Shika – Meaning in Japanese | しか Nouns and Grammar

There is a fairly common grammar pattern that uses shika (しか) in Japanese, and also a couple of nouns that aren’t super common, but aren’t unheard of either. After today’s post, you should have a solid understanding of the shika meaning in Japanese.

First let’s go over the nouns that are potentially used when someone says しか in Japanese. After that, we’ll move on to the grammar pattern. I save it for the second half, because it’s more common to see, and also harder to understand. I’ll do my best, so be sure to let me know afterwards if you have any questions.

A Quick Word Before We Get into the Nouns

Alright, so the thing about Japanese is that it has a lot of homonyms (words spelled identically, but possessing different meanings). There is one slight different in pronunciation when it comes to homonyms in Japanese, but it has to do with the pitch accent of the word, which isn’t something that a lot of students are aware of.

I won’t go into too much detail in this part on each of these nouns’ pitch accent pattern, so if that’s something that you want to know about specifically, then be sure to check out the recommended resources above.

The main reason why I bring it up is because it is something that can help you keep these next words apart from each other when you hear them.

Anyway, let’s get right into each of the

Japanese Nouns for the Word Shika – しか

Alright, so hopefully you know your kanji, because that is something that is going to come in handy for telling these words apart from one another.

The first word for しか is 鹿 which means “deer” in Japanese and is the typically animal that you will see eating up your freshly grown fruits and vegetables in your garden early in the morning… not that I would know!

The second word is 市価 which means “market price” and as you can see, is made up of the kanji for market, and price. It’s nice to get an easy one every now and then!

The third word is 歯科 which means “dentistry” and isn’t quite as easy to decipher as the last one, but it’s still not too bad. The first kanji used is the one for tooth and the second one means department. I guess that makes sense in a way.

The fourth and final common word for しか is 史家 which means “historian” in Japanese. It is a combination of the kanji for history and expert. In fact, you will see 家 used in this way to mean expert or professional in quite a few common words such as:

  • 漫画家「まんがか」manga artist
  • 画家「がか」painter
  • 作曲家「さっきょくか」composer
  • 詩家「しか」poet

And I think you get the general idea. Did you catch that last one? Nice, right?

Now, I said that those four were the only common (noun) words in Japanese for しか but there are actually still more words that share this same pronunciation. They’re just not common, so there’s probably no need to go into too much detail on each. Here are a few of them now:

  • 私家 one’s own house
  • 師家 the teacher’s home
  • 疵瑕 blemish
  • 賜暇 furlough

Alright, I think that’s enough nouns for one day. Let’s move on to the grammar usage for the word しか and then see some example sentences that illustrate it’s usage.

The Grammar for Shika – しか

To briefly sum up the grammar pattern for しか we can say that is means either “only” or “nothing but” in English. Now the tricky part comes into play with the verb that gets combined with it.

Basically speaking, you can only use the negative form of the verb with しか. This is one of those situations where you kind of have to modify your English thinking brain in order to correctly understand the sentence. Let’s see an example of it now:

shika example in japanese

Here we can see the Japanese sentence 2時間しか寝てない! which literally translates as the following:

  • 2「に」two
  • 時間「じかん」hours
  • しか only
  • 寝てない「ね.てない」not sleep (habitually)

So if you thought of the translation as “two hours only, not sleep” it comes across as a little confusing in English, and you might think that he is saying that “I sleep all day, except for two hours” which is not correct.

The thing about しか when it’s used in this way is that it brings the connotation of “nothing else at all, except for this one thing” to what ever word it’s attached to.

So if you think of it as “I get nothing but two hours of sleep” then it starts to make more sense why it’s also correct to say “I only sleep two hours” for this sentence.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I have always found it easier to understand しか to mean “nothing but” instead of as “only” even though they are both technically correct.

A Few More Example Sentences

Alright, the thing about grammar is that it’s a pretty abstract concept, and it’s really hard to remember it unless you get lots of actual examples of it in action. So having said all that, let me know present you with some example sentences for this grammar pattern now.

I’ll put the readings for the kanji below each sentence in quotations, but I’ll leave out the okurigana to keep it neat.

  • This was the only book.


  • I think father alone knows this.


知らない「し」not know


  • I have no choice but to go, you know!


  • All I could do was run away. | I could do nothing but escape.


出来なかった「でき」could not do

Do these example sentences help clarify the use of しか in this grammatical pattern? By the way, in case you were wondering, しか is actually considered a particle when its used this way.

Hopefully You Found the Answer You Needed

If you’re reading this, then chances are you were looking to understand what the heck しか means in Japanese. Hopefully I’ve answered your questions, but if not, then please let me know by leaving a comment below.

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