In a previous post, I explained a few fun Japanese words that succinctly express ideas that can only be clumsily talked around in English. Well those were just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Here are a few more useful and unique words to add to your vocabulary.

歩きスマホ – Aruki Sumaho

This is something I think we’re all familiar with. You’re hanging around, minding your own business, when BAM, some klutz with his head glued to his iPhone just bumped straight into you. He continues on his way without even looking up or apologizing. Congratulations, you’ve just become a victim of arukisumaho or walking while using a smartphone.

The etymology of this word is the stem of the verb 歩く(aruku) meaning to walk and スマホ (sumaho), which is a shortened form of スマートン (sumaatohon), the katakana transliteration of the English word smartphone. Walking around the streets of modern Tokyo, you’ll see plenty of signs warning people that 歩きスマホ is dangerous.


歩きスマホ functions as a regular noun and can be turned into a verb with the use of the helping word する, to do.

Here are a couple of example sentences to show how it is used:

私は歩きスマホする癖があります – I have a bad habit of walking while texting

歩きスマホによる事故が多発している – There have been a lot of accidents due to people walking while using their smart phones. 


地獄耳 – Jigoku Mimi

Jigoku mimi literally means hell ears and can either refer to someone who just loves listening to gossip or to someone who remembers everything little thing they hear. It is somewhat similar to the English expression to have big ears, but has more of a connotation that the person in question really just remembers every little thing they hear.

This word is much more informal than the other words on this list (it does have the word Hell in it after all) so I would recommend against using it in situations where you want to sound refined or respectful.

Here are a few example sentences:

彼は地獄耳だ – He has big ears

僕は地獄耳だから、一度聞いたら、忘れないよ – I have big ears. If I hear something once I don’t forget.


恩着せがましい  Onkisegamashii

The last word for today is quite the mouthful – Onkisegamashii。What makes this word so interesting is the fact that many dictionaries you find online get the definition only half right. Normally, you will see onkisegamashii translated as patronizing or condescending. It can mean those things, but this simple definition does not do the word true justice.

Onkisegamashii is an adjective and etymologically comes from 恩 (on), which means gratitude and the verb 着せる (kiseru) which means to make wear. Thus, the true meaning is more along the lines of expecting others to feel gratitude. In practice, it is used to describe people who go out of their way to do “favors” for others, so that they can hold it over them later, and guilt them into doing much more cumbersome favors in return.

For example, a person who is onkisegamashii might do you a small favor like bring you materials from class you missed when you were sick, but then later ask you if they can copy off you during a test. If you say no, they’ll remind you how “nice” they’ve been to you in the past and how they really “went out of their way” to give you the class materials you missed. This is all a ploy to guilt you into eventually allowing them to cheat off of you.

A person who is onkisegamashii is one of the most slimy kinds of people out there. They will never do anything for someone else without expecting something back in return.

On that note, here are a few example sentences (with very loose, idiomatic translations):

彼は恩着せがましい態度で晩ご飯をおごってくれた – He treated me to dinner but acted like I now owed him a big one.

恩着せがましい事を言わないで – Don’t try to guilt other people into feeling indebted to you.



Try to keep an eye out for these words in real life and try practicing them with your Japanese friends! They’ll really make your Japanese stand out in the crowd.


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