Thursday, July 21, 2016

baka 馬鹿, バカ

In Japanese, baka バカ, also spelled 馬鹿, ばか, means "stupid" or "idiot." It can mean that someone is stupid, or did something stupid. Or is stupid about something, i.e. fixated on it. That's stupidly high, i.e. absurdly high, extremely so. Or that it became stupid in the sense of it stopped functioning.

理由はすぐ分かった ぱーーーーん わひひあひー この男バカなのである
Character: Nendou Riki 燃堂 力
Manga: Saiki Kusuo no Psi Nan 斉木楠雄のΨ難 (Chapter 2, 最低Ψ悪!?燃堂力)


There are multiple ways to spell the word baka in Japanese.

romaji baka
hiragana ばか
katakana バカ
kanji 馬鹿

It's normally written with katakana or with kanji, but it may be spelled with hiragana for aesthetic reasons.

  • Baka to Tesuto to Shoukan-juu
    Idiots, Tests, and Summoned-Beasts.
    • The title of this series uses the katakana spelling, for example.


The kanji of baka are kanji for words that refer to animals:

  1. uma

  2. shika

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

How baka is written in Japanese.
Anime: Zatch Bell!, Konjiki no Gash Bell!! 金色のガッシュベル!!

It doesn't mean anything.


The word baka isn't actually Japanese. It's a loan word, a transliteration of the Sanskrit word "moha," meaning "foolish person"(馬鹿 - デジタル大辞泉).

Sanskrit doesn't have kanji, so some random kanji were selected phonetically to spell the word. This is called an ateji 当て字.

Since the ateji is only concerned with matching the sound, the kanji reading, not the kanji meaning, you often end up with words with nonsensical kanji meanings, which is the case with horse-deer baka.

Specifically, moha has had the following ateji(馬鹿 -, 馬鹿・莫迦・破家 - 精選版 日本国語大辞典):

  • bakuka 莫迦
  • boka 募何
  • moha 莫迦
  • haka 破家
  • baka 馬鹿

Among these, it seems only the horse-deer one really stuck.

A theory about its origin is that it comes from a Chinese story in which someone points at a deer and says it's a horse. Since that sounds like something pretty stupid to do, people started spelling the word "stupid" as horse-deer(馬鹿 -


The word baka means "stupid" or "idiot" depending on its usage on a sentence, and baka is used in a number of different ways. For example:

  1. To call someone stupid.
    • baka
      [You] [are] stupid.
      [You] [are] an idiot.
    • koitsu wa baka da
      This [guy] is an idiot.
    • baka na no?
      Are [you] stupid?
    • baka janai no?
      Aren't [you] stupid?
      (basically same meaning as above.)
    • baka ka omae?
      Are you stupid?
      (emotive right-dislocation.)
    • {baka na} oniichan
      [My] older brother [that] {is stupid}.
      [My] stupid older brother.
      A stupid young guy. (a second meaning of oniisan お兄さん.)
      (na な adjective.)
    • {omae-ra ni kiita} ore ga baka datta
      Me [who] {asked you [guys]} is an idiot.
      I'm an idiot for asking you guys.
  2. To call something stupid, ridiculous.
    • {sonna baka na} koto wa ari-enai!
      Something [that] {is that stupid} can't exist!
      Something that stupid can't possibly happen!
      There's no way it's something that stupid!
    • sonna baka na!
      There's no way!
      (basically same meaning as above, but abbreviated.)
    • baka na!
      (same meaning.)
    • bakabakashii!
  3. To refer to an idiot.
    • {baka no iu} koto wo kiite wa ikenai
      [One] should not listen to the things [that] {an idiot says}.
      (no の subject marker.)
    • baka-domo
      The idiots. [You] idiots. [These] idiots. (plural.)
  4. To refer to being treated like an idiot, mocked.
    • baka ni suru
      To treat [someone] like an idiot.
      To mock someone.
    • baka ni suru na!
      Don't treat [me] like an idiot!
      Don't mock [me]!
      (negative imperative na.)
    • baka ni shinai de
      (same meaning.)
  5. To refer to something stupid that one did.
    • watashi no baka
      [It] [is] my "stupid".
      It's my fault.
      (possessive no の adjective.)
    • oniichan no baka!
      [It] [is] [my] brother's "stupid"!
      It's my brother's fault!
  6. To refer to stupidity.
    • baka-sa
    • baka-rashii
      Idiotic. Something that feels stupid.
  7. To say something has stopped working, lost its function.
    • kagi ga baka ni natta
      The key became stupid.
      The key doesn't open the lock anymore. It stopped working.
  8. As a suffix, referring to how stupidly fixated someone is onto something.
    • oya-baka
      Fixated on being a parent. Pampering one's children.
    • souji-baka
      Fixated on cleaning one's house.
  9. To say something is stupidly high, absurdly highly, exceedingly so.
    • baka-shoujiki
      Absurdly honest. A very honest person.
    • baka-dikara
      Absurd power. Incredibly strength.
    • baka-sawagi
      Absurd racket. A huge commotion.
    • baka ni atsui
      Absurdly hot. (weather.)

A word that sound similar to baka is:

This word, bakari, is thought to come from hakari 計り, "measurement," the noun form (ren'youkei 連用形) of hakaru 計る, "to measure." Its meaning is "only" or "just," although it's often used to say that someone only (just) does one thing.[ばかり - 精選版 日本国語大辞典 via, accessed 2020-10-28]

  • geemu suru bakari
    Just plays games.
  • geemu suru bakkari
    (same meaning.)
  • geemu suru bakka
    (same meaning.)

vs. Aho

Besides baka, there's another word that means "stupid" in Japanese: ahou 阿呆, or just aho アホ. Since they both mean "stupid," they're synonymous, you can replace one by the other and the sentence should mean the same thing.

However, there are a few differences between baka and aho.

Lexically, if you have a word that's made out of either baka or aho and something else, you can't just replace baka by aho or vice-versa, and baka has more uses than aho has. For example:

  • ahoge アホ毛, literally "stupid hair," is always aho-ge, never baka-ge. You can't switch aho for baka here.
  • baka-shoujiki 馬鹿正直, "stupid-honest," in the sense of "extremely honest," can't be rewritten as aho-shoujiki.

Regionally, a eastern part of Japanese, Kantou 関東, and a western part of Japan, Kansai 関西, regard one word as being more offensive than the other differently.

  1. In Kantou, baka is more common, so people are used to it, and aho, which is rarer, sounds more offensive.
  2. In Kansai, aho is more common, so baka is more offensive.


The word baka is a na-adjective. It's not inflectable. Instead, the copula that comes after baka is what gets conjugated.

Predicative form.
baka da

Attributive form.
baka na
Adverbial form.
baka ni
baka de
Polite form.
baka desu


Since baka バカ is a word that appears so much in anime, I'm going to dedicate this article into explaining how the grammar behind a number of uses of the word work.

  • {{baka ni-mo wakaru} you ni} setsumei suru
    To explain [it] {so [that] {even an idiot understands}}.
    • Phrase used when talking about making very easy-to-understand explanations.
    • Tarou ni-wa wakaru
      To Tarou, [it] is understood.
      Tarou understands [it].
    • Hanako ni-mo wakaru
      To Hanako, too, [it] is understood.
      Hanako understands [it], too.
      Even Hanako understands [it].
    • {Hanako ni-mo wakaru} you ni
      So [that] {even Hanako understands [it]}.

Calling People Stupid

Calling other people stupid in Japanese without knowing Japanese sounds pretty stupid, but most importantly, it's often done wrongly.

People who don't know much about Japanese will be tempted to call other people "stupid" by translating the English sentence "you are stupid" word by word to Japanese.

The first problem is that there are multiple ways to say "you" in Japanese: anata あなた, omae お前, kimi, kisama 貴様, etc. But whatever, let's just pick one of them.

The second problem is that there are also multiple way to say "is," "are," in Japanese: da だ, desu です, de aru である, etc. But, again, whatever, let's just pick one of them.

As we've seen before, there are multiple ways to spell baka in Japanese. Let's just pick one of them.

Putting it all together:

  • anata wa baka desu
    You are stupid.
  • omae wa baka da
    (same meaning.)
  • kimi wa baka desu
    (same meaning.)
  • kisama wa baka da
    (same meaning.)

And so on.

Although the phrases above are all grammatically correct, you'd sound very stupid trying to call someone stupid in the ways above. This is because of two reasons:

  1. Using a second person pronoun like anata, omae, etc. is unusual in Japanese.
  2. The word desu is 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!

Yes, I know it sounds weird, it's just one word. But that really is the way.

Japanese doesn't have an "it" pronoun. In a phrase like "it is pretty," "it" is the subject, and "is pretty" is the predicate. In Japanese, you only say "is pretty," since there's no "it."

  • kirei!
    [It] is pretty!
  • kawaii!
    [It] is cute!

Just like talking about "it" doesn't require you to say "it," talking about "you," and talking about "me," don't require these pronouns, either.

  • daijoubu?
    Are [you] alright?
  • yoku yatta
    [You] did [it] well.

If you say something like omae wa baka da お前は馬鹿です, 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."

That happens mostly because the plain predicative copula da だ is generally omitted in speech. Just because you aren't being polite, that doesn't mean you'll be ending your sentences with da だ all the time.

A character known for calling people stupid in this matter-of-fact way is Doraemon:

  • kimi wa jitsuni baka da na
    You are truly stupid, huh.

Besides da だ, the polite desu です and literary de aru である are also copulas that will sound like you're stating a fact rather than swearing at somebody.

理由はすぐ分かった ぱーーーーん わひひあひー この男バカなのである
Manga: Saiki Kusuo no Psi Nan 斉木楠雄のΨ難 (Chapter 2, 最低Ψ悪!?燃堂力)
  • Context: Saiki explains why he can't figure out what Nendou is thinking.
  • riyuu wa
    sugu wakatta

    The reason [I] understood immediately.
  • paaan
    *ta da!* (sound effect used when something is presented, in this case, Nendou, the character.)
  • wahihi ahii
    わひひ あひー
    *idiotic snickering*
  • kono otoko
    nano de aru

    This man is an idiot.

The copula da だ is required when using conjunctions such as ga and kedo けど, which mean "but," "however," forming daga だが and dakedo だけど, respectively, and also with kara から, to form "because," dakara だから.

  • baka da kedo {ii} yatsu da
    [He] is stupid, but [he] is a {good} guy.
  • kimi wa baka da kara
    Because you're stupid

To tell people they aren't stupid, the negative form is used.

  • baka janai
    [They] are not stupid.

I'm Stupid

To say "I'm stupid" in Japanese, a first person pronoun like watashi, ore, boku, etc. is necessary.

As mentioned previously, you normally don't need to say the subject when talking about "me" or "you" as it's understood form context.

  • daijoubu desu
    [I] am alright.
  • yatte-miru
    [I] will try to do [it].

However, baka by itself is normally understood as "[you] are stupid," not "[I] am stupid," so we must be explicit about who's stupid in this case.

オレはバカだ あの時から少しも成長しちゃいない
Manga: Fullmetal Alchemist, Hagane no Renkinjutsushi 鋼の錬金術師 (Chapter 6, 破壊の右手)
  • Context: Edward sulks over his ineptitude.
  • ore wa baka da
    I'm stupid.
  • ano toki kara
    sukoshi mo
    seichou shichainai

    [I] haven't matured even a little since that time.
  • I.e. Edward did something stupid before, and he feels he didn't learn anything since that time, he hasn't matured, grown up, improved, etc. Nothing changed, and he's doomed to repeat the same mistakes he did in the past. He implies he's an idiot because he hasn't learned from his past mistakes.

A common example of this usage would be:

  • {omae-ra ni kiita} ore ga baka datta
    [It] is me [who] {asked you guys} who was stupid.
    I was stupid to ask you guys.
    • baka バカ is an individual-level predicate and as such requires who "is stupid" to be marked as the topic of the sentence by either the wa は particle or the tte って particle.
    • When the ga が particle is used instead, topic and focus are reversed due to only the focus-marking function of ga が being available in ILPs(鈴木, 2014:36).
    • Observe the difference:
    • ore wa baka datta
      I was stupid.
      • This sentence is about "me."
      • i.e. ore is the topic, baka datta is focus.
    • ore ga baka datta
      It was me who was stupid.
      • This sentence is about:
      • dare ga baka datta?
        Who was stupid?
      • i.e. baka datta is the topic, ore/dare is focus.
    • In other words, {omae-ra ni kiita} ore ga baka datta is used only when I asked something to "you guys," omae-ra, and then omae-ra said something stupid, but the sentence is saying it wasn't omae-ra who were stupid, it was me who was the stupid one for asking omae-ra.


The phrase baka yarou 馬鹿野郎 means literally "stupid guy," a way to call someone stupid, but it tends to be translated with expletives: you dumbass, you moron, etc..

This happens because yarou 野郎 is refers to men, guys, and it's often used rudely, making it get translated to "bastard" a lot.

Due to yarou やろう ending in a long vowel, it's also romanized as yarō, yaro, and may be also spelled yaroo ヤロー.

バカヤロー!! もちろん お前も仲間だよ!!
Manga: Sakigake!! Cromartie Koukou 魁!!クロマティ高校 (Chapter 14, 帝国の逆襲)
  • Context: a character feels left out of the group.
  • baka yaroo!!
    [You] dumbass!!
  • mochiron omae mo
    nakama da yo!!

    もちろん お前も 仲間だよ!!
    Of course you're nakama too!!


The word bakamono 馬鹿者 means the same thing as baka yarou, except in anime yarou is used more by urban, gang, or delinquent characters, while mono is used by classier, richer, and often older characters. Also, mono 者 only means "person," so it's gender neutral.

中尉殿 なんです このガキ・・・ でっ 馬鹿者!!
Manga: Fullmetal Alchemist, Hagane no Renkinjutsushi 鋼の錬金術師 (Chapter 3, 炭鉱の町)
  • Context: don't you know who I am?!?!?!
  • chuui-dono
    kono gaki...

    中尉殿 なんです このガキ…
    Lieutenant, [what is it with] this kid?
  • *punches*
  • de' でっ
    • Likely from:
    • itee 痛ぇ
    • itai 痛い
      [It] hurts.
  • baka mono!!
    [You] idiot!!


The phrase baka-me バカめ means the same thing as baka, but it has condescending the me め suffix. This suffix is humble when used toward oneself, but derogatory when used toward others.

  • watakushi-me

    I. (humble speech, because I'm referring to myself as inferior with ~me.)
    • Note: watakushi ワタクシ is a formal variant of watashi ワタシ, both mean "I," "me."
    • See: first person pronouns.
  • baka-me!
    [You] idiot! (derogatory speech, because I'm referring to others as inferior with ~me.)

Kono Baka!

The phrase kono baka このバカ means literally "this idiot," given that the demonstrative pronouns kono この, sono その, and ano あの means "this" and "that." However, in Japanese, "this X" is often used to say something about "you", rather than a third person.

  • kono baka!
    This idiot! (the idiot I'm dealing with.)
    You idiot! (yep, this idiot.)
  • ano baka!
    That idiot! (a different idiot.)

This phrase can be combined with the others we saw previously:

  • kono baka yarou!
    This stupid bastard!
  • kono baka me!
    This idiot!

See Swearing with Kono この for details.

Baka na

The phrase baka na バカな is the attributive form of baka da バカだ. The attributive form is necessary when a predicate is part of a relative clause qualifying a noun, which, in Japanese, occurs most of the time a predicate comes right before a noun. Observe:

  • kono hito wa baka da
    This person is an idiot.
    This person is stupid.
    • kono この, "this," demonstrative pronoun.
    • hito, "person," noun.
    • wa は, topic-marking particle.
    • baka da バカだ, predicative adjective.
  • {baka na} hito
    A person [that] {is an idiot}.
    A person [that] {is stupid}.
    A stupid person.
    An idiotic person. An idiot.
    • baka na バカな, attributive adjective, relative clause.
    • hito 人, noun.

As you can see above, any time you have "subject wa baka da," you can relativize the subject to "{baka na} subject." For simple adjectives, the English relative clauses "X [that] {is stupid}" is too verbose, so we just put the adjective before the noun instead: "stupid X."

  • kono inu wa baka da
    This dog is stupid.
  • {baka na} inu
    A dog [that] {is stupid}.
    A stupid dog.
  • koitsu wa baka da
    This guy is stupid.
    • koitsu こいつ comes from koyatsu こやつ, the demonstrative ko~ prefix plus yatsu やつ, which means an individual "thing" or "person."
  • {baka na} yatsu
    A guy [that] {is stupid}.
    A stupid guy.
  • ningen-domo wa baka da
    Humans are stupid.
  • {baka na} ningen-domo
    Humans [that] {are stupid}.
    Stupid humans. Foolish humans.

Note that there's no distinction between restrictive (ONLY the ones THAT are stupid) and nonrestrictive (WHICH are ALL stupid) relative clauses in Japanese, just as there's no way to distinguish plurality and definiteness in nouns.

  • {baka na} otoko
    A man [who] {is stupid}. (a random, single man.)
    The men [that] {are stupid}. (as opposed to the smart men.)
    Men, [who] {are stupid}. (all men.)

In many cases, the na な is omitted, and the phrase becomes a single noun. In particular, this happens with nicknames.

  • {baka na} yarou
    A guy [that] {is stupid}.
  • baka-yarou
    (same meaning.)
  • {baka na} oniichan
    [My] older brother [who] {is stupid}.
    [My] stupid older brother.
  • baka-oniichan
    (same meaning.)
  • baka-imouto
    Stupid younger sister.
  • baka-gaijin
    Stupid foreigner.
  • Bakaguya
    The nickname for the "stupid," baka, Kaguya かぐや, from Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai かぐや様は告らせたい.

Japanese permits first person pronouns to be relativized more easily than English.

  • watashi wa baka da
    I'm stupid.
  • {baka na} watashi
    Me, [who] {is stupid}.
    The stupid me.

What's stupid doesn't need to be a person or animal.

