If you watch a lot of action anime or read a lot of fantasy manga, then you’re definitely going to run into some Japanese words like kill, die, death and so on. What is Japanese for Death? The short answer is 死 (shi).
Not only does it get used to say things like “you killed my father!” but it also gets combined with other words to form new compounds like 死神 (shini gami) for death-god (Death Note anyone?).
Let’s take a look at the of ways 死 (shi) gets used and some of the other words that usually go along with it.
How to Use 死 (shi) And Other Related Words
The simple way to say “to die” is 死ぬ (shinu) in the casual form and 死にます (shinimasu) in the polite form. These both follow the basic rules for conjugation into either the negative or the past forms.
Some phrases that you’re likely to encounter when reading manga are:
(shin ja iyaa!)
(korekara shinu zo, omae!)
You are just about to die!
The word 殺す (korosu) means “to kill.” So you might hear in an anime some of these:
(koitsu wa… boku ga korosu!)
This guy… I’ll kill him!
Or an evil king might say something along the lines of:
(hamukau yatsu o korosu!)
I’ll kill whoever defies me!
When the king’s guards show up, the main character might reply with:
(boku o koroshi ni kita n darou?)
You’ve come to kill me, haven’t you?
Of course not everyone wants to kill. Sometimes they just need to hash things out with a good fight. Like you do with your main rival.
(ima… wareware wa tataku!)
Now… We fight!
Here are some compound words that are pretty common to see that use 死:
- 死体 (shitai) = Dead body; Corpse
- 死後 (shingo) = After death
- 死者 (shinsha) = Casualty
- 死神 (shinigami) = Death god; Reaper
- 死滅 (shimetsu) = Extinction; Annihilation
- 死人 (shinin) = Corpse; Dead person
What is the Deal with the Number 4?
In English, we typically associate the number 13 with bad luck. I remember being in an apartment complex once that didn’t even have a “13th floor” because nobody would want to stay there! It just went from floor 12, to floor 14!
Likewise, the Japanese people tend to avoid the number 4. Why is that though? I mean, the kanji for the number four is 四 which doesn’t look like the kanji for death 死 at all. Take a look at the picture below to figure out why:
As you can see, the word for “death” and the word for the number “four” sound exactly the same in Japanese! No wonder they tend to avoid it. But if they don’t like it, then why are those words pronounced the same way?
Well as it turns out, the Japanese language has multiple words for each of the numbers 1-10. The number four in particular actually has three different ways to pronounce it depending on how it is used. They are よ (yo), よん (yon), and of course し (shi).
よ (yo) and よん (yon) are both the Kun’yomi of the number four, which means that they are from the original Japanese language. But し (shi) is actually the On’yomi reading of it, which is the version that came into the Japanese language from the Chinese language when they imported all of their Kanji to establish a writing system in Japanese.
So there you go. It was the Chinese, lol! (¬‿¬)
What do you think of the number four sharing the same pronunciation as the word death? Know of any other words that share the same pronunciation? Let me know with a comment below!
Further Resources for Learning Japanese: