Thursday, July 21, 2016

Baka バカ, 馬鹿

The word baka is one of those that keeps showing up in anime everywhere. It means "stupid," but that everyone knows, right? The question is, where does baka comes from and how do you use it?

How to Write Baka in Japanese?

The word baka is written with katakana or with kanji:
  • baka バカ
  • baka 馬鹿

The katakana version is much easier to write and recognize, so it's sometimes preferred, specially since the kanji used to write baka are kanji for animals, which aren't seen with much frequency.

Kanji of Baka

The two kanji of the word baka 馬鹿 are also the kanji for the words:
  • uma
  • shika 鹿

So based on the kanji's meanings, you could guess the word baka should mean something about the animals "horse" and "deer," right? Horse and deer. Horse deer. A horsey deer. What's that even supposed to mean?!?!

How baka is written in Japanese
Manga: Zatch Bell! / Konjiki no Gasshu!!金色のガッシュ!!

It doesn't really mean anything.

Nobody is really sure where the word baka comes from. Some say it's related to a Chinese story about people who couldn't tell a deer from a horse, others say it's a loaned word from another language. Either way, in the Japanese language somehow joining a horse and a deer together means "stupid." It doesn't matter how it's written, baka means "stupid."

What Does Baka Mean in Japanese?

Generally speaking, baka means "stupid." There are some slightly different uses I'll explain below, but you can accurately translate baka to English as just "stupid" or "idiot" most of the time.

Calling People Stupid in Japanese

People who don't know much about Japanese will sometimes be tempted to call other people "stupid" by saying phrases like this:
  • anata wa baka desu あなたは馬鹿です
    omae wa baka da お前は馬鹿だ
    kimi wa baka desu 君は馬鹿です
    kisama wa baka desu 貴様は馬鹿です
    You (anata, omae) are (desu, da) stupid (baka)

Although the phrases above are all technically, grammatically correct, you'd sound very stupid trying to call people stupid the way above. This is because of two reasons:
  1. Using a second person pronoun like anata, omae isn't as common as it is in English.
  2. The word desu is literally polite speech. Are you calling people stupid or trying to be polite?

The proper way of calling someone stupid in Japanese would be more like this:
  • baka! 馬鹿!

Yes, I know it sounds weird... for an English speaker.

If you say something like omae wa baka お前は馬鹿, it sounds like you're stating a fact, not actually insulting anyone. It sounds like you're saying "you are an idiot" the same way you'd say "you are a shopkeeper."

If you really want to call someone baka, at least do it like Doraemon:
  • kimi wa jitsuni baka da na きみはじつにばかだな
    You are truly stupid, huh.

Adjective Usage of Baka

You can say something is "stupid" or baka-ish by saying baka, the Japanese particle na, and then the noun. For example:
  • baka na koto 馬鹿なこと
    Stupid thing (this is where the infamous bakana! comes from)
  • baka na yume 馬鹿な夢
    Stupid dream
  • baka na yatsu 馬鹿な奴
    Stupid guy (girl, person, thing, etc.)

As an adjective, baka can be preceded by the pronouns konna, sonna, anna, and donna.
  • sonna baka na koto wa arienai! そんな馬鹿なことはありえない!
    Something that stupid can't be!

Baka no...

When baka comes before a no, it usually means something pertains to a baka:
  • baka no iken wa doudemo ii 馬鹿の意見はどうでもいい
    I don't care for the opinion of the idiot.

Baka vs. Aho

Just like baka 馬鹿, the word ahou 阿呆, or just aho (because romaji), can also be used to say "stupid" in Japanese.

What's the difference between baka and aho?

They aren't the same word so they must be different, right? Well, not really. The difference between baka and aho is like the difference between "stupid" and "idiot," there isn't really any. The words are practically synonymous when they are used to call people stupid.

However, there are a couple of details you should be aware of.

First off, words like ahoge アホ毛. This word clearly has the word aho in it. And aho and baka mean the same thing. Does that mean we can say bakage instead of ahoge? No. We can't. It's ahoge, not bakage. If the word is part of another word or expression, it's better to assume you can't just replace one by the other.

Second off, the word baka has certain uses the word aho doesn't have. I'll explain them further below.

Third off, depending on where you are in Japan, one word becomes worse than the other.

Baka in Kantou, Aho in Kansai

The word aho is used more in the kansai 関西 region of Japan while baka is used in the kantou 関東 region. That means baka is more offensive in the kansai region than aho, because saying baka is a rare thing while everyone's used to being called aho. Likewise, aho is more offensive in the kantou region as it's said less in there.

For those who can't tell the difference between these two parts of Japan, kansai 関西 is at the "west," or nishi 西, while kantou 関東 is at the "east," or higashi 東. By the way, Tokyo 東京 is literally "capital" (京) of the "east" (東).


The word baka can be used as an adjective as well as noun, just like the word "stupid" in English. You can say "cats are stupid" or "stupid cat." Likewise, you can use baka behind something to say it's a stupid something.
  • yarou! 野郎!
    Bastard! Sonnuva!
    (this is a kinda rude word used toward men. It's not as offensive as the words above, but it's often used in swearing.)
  • baka yarou!!! 馬鹿野郎!!!
    Stupid bastard!!!

Baka me!

Because language is weird, there's also a case where baka goes behind another word but not as an adjective, it's the word in front of it that's a suffix:
  • baka me! 馬鹿め!
    [You] idiot!
    (me め is a derogatory suffix when used toward others)

Kono Baka!

When surrounded by an impressive number of bakas, please use the demonstrative pronouns kono and ano to properly specify which baka you're talking about.
  • kono baka! この馬鹿!
    This idiot!. (not the other one)
  • ano baka! あの馬鹿!
    That idiot! (now it's the other one)

You can even specify more specifically by adding an extra word.
  • kono baka yarou! この馬鹿野朗!
    This stupid bastard!
  • kono baka me! この馬鹿目!
    This idiot! Baka! ...のバカ!

When the word baka comes after the no particle, it says, literally, that the "stupid" pertains to someone. In other words, it can mean something stupid was done and the phrase attributes who did it.
  • watashi no baka! 私のバカ!
    I'm stupid! (the stupid is on me, it's my stupid action)
  • anata no baka! あなたのバカ!
    You stupid! (it's your fault!)

See the difference below:
  • omaera ni kiita ore ga baka datta お前らに聞いた俺がバカだった
    I was stupid to ask you guys.
  • omaera ni kiita ore no baka datta お前らに聞いた俺のバカだった
    Asking you guys was a stupid thing for me to do.

Baka Oniichan

It's common to have a stupid oniichan お兄ちゃん in anime, so:
  • baka oniichan! バカお兄ちゃん!
    Stupid brother!
  • baka na oniichan! バカなお兄ちゃん!
    Stupid brother!
  • oniichan no baka! お兄ちゃんのバカ!
    Stupid brother! (it's your fault!)

Baka Imouto

Likewise, it's common to have an stupid imouto in anime, so:
  • baka imouto 馬鹿妹
    Stupid sister.
  • baka na imouto 馬鹿な妹
    Stupid sister.
  • imouto no baka. 妹の馬鹿
    Stupid sister! (it's your fault!)

    Baka Janai No?

    If the no の particle is in the end it turns the sentence into a question. Like this:
    • baka janai no? 馬鹿じゃないの?
      Aren't you stupid?
    • baka na no? ばかなの?
      Are you stupid?

    In the first case, baka janai no, it's like confirming that someone is stupid. Imagine having a vegetarian friend and he orders meat in a restaurant. You'd ask "aren't you a vegetarian?" The idea here is the same.

    You can also confirm that you are not stupid by saying:
    • watashi wa baka janai 私はバカじゃない.
      I'm not stupid.

    There are other ways to question the stupidity of people in Japanese.
    • baka desu ka? バカですか?
      Are [you/him] stupid?
    • baka ka, omae wa? バカか、お前は?
      Stupid, are you?
    • baka ka yo? バカかよ?
      [Are you] an idiot?
    • anata wa baka desu yo ne? 貴方はバカですよね?
      You are stupid, right?

    Baka Dakedo

    Something someone is a good guy, but, unfortunately, he is stupid. Or, despite being stupid.
    • baka dakedo 馬鹿だけど
      Despite being stupid.

    Baka ni Suru バカにする

    The phrase baka ni suru バカにする means "to make someone look like an idiot." This is often a special skill of main characters in shounen 少年 anime and can be used like this:
    • ore wo baka ni suru tsumori ka? 俺をバカにするつもりか?
      Are you trying to make me look like an idiot?
    • baka ni shinaide! バカにしないで!
      Don't make me an idiot!
      Don't try to fool me!
      Don't make fun of me!
    • baka ni sareta... バカにされた…
      [Someone] made fun of me...

    Baka After Word

    Sometimes, when baka is after another word, it indicates someone is "stupid" for something, or, rather, a kind of stupid centered around something. This usually means someone loves doing something too much. For example:
    • sentou baka 戦闘バカ
      Fighting-stupid. (someone who is this loves fights, battles, etc.)
    • karuta baka 歌留多バカ
      Karuta-stupid. (someone who loves the game of karuta)
      (example: protagonist of Chihayafuru, manga and anime about karuta)
    • oya-baka 親バカ
      Parent-stupid. (someone who loves being a parent, has gone stupid about being a parent)
      (this is the kind of person that keeps bragging about their child at a stupid frequency)

    This usage is sometimes used towards people. If you say you're someone-baka, that means you're stupid for someone. That is, you love them. There's nothing in your head except thoughts for them.

    More Baka Words

    Finally, here are the meanings of some other often spoken baka 馬鹿 sentences:
    • baka gaijin! バカ外人!
      Stupid foreigner!
    • kimi wa baka dakara 君はバカだから
      Because you're stupid
    • baka desu 馬鹿です
      [I] am stupid.
      [You/they] are stupid.
      [He/she] is stupid.
    • bakadomo バカ共
      You idiots. (in plural)
      Those idiots. (in plural.)
    • bakamono 馬鹿者
      One idiot person. (singular.)
    • bakarashii 馬鹿らしい
      Stupid, absurd. (adjective used toward people.)
    • bakabakashii 馬鹿馬鹿しい
      Stupid, silly, foolish. (adjective used toward statements.)
    • Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu バカとテストと召喚獣
      Stupid and Test and Summoned Beasts (anime.)

    Bakari 計り

    A word that sounds like baka but is not baka is the word bakari. As you can see, the word bakari starts with baka, but it has this ri at the end which makes it completely and one hundred percent different.

    Except that sometimes the word bakari, or rather, its louder version bakkari ばっかり, can be shortened to bakka. So you got to pay attention.
    • Tabeta bakari nanoni, nanika tabetai 食べたばかりなのに、なにか食べたい
      Though (nanoni) I just ate (tabeta bakari), I want to eat (tabetai) something (nanika)
    • kuruma wo katta bakka janeeka? 車を買ったばっかじゃねーか?
      Didn't you (janeeka) just buy (katta bakka) a car? (kuruma)

    Bakari can also be used to say something happens all the time.
    • ano ko wa naite bakari あの子は泣いてばかり
      That kid (ano ko) cries all the time (naite bakari)

    1 comment:

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    1. Those articles are great sensei! Thanks for sharing your knowledge!