  • {baka na} koto
    A thing [that] {is stupid.}
    A stupid thing.
  • {baka na} yume
    A dream [that] {is stupid}.
    A stupid dream
  • {baka na} mane wa yose
    Stop doing something [that] {is stupid}.
    • Used when someone is doing something stupid, and you tell them to stop.

As an adjective, baka can be preceded by the pronouns konna, sonna, anna, and donna.

  • sonna baka na koto wa arienai!
    Something that stupid can't be!

The phrase above is where the infamous BAKANA!!! comes from.

Manga: Yotsuba to! よつばと! (Chapter 66, よつばとでんきや)
  • nanii!! sonna baka na!!
    Whaat!! [Something] that stupid [can't be]!!

The attributive form of the predicative janai is also janai. This means that, while you need to replace the affirmative da だ by na な, you don't need to change the negative janai. Observe:

  • kono hito wa baka janai
    This person isn't stupid.
  • {baka janai} hito
    A person [that] {isn't stupid}.
    People [that] {aren't stupid}.

Are You Stupid?

There are various ways to ask whether someone is stupid in Japanese, each with a different nuance.

  • baka ka?
    [Are] [you] stupid?
  • baka desu ka?
    (same meaning.)
  • baka na no?
    (same meaning.)
  • baka na no ka?
    (same meaning.)
  • baka na no desu ka?
    (same meaning.)
  • baka ka yo?
    (same meaning.)
  • baka na no ka yo?
    (same meaning.)

Let's go through them one by one.

Baka ka?

The ka か particle is generally used when there's doubt. As a sentence-ending particle, it's used to make questions. These don't need to be sincere questions seeking new knowledge. Sometimes they're spouted out of surprise or shock at something absurd.

Syntactically, ka か can't come after da だ, but it can come after desu です.

  • baka da
  • baka ka?
    Are [you] stupid?
  • baka desu
  • baka desu ka?
    Are [you] stupid? (polite form.)
お前ら馬鹿デスか? 私・・・スクーターはねられた位じゃ死なないヨ
Manga: Gintama 銀魂 (Chapter 3, ジャンプは時々土曜日に出るから気を付けろ)
  • Context: Kagura 神楽 gets hit by a scooter.
  • omaera baka desu ka?
    Are you [guys] stupid?
  • watashi... {sukuutaa hanerareta} gurai ja shinanai yo
    I wouldn't die just from {getting hit by a scooter}.
    • desu and yo are unusually spelled with katakana in Kagura's speech to represent her foreign accent.
    • See: aesthetic spelling choices.

In English, questions feature subject-auxiliary inversion, in which auxiliaries and the copula "to be" swap places with the subject.

  • You are stupid.
  • Are you stupid?

Japanese doesn't have this feature. The standard complement order is identical for both interrogative and affirmative sentences.

  • omae wa baka da
    You are stupid.
    You are an idiot.
  • omae wa baka ka?
    Are you stupid?
    Are you an idiot?

In practice, however, it's common to see the question above with the subject ending up in front of the predicate.

  • baka ka omae?
    *Are stupid, you? (literally.)
    Stupid, are you? (closest grammatical sentence in English.)

This is called a dislocation. More specifically, it's a type of dislocation without a pause called emotive right-dislocation(Ono, 2006, as cited in Nakagawa, 2008:15).

This is what happens in sentences like:

  • kore wa nanda?
    What is this?
  • nanda kore wa!
    (same meaning, dislocated.)
  • kore wa nani?
    What is this?
  • kore nani?
    (same meaning, null particle.)
  • nani kore?
    (same meaning, dislocated.)

An example of non-paused dislocation would be:

  • kimi wa baka da na
    You are stupid, [aren't you?]
  • baka da na, kimi wa
    (same meaning, dislocated.)

Baka ka yo?!

The phrase baka ka yo バカかよ means "are you stupid?!" or "are they stupid?!" used as a retort when in shock or disbelief.

The yo よ particle is used in affirmative sentences to correct a wrong assumption of someone else, or to alert someone else about something.

  • kore da yo
    [It] is this. (not that, this.)
  • muri da yo
    [It] is impossible. (give up trying.)
  • nigeru-n-da yo!
    Run away!

In the interrogative, it's typically used as a retort when something appears or sounds ridiculous.

  • muri ka yo?!
    [It] is impossible?! (come on!)
  • omae ka yo?!
    [It] is you?! (it was you who was doing it?!)
  • Context: someone runs over 30km per hour.
  • kuruma ka yo?!
    Is [he] a car?!
  • baka ka yo?!
    Is [this guy] an idiot?!

By the way, da yo ne だよね and da yo na だよな are used when stating one's opinions and seeking agreement from the listener. Only the ne ね particle requires a listener, the na な particle can be used toward oneself in monologues.

  • baka da yo ne
    [He] is an idiot, [don't you agree]?
    He's such an idiot, right?
  • baka da yo na
    [He] is an idiot, [huh].
    [After all], [he] is an idiot.

Baka nano?

The phrase baka nano? バカなの? means "are [you] stupid?" but it's used more by women than by men.

Manga: Erased, Boku dake ga Inai Machi 僕だけがいない街 (Chapter 7, 失われた時間)
  • baka na no?
    [Are you] stupid?

How this sentence works exactly is a bit difficult to explain.

In Japanese, some language constructions tend to be used more by one gender than the other. The language used by women is called female language.

For example, the wa わ sentence ending particle is used mostly by women. If you may have seen an ojousama お嬢様 character ending her sentences with desu wa ですわ, that wa わ is the sentence ending particle.

Regarding na no なの, it's an abbreviation of na no ka なのか, which is the interrogative variant of na no da なのだ.

The no の of na no da なのだ is often abbreviated to n, making it become na-n-da なんだ.

When a predicate comes before a noun to quality it, it must be converted to "attributive form," rentaikei. The da だ copula is in "predicative form," shuushikei, while the na な copula is in "attributive form," rentaikei.

The no の of na no da なのだ is syntactically treated like a noun, so when baka da バカだ comes before it, it becomes baka na バカな.

The no da のだ, n-da んだ construction has multiple functions. The one we're dealing with has to do with the modality (a.k.a. the mood) of the sentence.

One of them is to make an observation that explains why something is the way it is, and another one is to explain to someone why something is the way it is. For example:

  • baka da
    [He] is an idiot.
  • baka na no da
    [It's because] [he] is an idiot. (explaining to someone else.)
    [Oh, it's because] [he] is an idiot. (realizing it yourself.)
  • baka na-n-da
    (same meaning, contracted.)
  • baka na no desu
    (same meaning, polite.)
  • baka na-n-desu
    (same meaning, polite, contracted.)

In the affirmative, the predicate (baka da) serves as the explanation. In the interrogative, the question asked is whether the predicate is the explanation.

  • baka na no ka?
    [Is it because] [he] is an idiot? (him being an idiot would explain all of this.)
  • baka na no?
    (same meaning, abbreviated, typically female speech.)
  • baka na no desu ka?
    (same meaning, polite.)
  • baka na-n-desu ka?
    (same meaning, polite, contracted.)

Although this sounds a bit complicated, the idea is that the interrogative can be answered by the affirmative.

  • ano ko wa baka na-n-desu ka?
    Is that kid stupid? (given that they did something stupid?)
  • baka na-n-desu
    [They] are stupid. (that's why they did something stupid.)

In practice, baka na no ka and its variants end up being used more than baka ka, since most of the time you'll see someone doing something stupid and question whether they do stupid stuff BECAUSE they are stupid, i.e. if the explanation for their stupid actions is that they're stupid themselves.

If na no ka takes in consideration the situation, context, then just ka does not. It tends to be used when ignoring the situation and directing the question wholly to the person, so a complex answer can't be given, and as such the sentence becomes a yes or no question.

  • baka ka dou ka
    Whether or not [he] is an idiot.

Baka Janai no?

The phrase baka janai no? バカじゃないの? means, literally, "are [you] not stupid?" but in practice it's just another way to say "are you stupid?"

The no の at the end of the sentence is the same as na no なの, which means janai no is an abbreviation of janai no ka じゃないのか that tends to be used more by women.

Since no の is a noun, da だ is conjugated to its attributive form na な. The same does apply to janai じゃない, but its predicative and attributive forms are identical—the attributive of janai is also janai—so the word doesn't change when it goes before no の to form janai no じゃないの.

Ironically, although baka janai no is syntactically the negative of baka na no, both sentences are equally used to ask whether someone "is" stupid. The difference is that janai poses the doubt as a negative question.

This is easier to understand in English:

  • You are stupid, aren't you?
  • He is stupid, isn't he?

In the sentences above, the question isn't "are you stupid?," it's "are NOT you stupid?" The same phenomenon happens in the Japanese language, except that the negative question tends to be use rhetorically.

  • baka na no ka?
    Is [he] stupid? (affirmative question.)
    • Used when the speaker isn't sure if he is stupid or not, and is genuinely asking.
  • baka janai no ka?
    [He] is stupid, [isn't he]? (negative question.)
    • Used when the speaker has already assumed that he is stupid and is seeking confirmation.

For comparison:

  • kore na no ka?
    Is [it] this? (genuine question.)
  • kore janai no ka?
    Isn't [it] this? (I thought it was.)

Since baka janai no? comes with the assumption someone is stupid, it's harsher than simply asking baka na no? and tends to be used to call people morons.

Manga: Historie, ヒストリエ (Chapter 8, スキタイ流)

Baka no

The phrase baka no バカの means "an idiot's."

In this case, the no の particle marks the genitive case, which is when a noun modifies another noun. Since baka isn't a noun, being marked by no の turns it into a noun, so it refers to "an idiot," rather than being "stupid."

This process also turns the noun into an adjective, specifically called a no-adjective. There are various kinds. The one we're talking about are possessive, which means the modified noun is a possession of the no-adjective. Observe:

  • baka no iken wa doudemo ii
    The idiot's opinion doesn't matter.
    [I don't care for] the opinion of an idiot.

No Baka

The phrase no baka のバカ means "[someone]'s stupidity," i.e. "[someone]'s fault."

This is the same thing as baka no but in reverse. Since no の requires both the word before and after to be nouns, in this case, too, baka バカ becomes a noun rather than an adjective.

So we're talking about the "stupid" of somebody, which, in practice, means whose fault was it. However, it's typically translated to English as simply calling someone stupid. For example:

  • watashi no baka!
    [It's] my stupid. (literally.)
    I'm at fault.
    I was the stupid one.
    I'm stupid. (typical translation.)
  • anata no baka!
    [It's] your stupid. (literally.)
    You are at fault.
    You're stupid. (typical translation.)
  • oniichan no baka!
    [It's] [my] older brother's stupid! (literally.)
    Older brother, it's your fault!
    Stupid older brother! (typical translation.)

Baka ni Suru

The phrase baka ni suru バカにする means "to treat [someone] like an idiot," in other words, "to mock [someone]."

  • {ore wo baka ni suru} tsumori ka?
    Is [it] [your] intention {to treat me like an idiot}?
    Are you trying to make me look like an idiot?
  • baka ni sareta...
    [Someone] treated me like an idiot...
    [Someone] made fun of me...

Although this sounds very simple, the reason why baka ni suru means what it means is a bit complicated.

The ni suru にする part is the lexical causative counterpart of ni naru になる. Together, these two verbs form an ergative verb pair of eventivizers.

The article about eventivizers contain all the complicate grammar about naru and suru.

The ni に is an adverbial copula, also known as the ren'youkei of da だ. For i-adjectives, ~ku ~く is the ren'youkei, so ~ku naru ~くなる, ~ku suru ~くする, would be used instead.

The naru なる eventivizer means a state will become true in the future, while the suru する eventivizer means someone will make it become true in the future. For example:

  • sekai ga heiwa da
    The world is peaceful.
    (present tense.)
  • sekai ga heiwa ni naru
    The world will become peaceful.
    The world will be peaceful.
    (future tense.)
  • ore ga sekai wo heiwa ni suru
    I will make the world be peaceful.

The same thing should work if we replace heiwa 平和 with baka バカ.

  • Hanako ga baka ni naru
    Hanako will become stupid.
  • Tarou ga Hanako wo baka ni suru
    Tarou will make Hanako become stupid.

If Tarou somehow had the power to make Hanako actually stupid—like if he had a potion that decreased someone's intelligence, and he was going to make Hanako drink it, or something like that—then the sentence would be valid.

However, what we want is "treat," not "make," so the sentence makes no sense. Treating someone like an idiot doesn't actually make them an idiot, right?

Well, in Japanese, naru and suru can also mean "to end up serving as X" and "to treat X as Y," respectively. For example:

ちーん 毒キノコの帽子を布団にしたそうです・・・ もしかしてバカなのか?
Manga: Maoujou de Oyasumi 魔王城でおやすみ (Chapter 7, 夢みる毒キノコ)
  • Context: the princess is dead. The demon cleric tells the demon lord how she died.
  • chiiin
    *ring of a bell* (sound effect used when a character dies or is defeated, probably originates from the bell used in a butsudan 仏壇, a "Buddhist altar" for a deceased family member.)
  • doku kinoko no boushi wo futon ni shita sou desu...
    It seems that [she] made a poisonous mushroom's cap into a bed.
    • In other words, she used the cap (top part) of the mushroom as if it were a bed.
    • She treated it as a bed.
    • futon
      Traditional Japanese bedding, typically placed on a tatami floor. The term refers to both the mattress and the duvet, but just "bed" is a good enough translation most of the time..
  • moshikashite baka na no ka?
    Could it be that [she] is an idiot?

In similar way, baka ni suru normally means to treat someone like an idiot, rather than literally turning them into an idiot.

Baka ni Suru Na!

The phrase baka ni suru na! バカにするな! means "don't treat me like an idiot!" This is simply the phrase baka ni suru with the negative imperative na な particle at the end of the sentence.

  • rouka wo hashiru na!
    Don't run on the corridor!
  • baka wo iu na!
    Don't say stupid! (literally.)
    Don't say stupid things!
    Don't say absurd things!
  • ore wo baka ni suru na!
    Don't treat me like an idiot!

Baka ni Shinaide!

The phrase baka ni shinaide! バカにしないで! means "don't treat me like an idiot," too, except in this case it's the naide ないで form being used, so it's closer to a request than an order: someone is asking someone else not to treat them like an idiot.

馬鹿にしないで</b>ください・・・・・・ こんな子供向けの問題解けて当然です・・・
Manga: Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai ~Tensai-Tachi no Ren'ai Zunousen かぐや様は告らせたい~天才たちの恋愛頭脳戦~ (Chapter 4, 白銀御行は答えたい)
  • Context: Kaguya is asked a quiz question that's too easy for a genius like her, and congratulated after getting it right.
  • baka ni shinaide kudasai...
    Please don't treat [me] like an idiot.
    Please don't take [me] for stupid.
  • konna kodomo-muke no mondai
    tokete touzen desu...
    A question [made] for kids like this,
    solving [it] is [only] natural...

Baka Suffix

Sometimes, baka comes after another word, as a suffix. In this case, it indicates someone is "stupid" for something, the kind of stupid that's fixated on something, like they love something too much or love doing something too much. For example:

  • sentou baka
    Fighting-stupid. (someone who is this loves fights, battles, etc.)
  • karuta baka
    Karuta-stupid. (someone who loves the game of karuta)
    (example: protagonist of Chihayafuru, manga and anime about karuta)
  • oya-baka
    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)
にしてもアスナ足速いよねー 悪かったわね 私はコレやのに 体力バカで
Manga: Mahou Sensei Negima! 魔法先生ネギま! (Chapter 1, お子ちゃま先生は魔法使い!)
  • Context: a tsundere and her friend run to school.
  • ni shitemo Asuna
    [That said,] Asuna,
  • ashi hayai yo nee
    1. [Your] legs are fast. (literally.)
    2. You [run] fast.
  • watashi kore ya no ni
    Even though [for] me, [I] have this.
    • This means the roller-skates. She's running at the same speed the other is rollerskating.
  • warukatta wa ne
    [Well, I'm sorry]
    • This is sarcasm.
  • tairyoku baka de
    For being a physical-strength baka.
    • i.e. for having so much stamina, endurance, agility, strength, etc.

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.


The word bakabakashii 馬鹿馬鹿しい means that something is "stupid," or "foolish." It's not used toward people, only toward things people say.

This word is literally composed of baka twice—this is called a reduplication—plus a ~shii suffix.

It's also spelled bakabakashii バカバカしい. The spelling bakabakakshii 馬鹿々々しい also exists, but using kurikaeshi that way is no longer orthographically valid.

馬鹿馬鹿しい・・・・・・ こんなもの問題になっていない!!
Manga: Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai ~Tensai-Tachi no Ren'ai Zunousen かぐや様は告らせたい~天才たちの恋愛頭脳戦~ (Chapter 4, 白銀御行は答えたい)
  • Context: the student council president thinks a quiz question doesn't make sense.
  • bakabakashii...
    [What a waste of time.] (This is stupid.)
  • konna mono mondai ni natte-inai!!
    Something like this isn't become a question!! (literally.)
    • i.e. it's such a bad quiz question it doesn't meet the minimum requirements for the character to acknowledge it's actually a question.
    • He thinks quiz questions shouldn't be like this.


  1. Nakagawa, N., Asao, Y. and Nagaya, N., 2008. Information structure and intonation of right-dislocation sentences in Japanese.
  2. 鈴木彩香, 2014. ガ格の総記/中立叙述用法と裸名詞句の総称/存在解釈の統一的説明. 言語学論叢 オンライン版, (7).
  3. 馬鹿 - デジタル大辞泉 via, accessed 2020-11-02.
  4. 馬鹿・莫迦・破家 - 精選版 日本国語大辞典 via, accessed 2020-11-02.
  5. 馬鹿 -, accessed 2020-11-02.
Animal Words


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

  2. Just wonderful! I watch a TON of anime. Its actually the only thing I watch hahaha I was in the process of calling my friend an idiot and really couldnt remember how exactly to spell baka and if there was anything else I could add to it. Make her Google it just to see shes being a major baka haha thamks so much for all thos information! Really helped me out alot!.