It seems like everyone’s got a phone these days. Not just in their house, but also in their pockets. If you want to talk about phones when you’re in Japan, then you’ll need to know the right words. You’ll need to learn how to say phone in Japanese.
So that’s what we’re going to do today. First we’ll cover the Japanese word for phone, and then we’ll go over the word for smartphone (since that’s what most people have nowadays).
Since we’re on this topic we might as well learn some other related things like how to talk about phone numbers, how to say you’re answering the phone when it rings, and how to say you’re going to make a call.
How To Say Phone In Japanese
The Japanese word for phone is 電話 (denwa). This can refer to both a physical phone, and also a “phone call” which we will cover a little later on in this lesson.
Just like in English where we have different types of phones such as cellphones or public phones, the Japanese language has words for those different types of phones too.
The Japanese word 携帯電話 (keitai denwa) means “mobile phone” and it’s created by adding the word 携帯 (keitai) which means “carrying (on one’s person or in the hand)” with the word 電話.
The interesting thing is that people will often shorten 携帯電話 to just 携帯 when referring to their mobile phone. This is just like in English where we shorten the word “cellphone” to just “cell” when speaking casually.
The next word to cover is 公衆電話 (koushuu denwa) which means “public phone” in Japanese and can also be used to refer to a payphone. Again we see that you just add the word 公衆 (koushuu) for “public” onto 電話.
Unlike 携帯電話 however, you cannot shorted 公衆電話 to just 公衆 in order to refer to a public phone. If you did, you would just be talking about “the general public” and people wouldn’t know that you’re talking about a type of phone.
What Is “Smartphone” In Japanese
Back in the day when I was 15, I got my first cellphone. It was what we call a “brick phone” and could make calls, text, and play the video game Snake.
I loved that phone, but was actually super excited when I got my next one: the coveted flip phone!
Man I was cool back then, lol!
Flip phones were awesome and I had mine for many years until I finally joined the twenty first century and got my first ever smartphone: the iPhone 4s.
Nowadays, everyone’s got a smartphone (even my 12 year old sister!). In Japanese there are actually a couple of specific words that are used to talk about smartphones.
The first one is スマートフォン (sumātofon) which is of course the English word “smartphone” taken directly from one language and imported into another.
But even though this is the correct word to use for smartphones, there is actually a slightly different version which is more common to use.
The フォ (fo) part is a little unnatural in Japanese and often gets changed to ホ (ho) which makes the whole word スマートホン (sumātohon).
But it doesn’t stop there!
As anyone who’s been learning Japanese for a while can tell you, the Japanese people love to shorten words. Just look at the 携帯 example from before.
In this case, Japanese people like to shorten スマートホン to just スマホ (sumaho) when talking about smartphones.
What Is “Phone Number” In Japanese
The Japanese word for phone number is 電話番号 (denwa bangou) which uses 電話 again and adds onto it the word 番号 (bangou) which means “number; series of digits.”
- denwa bangou o oshiete kudasai.
- What’s your phone number?
In English when we are giving someone our phone number, we will typically do so by pausing where the dashes fall.
So if we use the hypothetical number 888-555-1111 we would say “eight, eight, eight, PAUSE, five, five, five, PAUSE, one, one, one, one.”
However, in Japanese instead of pausing, they say の (no) where the dashes fall.
So in Japanese they would read 888-555-1111 as 「はち、はち、はち、の、ご、ご、ご、の、いち、いち、いち、いち」.
So now you know how to ask for and give phone numbers in Japanese.
What Is “Answer The Phone” In Japanese
Let’s say that your phone starts ringing. Since you recognize the number, you decide to answer it and start talking to the person on the other end. Let’s see how you would say those things in Japanese with the below example sentences.
- denwa ga natte imasu.
- The phone is ringing.
This phrase shows that the verb 鳴る (naru) is the one to use when a phone “rings” in Japanese.
- denwa ni demashita.
- I answered the phone.
And this phrase shows that the verb 出る (deru) is the one used to “answer” or “pick up” the phone in Japanese.
- moshi moshi
When you pick up the phone, you use the phrase もしもし to answer and say hello in Japanese.
- denwa ga rokkai narimashita ga, jon wa demasen deshita.
- The phone rang six times, but John did not answer.
Come on John, what are you doing!
What Is “Make A Call” In Japanese
In English we like to say that we are either “making” a call to someone, or we just say that we are “calling” them when we put their phone number in and try to get a hold of them.
At any rate, there are two Japanese verbs that you can use and we will go over them now.
The first verb is かける (kakeru) and it is part of the expression 電話をかける (denwa o kakeru) which means “to make a phone call” to someone.
What’s interesting is that the word 電話 which we learned for “phone” earlier is also the word used for “phone call” in Japanese.
The other verb that you can use is する (suru) which means “to do” in Japanese and can be combined with 電話 to say that you are “calling” somone on the phone.
- denwa shite mo ii desu ka?
- Can I (may I) call you?
Ring! Ring! Hello, It’s Time For Comments!
That is all that I’ve got for you today when it comes to the different Japanese words for phones, answering the phone, making calls and so on.
Hopefully you found this lesson useful, but if not then let me know what your questions are by leaving a comment down below.
Further Resources for Learning Japanese: