. In this post alone we have gone over three of them!
What can I say, it’s just one of the unique aspects of the Japanese language.
That’s all the information that I’ve got on the Japanese word for man. Hopefully you found the different words and explanations to be interesting and helpful.
If you’ve got any questions at all, please let me know in the section below. I always try to make things simple, but I’m sure that sometimes I make them more complicated than necessary.
Or if you would just like to add your own thoughts to the conversation, then go right ahead! I enjoy hearing from all of you and look forward to what you have to say.
Thanks for reading!
Further Resources for Learning Japanese: