The number one word used in Japanese anime, according to a study done by the Yale Anime Society, is abunai. But what does abunai mean in Japanese? And how is it often used differently from its dictionary definition?
This one word gets thrown around a lot, and you’re definitely going to get a lot of value from learning it today. Let’s begin.
What Is The Definition of Abunai?
If you look up the word abunai in a dictionary, you’ll see that it is defined as “dangerous.”
Knowing this, you can begin to use and understand it exactly like the English word that’s used in order to describe something:
- A dangerous cat.
From the above example you will notice that abunai (from here on out referred to in its kanji form: 危ない) is an i-adjective that is used to describe nouns (as in the above), or used to say that “something is dangerous” as in the below sentence.
- It’s dangerous to play in the street.
It can also be used to say that something is in danger, as in the following:
- Yoshiko’s life is in danger.
As a side note, the kanji that’s used in 危ない is also used to form the na-adjective word 危険 for “peril.”
However, beyond this fairly simple explanation of 危ない, there is actually another way to understand it that occurs much more often in shows and anime.
How Is 危ない Most Often Used In Anime?
Stroke order provided by: M4RC0
So there you are watching some sweet anime and all of a sudden a monster appears out of nowhere and is about to attack the main character!
His friend sees what’s happening and yells out 「危ない！」 in order to warn him of the danger.
From this one example, you can probably guess what this particular usage of 危ない means.
That’s correct, 危ない is a set phrase in Japanese that is equivalent to the English “Watch out!” , “Duck!” or “Look out!” when something bad is about to happen to someone.
This is probably where you will encounter this word most often, and it’s a great way to use it yourself when you’re playing disc golf and someone’s about to eat the disc that you just chucked.
The Japanese Expression That Uses 危ない
There is also a well known Japanese expression that uses 危ない and is similar to the English phrase “to go out on a limb” that you will probably come across at some point (definitely if you play Persona 5):
This literally translates as “To cross a dangerous bridge” but what it really means is “to take risks” in order to gain or do something.
When combined with のために (for the sake of) you can see that 「貴方のために、危ない橋を渡る」 means “I’ll go out on a limb for you.” or “I’ll take the risk for your sake.”
Glossary Of Kanji in This Post
If there were any kanji that you didn’t know in this article, then check out their readings and meanings below. Here they are presented in the order that they were used:
- 遊ぶ【あそ・ぶ】(to play)
- 良子【よしこ】(Female given name)
- 渡る【わた・る】(to cross over)
Where have you encountered 危ない before? Let me know about it in the comments below!
Further Resources for Learning Japanese: