Small Words in Japanese

Small, useful words in Japanese

Small Words in Japanese Image

When I started learning to read Japanese, I kept running across these small words; some of them are not to be found in the dictionary. So I decided to make a list.

You may notice that some of the words are related to each other and the English description is the same. Playing around with synonyms can add depth to your Japanese.

Lights! Camera! Action!


Time Phrases:

  • さっき sakki – a while ago
    EXAMPLE さっきのことはありがとう。 sakki no koto wa arigatou. Thank you for what you did a while ago.
  • 先ほど sakihodo – a little while ago
    EXAMPLE 先ほどいらっしゃいました。 sakihodo irasshaimashita. (he) came a little while ago.
  • たったいま tattaima – just, just now
  • たまに tamani – occasionally, sometimes
    EXAMPLE たまに東京へ行く。 tama ni toukyou he iku. I go to Tokyo sometimes.
  • まさに masani – just, very, be about to…
  • 結局 kekkyoku – in the end, after all
    結局、恋人になりました。kekkyoku, koibito ni narimashita. In the end, they became girlfriend / boyfriend.
  • たいてい taitei – usually, always, most
  • いつでも itsudemo – anytime, always
    EXAMPLE いつでも来て下さい。 itsudemo kitte kudasai. Please come anytime.
  • きまって kimatte – always
  • ずっと zutto – all the time, all the way, far
    EXAMPLE 彼はずっとテレビを見た。 kare wa zutto terebi wo mita. He watched TV for a long time.
  • いつか itsuka – some time, someday
    EXAMPLE いつか、月へ行きたい。itsuka, tsuki he ikitai. Someday I want to go to the Moon.
  • しばらく shibaraku – for a while
    EXAMPLE しばらくお待ち下さい。 shibaraku omachi kudasai. Please wait a little while.
  • そろそろ sorosoro – soon
    EXAMPLE そろそろ 始めましょう sorosoro hajimemashou. Let’s begin soon.
  • とっくに tokkuni – already, long ago
  • このごろ konogoro – these days
  • いまごろ imagoro – about this time
    EXAMPLE あしたの いまごろ ashita no imagoro – tomorrow about this time

At this Time:

  • さきに sakini – before ~ do this, ahead
  • さいしょに saisho ni – in the beginning, firstly
    EXAMPLE 最初に食べましょう。 saisho ni tabemashou. Let’s eat first.
  • さいごに saigo ni – in the end, lastly
    EXAMPLE 最後に なりました。 saigo ni narimashita. The end has come.
  • いまだに imadani – still, even now

Descriptive Words:

  • きちんと kichinto – accurately, exactly
  • ちゃんと chanto – correctly, neatly
  • ぴったり pittari – exactly, perfect
  • はっきり hakkiri – clear, clearly
  • ぎりぎり girigiri – just in time, just barely… MORE…
    EXAMPLE ぎりぎり逃げた。 girigiri nigeta. (I) just barely escaped.
  • いっしょうけんめい isshoukenmei – with all of one’s might, as best as one can do
  • 自由に jyuu ni – freely
    EXAMPLE 自由に座って下さい。jiyuu ni suwatte kudasai. Please feel free to take a seat. (choose any seat freely)
  • ちょくせつ chokusetsu – directly
    EXAMPLE ちょくせつ言う。choku setsu iu. (I) will speak directly.
  • 急に (きゅうに) kyuuni – suddenly
  • にくい nikui – difficult
    EXAMPLEこのパンは食べにくいです。 kono pan wa tabe nikui desu. This bread is hard to eat.
  • やすい yasui – easy
    EXAMPLE コーラは飲みやすいです。 kora wa nomi yasui desu. Cola is easy to drink.
  • 全く mattaku – really, quite, completely
    EXAMPLE 全く同じ mattaku onaji. (It’s) exactly the same
  • たいがい taigai – most, mostly
Degree of…:

  • ずいぶん zuibun – very, a lot
  • かなり kanari – fairly, pretty
  • 結構 kekkou – fairly, pretty ~
    EXAMPLE 結構上手ですね。 kekkou jouzu desu ne. (he’s) pretty good (at something)!
  • もっと motto – more
  • できるだけ dekiru dake – as much as possible, as much as one can do
    EXAMPLE できるだけ、 早く帰ってね。 dekiru dake hayaku kaette ne. Come back as soon as possible.
  • ちっとも chittomo – (not) at all
  • ほとんど hotondo – most, almost, nearly all
    EXAMPLE ほとんどのアメリカ人は 日本語ができない。 hotondo no amerika jin wa nihongo ga dekinai. Most Americans can’t speak Japanese.
  • あんなに annani – such, like that
  • ほど hodo – about some, or so, such
  • ~ほど ~ではない ~hodo ~dewanai – not as ~ as ~


  • とにかく tonikaku – anyway, in any case, anyhow
  • について nitsuite – About, for
    EXAMPLE くまのプーさんについて 話しましょう。 kuma no pu-san nitsuite hanashimashou. (Let’s talk ABOUT winnie the Pooh.)
  • ため tame – For this reason, for his/her benefit
    EXAMPLE 由美のためにプレゼントを買った。 yumi no tame ni purezento o katta. (I bought a present for Yumi.)
  • ~ように ~youni – Like this, in this way
    EXAMPLE 私のようにして下さい。 watashi no youni shite kudasai. Please do like me.
  • まるで marude – just like, quite
  • くれぐれも kure guremo – again and again; repeatedly; earnestly
  • しても shitemo – even if, if
  • らしい rashii – seems, looks as if, they say that ~
    EXAMPLE その絵はとてもピカソらしいですね。 sono e wa totemo pikaso rashii desu ne. Isn’t that painting very Picasso-ish?
  • とくに tokuni – especially, particularly
    EXAMPLE 特に素晴らしいことです。 tokuni subarashii koto desu. It’s an especially wonderful thing!
  • はず hazu -should be, must be
    EXAMPLE あの店はあるはずです。ano mise wa aru hazu desu. That store should have it.
  • その上 sono ue – besides (what’s more…)
  • など nado – and so on, etc.
  • すなわち sunawachi – that is to say, or
  • むしろ mushiro – rather (than)
  • しかも shikamo – besides, and yet


  • だが daga – but, though
  • (な)のに (na) noni – though, in spite of
    EXAMPLE 勉強してのに、いつも失敗。 benkyou shite noni, itsumo shippai. Although I study, I always fail.
  • (な)ので (na) node – because, since
    EXAMPLE 日本語は難しいので もっと勉強します。 nihongo wa muzukashii node motto benkyou shimasu. Because Japanese is difficult, I will study more.


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