The English word “hell” gets used in a lot of expressions and saying. Today I’m going to share how to say hell in Japanese with a couple of different methods and explanations.
As you probably guessed, the Japanese language doesn’t have equivalent phrases for the English ones, such as “what the hell?” and more. But these sorts of expressions have particular emotions behind them, and those actually are universal between cultures.
So be sure to read the information below for the regular Japanese word for hell, and a bunch of additional information for the kinds of phrases we love to yell in English.
The Japanese Word For “Hell”
Regardless of your beliefs regarding hell, it is a pretty common conception among the major civilizations on our planet. It really has religious connotations as a place of eternal suffering for some who have committed sins against the divine, but it is also something that appears a lot in books, shows, games, and more.
This Japanese word for hell is 地獄 (jigoku) which is a word that is combined from the word 地 which means “ground” and the word 獄 which means “prison” which is kind of interesting as it represents some sort of jail in the ground.
This is also a pretty common aspect of hell, it being a place for the wicked located deep in the earth where it’s hot and fiery.
But more than just a physical place, this is also used in many languages as a conceptual place that means “eternal torment” in some sort of way.
- ano nyoubou to isshou ni kurasu no wa jigoku da.
- It’s hell living with that women (my wife).
So keep this new word in your vocabulary as you’re likely to encounter it a lot when reading or watching fantasy stories that deal with demons, devils, and the like.
How To Say “Like Hell!” In Japanese
When people say “like hell” in English, or any of its similar forms, what they are really doing is rejecting a person’s request or suggestion very forcefully. There is a lot of emotion in this statement, that can range from a person who is disgusted by what they’ve heard, to someone who simply refuses to participate in the activity.
There are two ways to express this in Japanese that I wanted to cover, and they both involve the question particle か (ka).
The basic usage of か at the end of sentences is to turn them into a question. However, that isn’t always the case and one of the important elements is a rising tone on that final syllable.
If the tone of the か is flat or descending, it actually indicates that it’s being used to create a rhetorical question from the speaker’s point of view.
Generally what happens is that someone says something ridiculous and the other person responds with incredulity.
Let’s say that a boy is scared to talk to a girl. He might ask his friend “Will I die?” which in Japanese would be 「死ぬ？」 (shinu) with a rising intonation on the ぬ part.
Someone who overhears this rather silly question might respond with 「死ぬか！」 (shinu ka) which could be translated as “Will you die? Seriously?!” or another possible translation is “Like hell you’ll die!”
If you watch a lot of anime, a common phrase that character yell is 「できるか！」 which often appears in the subtitles as “like hell!” in English because a person is basically refuting whatever suggestion was just made.
The other way to say “like hell” in Japanese is with the particle ものか (mono ka) or its contracted form もんか (mon ka).
This typically gets combined with a verb to strongly reject the action.
- iku mon ka!
- Like hell I’ll go!
This is a rather masculine way to phrase it. Women typically insert a です (desu) before the か particle to say ものですか (mono desu ka).
They mean the same thing, they just have different gender feels to them.
“What The Hell?” In Japanese
Again, here we have a rather common expression in English that does not have an exact match in Japanese. One of the reasons is because Americans can be pretty loud and express their personal emotions in public without any sort of reservations.
In Japan, it wouldn’t go over quite as well since getting along with others and not making a fuss is more important in their culture than getting your own way.
Still, the expression “what the hell” is one that expresses a great amount of surprise, disbelief, and sometimes anger. There are a couple of ways to do this in Japanese as well.
The first one centers around the Japanese word 一体 (ittai) which translates into English as any of the following:
- (what) the heck
- (why) in the world
- (who) on earth
The words in parenthesis above help us to understand 一体 but this word is really used to express that emotive “the heck” part of a question. And as most of us learned when we were kids, the word “heck” is the PG version of the word “hell” that adults like to use.
- ittai nani shiterun da?!
- The hell are you doing?!
The other way that you can express something like WTF or WTH is by using some contractions and casual question words
- nan da sorya?!
- What the hell is that?!
The なんだ part is a very casual way of asking なんですか and would be used more often by men than women. The そりゃ part is a contraction of それは.
One of the key elements to this phrase in Japanese is the tone of voice, and the emotion of shock or outrage that a person uses when saying it.
“Go To Hell!” In Japanese
The last phrase centered around “hell” that I wanted to talk about is the insult “go to hell” that you yell at a person who has pissed you off and deserves to die!
Okay, perhaps that’s a little too intense. But all the same, there is a way to say this in Japanese that appears in anime and manga every now and again. You probably won’t hear it too much in real life, but who knows.
The word itself is 「死ね！」 (shine!) which is the command form of the verb 死ぬ (shinu) which means “to die.”
So when you use this command form, you are ordering the other person to perform the verb. Basically, you’re telling them something like “go to hell” or “jump of a cliff” or “drop dead” and the like.
Again, not a nice thing to say, but I wanted to include it here since it fits in nicely with the topic of this post.
What Do You Think?
Do you have any question or comments? Let me know what they are by leaving them down in the comment section below.
I always enjoy hearing what you guys have to say about the topics on this blog, or really just anything related to the Japanese language.
And as always, thanks for reading!