Friday, July 29, 2016

Body Parts

WIP : this article is incomplete and might change in the unforeseeable future.
For reference, all the Japanese vocabulary concerning body parts that you'll ever need.

Let's start with the word for "body" in Japanese: karada 体. It's often read tai 体 when it's part of another word, e.g. tainai 体内, "inside of the body.
The body parts of the head in Japanese:
  • atama
    Head. (general.)
    • Can mean the "head" of an organization, etc.
    • Has idioms.
  • toubu 頭部
    Head. (anatomical.)
  • odeko お凸
    Forehead. (casual.) (polite prefix.)
  • hitai
  • kami
    • kamigata 髪型
    • kami
    • kami
  • mimi
    • mimikazari 耳飾り
      Earring. "Ear decoration."
    • nekomimi 猫耳
  • mimitabu 耳たぶ
  • kubi
    • It also refers to a "decapitated head."
    • kubi ni naru 首になる
      To become a "decapitated head."
      To be decapitated.
      To be fired from your job. (idiom.)


  • kao
    Face. (general.)
    • Also means "expression."
    • As a suffix, sometimes pronounced gao 顔 because of rendaku.
    • okao お顔
      Face. (polite prefix.)
  • men
    Face. (a face as in a side of a thing, an aspect, etc.)
    • Often used to talk about honor, "to save face," etc.
    • kamen 仮面
      "Temporary face."
      Mask. (like in kamen rider.)
  • ganmen 顔面
    Face. (body part only.)
    • Fun fact: the "gunmen" of Gurren Lagann are actually called ganmen in Japanese because they have faces.
  • egao 笑顔
    Smiling expression.
    • warau 笑う
      To laugh.
    • hohoemi 微笑み
  • negao 寝顔
    Sleeping expression.
    • neru 寝る
      To sleep.


  • me 目 (or 眼)
    • 眼 is often read kan 眼 instead.
    • 目 can mean many other things, see: dame 駄目.
    • ome お目
      Eye. (polite prefix.)
    • omeme お目目
      Eyes. (reduplicated plural, children language.)
    • ome ni kakaru お目にかかる
      To meet [someone]. (idiom.)
    • hidari-me 左目
      Left eye. (side.)
    • migi-me 右目
      Right eye. (side.)
  • medama 目玉
  • hitomi
  • kousai 虹彩
  • kakumaku 角膜
  • mabuta 瞼 (or 目蓋)
    kangen 眼瞼
    • uwa-mabuta, shita-mabuta 上瞼, 下瞼
      Upper eyelid. Lower eyelid. (sides.)
    • naigankakuzeihi 内眼角贅皮
      mouko-hida 蒙古襞
      Epicanthic fold. "Mongolian" fold.
      Skin fold of the upper eyelid found in Asians.
      People around "Mongolia," mouko 蒙古 had this "fold," hida 襞, so, in the past, in a certain racial theory that's now considered inaccurate, the term "Mongoloid" was used to refer to the Asian "race." Afterwards, the term was also used to refer to people with Down syndrome, because they also had the fold. This is why "Mongoloid" is a pejorative today.
  • mayu
    Eyebrow. (area.)
  • mayuge 眉毛
    Eyebrow. (hair.)
    • ke
      Hair. Fur.


  • hana
    • ohana お鼻
      Nose. (polite prefix.)
    • hana
      Flower. (homonym.)
    • hanadi 鼻血
      Nosebleed. (extremely important word in anime.)
    • hanamizu 鼻水
      "Nose water." Snot. Dripping nose.
  • bikou 鼻孔
    • hana no ana 鼻の穴
      Nose hole. Nostril.
  • hanage 鼻毛
    Nose hair. Nostril hairs.
  • hanasuji 鼻筋
    Bridge of the nose.
  • hanasaki 鼻先
    Tip of the nose. Nose tip. (side.)


  • kuchi
    • okuchi お口
      Mouth. (polite prefix.)
    • kuchi ni au 口に合う
      okuchi ni au お口に合う
      To suit your palate. (idiom.)
  • kuchibiru
    • joushin 上唇
      uwa-kuchibiru 上唇
      Upper lip. (side.)
    • shita-kuchibiru 下唇
      kashin 下唇
      Lower lip. (side.)
  • kougai 口蓋
    Palate. Roof of the mouth.
  • shita
    • shita piasu 舌ピアス
      shita-pi 舌ピ
      Tongue piercing.
  • shitasaki 舌先
    Tip of the tongue. (side.)
  • hoo
  • ago
    • uwa-ago 上顎
      jougaku 上顎
      Upper jaw. Maxilla. (side.)
    • kagaku 下顎
      shita-ago 下顎
      Lower jaw. (side.)


