How Do You Say Wrong in Japanese? It Depends on This…

Sometimes in life, people make mistakes. It could be that they screwed up your lunch order, or perhaps called you by someone else’s name. Regardless of the specific details, you want to let them know about it. So how do you say wrong in Japanese?

That’s what I’ll be covering today so that you can learn the correct form of the word to use depending on what sort of situation you find yourself in.

The thing to keep in mind is that, in English, the word “wrong” can have several meanings and it really depends on the context that it appears in. Consider the following sentences examples:

  • What happen to that poor kitten was just… wrong (evil).
  • Batman strives to right any wrong (injustice) that occurs in his city.
  • She gave me the wrong (incorrect) phone number.

In Japanese, all of these sentences would use separate words for “wrong” and if you don’t know which is which, then there’s a good chance you’ll use one, when you really meant to use another.

To avoid this problem, let’s dive right in and get familiar with them all.

The Japanse Word for Wrong, as in “Evil”

The Japanese word for “evil” is 悪 (aku) and it can be used in a lot of situations where “wrong” is used in English, just so long as it keeps this same feeling of bad/evil to it.

悪 「あく」noun: evil; ill; wrongness

the wrong sort of man

This words shares the kanji for an i-adjective that is very common, and one that you are probably already familiar with. I’m talking of course about 悪い (warui) which basically means the same thing of bad/ evil.

Interestingly enough, it can also be used in certain sentences to say that someone is “at fault” for a misdeed. Another way we might put that in English is to say that someone is “in the wrong” on a matter.

You’re the one at fault (in the wrong), aren’t you?

So if you’re little brother got into a fight with your sister, yet he’s trying to play it off like it was her blunder that started it all (but you know the truth because little brothers, amirite?) then you can use this phrase to let him know you’re not buying what he’s selling ya.

The Word for Injustice

The next word we’ll go over is also a pretty common one. It is 不正 (fusei) and means injustice; unfairness; wrongdoing and the like.

Even though one of the potential meanings of this word can be understood as “wrong” it actually gets used a lot when talking about some sort of illegal or unauthorized activity taken by a person.

To pass (a test) illicitly.

It’s pretty common to see used in the news these days, so be sure to paste it into the news search bar to see it in action.

When Something is Incorrect

This next word comes up a lot, and if you’re only going to learn one Japanese word today, then be sure to make it this one.

The word is 間違い (machigai) and it means mistake or error but when we take a look at the verb version of this word, 間違う we can see that it means to make a mistake, to make an error, or to be wrong (about something).

The wrong address

I’ve got on the wrong train.

It is also a pretty common reply that one can make in order to deny something that someone else has said about us (or whatever) that we know is not true.

You’re Noriko, right? | Wrong! I’m Narumi!

In English, we would typically respond with a “no” when we want to let someone know that they are wrong about some piece of information, but in Japanese they would say 違う instead.

So if you watch a lot of anime, and you hear this word but the subtitles say “no” instead of “wrong” now you know why.

This word will also get combined with lots of others to bring that connotation of “mistake” to it, like in the following words:

  • 見間違い = misjudgment
  • 大間違い = great mistake
  • 言い間違い = slip of the tongue
  • 聞き間違い = mishearing

Another close word that can mean error or mistake is 誤り (ayamari), but it has its own uses and nuances that are slightly different from 違う.

I would advise that you not worry too much about it since 違う is much more useful in the beginning stages of learning Japanese.

To Do Wrong to Others

The last word that I wanted to go over real quickly is 害 (gai) which means injury or harm and is very often used in compound words that mean “victim” of some sort.

  • 被害者 = injured party
  • 害者 = victim (of a crime, esp. murder)
  • 災害 = a natural disaster
  • 殺害者 = murderer

But this same word can be used to say that you have “wronged” or “done harm” to another person.

to do wrong to others

Hopefully you’ll never have to use this phrase yourself when explaining your actions to the police! But all the same, it’s better to know it and not need it.

Well, that’s all for now! I hope you learned a lot about the Japanese word for wrong.

Have you come across any other Japanese words for wrong that aren’t in the above post? Let me know about it by leaving a comment below!

2 thoughts on “How Do You Say Wrong in Japanese? It Depends on This…”

  1. Hi, great to have a Japanese course, and help people with, but is something wrote on your page that is not good Japanese. I don`t know what the course is about, so let me tell you about the content.
    1.アンタ (anta)- is a very impolite way of saying, like おまえ (omae), do not say it to an elder man or somebody which is not your very good friend, and is a Japanese word, so do not use Kana, use Hiragana.
    2.the ん(n) after 悪いis not Japanese. In the end kana ツ(tsu), is not in japanese something like that.

    Another spell 不正に合格 is 不正合格

    Hope it helps.

    • Yeah, the quote 「アンタだって悪いんでしょうがッ。」 comes directly from the anime Clannad, in a situation where a dorm mother is scolding one of the young male tenants for causing trouble. It’s true that アンタ isn’t a polite way to address someone, as it is generally used towards someone you’re miffed at. 

      The ん is actually a contraction of の which is pretty common in spoken, informal speech. And the ッ is the “small tsu” which is often used to sharply cut off a vowel when speaking. It adds strong emotion such as surprise, or in this case anger to the whole sentence. 

      I really appreciate the in depth comment! Usually people just leave a short comment, so this one is pretty great! 

      Thanks Julia!


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