  • ha
    Tooth. Teeth.
    • mushiba 虫歯
      Cavity. "Bugged teeth."
    • yaeba 八重歯
      Overlapped, protruding tooth. Anime fang.
    • haguruma 歯車
      "Tooth-car." Gear. Cog. Cogwheel. (because it's a disc with "teeth.")
  • shiniku 歯肉
    Gums. "Tooth flesh.
  • kiba
    Animal fangs.
  • nyuushi 乳歯
    Baby tooth. "Milk tooth."
  • eikyuu-ha 永久歯
    Permanent tooth. "Eternal tooth."

To form the teeth names in Japanese, you need to combine the following words:
  • jougaku-ha 上顎歯
    Maxillary teeth. Upper jaw tooth.
  • kagaku-ha 下顎歯
    Mandibular teeth. Lower jaw tooth.
  • sesshi 切歯
    Incisor teeth.
    • kiru 切る
      To cut.
  • kenshi 犬歯
    Canine teeth.
    • inu
  • shoukyuushi 小臼歯
    Premolar teeth.
    • shou
  • daikyuushi 大臼歯
    Molar teeth.
    • dai
  • jougaku-chuu-sesshi 上顎中切歯
    "Upper jaw middle cutting teeth."
    Maxillary central incisor.
  • kagaku-soku-sesshi 下顎側切歯
    "Lower jaw side cutting teeth."
    Mandibular lateral incisor.
  • jougaku dai-ni daikyuushi 上顎第二大臼歯
    "Upper jaw number 2 molar."
    Maxillary second molar.


  • ude
    • jouwan 上腕
      Upper arm. (side.)
    • mae-ude 前腕
      zenwan 前腕
      Forearm. (side.)
  • kata
  • waki
  • hiji


  • te
  • tekubi 手首
  • te no hira
    te no hira 手のひら
    te no uchi 手の内
  • te no kou 手の甲
    Back of the hand.
  • yubi
  • yubisaki 指先
    Fingertip. (side.)
  • tsume
    Nail. Fingernail. Toenail.

Finger Names

The names for the finger in Japanese are:

Anatomically, the fingers can be referred to by numbers:
  • dai isshi 第一指
    First finger. Thumb.
  • dai ni-shi 第二指
    Second finger. Index.
  • dai san-shi 第三指
    Third finger. Middle.
  • dai yon-shi 第四指
    Fourth finger. Ring.
  • dai go-shi 第五指
    Fifth finger. Pinky.


Words for the upper body parts:
  • doutai 胴体
    Torso. (the body minus the head, neck, limbs, and tail.)
  • taikan 体幹
  • mune
    • chibusa 乳房
    • chikubi 乳首
    • nyuurin 乳輪
    • nyuutou 乳頭
    • See oppai おっぱい for breast-related terms and slangs.
  • hara
    ohara お腹
    onaka お腹
    Stomach. Abdomen.
  • heso
  • mata
    • The area where the torso becomes two legs.
    • The word mata can also refer to the spot in which other things bifurcate similarly.
    • michi no mata 道の股
      A street's "crotch." The spot where one street divides into two streets, each going to a different direction.
  • kokan 股間
    Crotch. Groin.


  • se
    senaka 背中
    Back. (body part.)
    • mae
      Back. (in time.)
    • ushiro 後ろ
      Behind. (something.)
    • ato
      After. (in time.)
      Behind. (someone, following them, going "after" them.)
  • koshi
    Lower back.
    • koshibone 腰骨
      Hip bone.
  • shiri
    Butt. Buttocks.
  • kenkoubu 肩甲部
    Scapular region.
    • kenkoujoubu 肩甲上部
      Suprascapular region. Region above the scapula, between neck and shoulders.
    • kenkoukanbu 肩甲間部
      Interscapular region. Region between the scapulae.
    • kenkoukabu 肩甲下部
      Infrascapular region. Region below the scapula.
  • sekichuubu 脊柱部
    Vertebral region.
  • youbu 腰部
    Lumbar region. Waist.
  • kankotsubu 寛骨部
    Coxal region. Around the hip bone.
  • senkotsubu 仙骨
    Sacral region. Between buttocks, at the end of the spine.
  • denbu 臀部
    Gluteal region.

Not part of the torso, but:
  • shippo 尻尾
    Animal tail.


The word for "leg" in Japanese is ashi 脚, but note it's homonymous with ashi 足. The difference between 足 and 脚 is that 脚 is the leg, while 足 is the foot.
  • ashi
  • momo
    futomomo 太もも
  • hiza
  • sune
  • mukouzune 向こう脛
  • fukurabagi 脹脛
    Calf. Calves.
  • ashikubi 足首
    Ankle. (area around leg, right before the foot)
  • kurubushi
    Ankle (referring to the joint.)
  • ashi
  • yubi
    ashiyubi 足指
    ashi no yubi 足の指
  • tsumasaki 爪先
    Tips of the toes. (side.)
  • ashi no kou 足の甲
    Top of the foot. (side.)
  • ashi no ura 足の裏
    Sole. (side.)
    • ura
      Reverse side. (often refers to something hidden from view, like when you have a figurehead in an organization and the real boss is controlling everything from the unseen shadows, from the ura.)


Words for organs, and things on the insides of the body:
  • naizou 内蔵
    Internal organs
  • hifu 皮膚
    Skin. (technical term.)
    • hada
      Skin. (general term, often used in idioms.)
  • shinkei 神経
  • nou
    nouzui 脳髄
  • nou-miso 脳味噌
    Innards of the brain.
    • Often used by characters to say "get this inside your brain!" When calling other characters dumb.
    • miso 味噌
      Fermented soybeans, and innards of things that resemble it.
    • miso-shiro 味噌汁
      Soup of miso.


  • kin'niku 筋肉
    • kin'niku toreeningu 筋肉トレーニング
      kin-tore 筋トレ
      Muscle training.
  • fukkin 腹筋
    Abs. "Stomach muscle."
  • daikyoukin 大胸筋
    Pectoral muscles. Pecs. Pectoralis major.
  • soubou-kin 僧帽筋
    Trapezius muscle.
  • sankaku-kin 三角筋
  • nitou-kin 二頭筋
  • santou-kin 三頭筋
  • daitai shitoukin 大腿四頭筋
    Quadriceps femoris.
  • hifuku-kin 腓腹筋
    Gastrocnemius muscle.
  • kouhai-kin 広背筋
    Latissimus dorsi muscle.
  • katsuyaku-kin 括約筋
    Sphincter muscle.
    • koumon katsuyaku-kin 肛門括約筋
      Anal sphincter.

Heart & Blood

  • shinzou 心臓
    Heart. (real)
    • kodou 鼓動
  • kokoro
    Heart (of love, etc.)
    • dokidoki ドキドキ
      *thump thump*
    • shinpaku 心拍
    • shinpakusuu 心拍数
      Heart rate. Pulse rate. "Heartbeat number."
  • chi
    Blood. (general.)
    • chi no tsunagari 血の繋がり
      Link of blood. Connection of blood. Related by blood. Consanguinity.
  • ketsueki 血液
    Blood. (anatomical.)
  • ketsuatsu 血圧
    Blood pressure.
  • kekkan 血管
    Blood vessel.

Blood Types

The terms for blood types in Japanese work just like in English, but using katakanized letters.
  • ketsueki-gata 血液型
    Blood type.
  • ei-gata A型
    [Blood] type A.
  • bii-gata B型
    [Blood] type B.
  • eibii-gata AB型
    [Blood] type AB.
  • oo-gata O型
    [Blood] type O.

Note that, in Japan, there's a lot of superstition about how your blood type reflects your personality.
  • aaru eichi アールエイチ
    Rh. Rhesus.
  • aru eichi inshi Rh因子
    Rh factor. Rhesus factor.
  • aru eichi purasu Rh+
    • purasu プラス
  • aru eichi mainasu Rh-
    • mainasu マイナス

Respiratory Organs

  • kokyuuki 呼吸器
    Respiratory organs.
    • kokyuu suru 呼吸する
      To breathe.
  • bikou 鼻腔
    Nasal cavity.
  • intou 咽頭
  • koutou 喉頭
  • kikan 気管
    Trachea. Windpipe.
    • Written with ki 気, "air," "atmosphere," "feeling," and kan 管, "can," "pipe."
  • hai
  • kyoukaku 胸郭

Digestive Organs

  • shoukaki 消化器
    Digestive organ.
    • shouka suru 消化する
      To digest.
  • nodo
  • intou 咽頭
  • shokudou 食道
  • i
    • Yes, that's just a single i.
  • ibukuro 胃袋
    "Stomach bag." Stomach.
    • In reference to the bag-shape of the organ, in which goes the food.
  • suizou 膵臓
    • Kimi no Suizou wo Tabetai
      I Want to Eat Your Pancreas. (actual name of an anime movie.)
  • tan'nou 胆嚢
  • boukou 膀胱
    Urinary bladder.
  • nyoudou 尿道
  • nyoudoukou 尿道口
    Urethral opening.
  • kanzou 肝臓
  • chou
  • shouchou 小腸
    Small intestine.
    • jyuunishichou 十二指腸
    • kuuchou 空腸
      kaichou 回腸
  • daichou 大腸
    Large intestine.
    • mouchou 盲腸
    • chousui 虫垂
      (it's written with mushi 虫, "bug," "worm," because the appendix is vermiform: it's shaped like a worm.)
    • kecchou 結腸
    • esu-jou kecchou S状結腸
      esu-ji kecchou S字結腸
      Sigmoid colon. "S-shaped" colon. "S-letter" colon.
  • chokuchou 直腸
  • koumon 肛門
    Anus. (does this count as inside of the body? Eh, whatever.)


The human body has from 200 to 208 bones. [人間の骨の一覧 -, accessed 2019-04-09]
  • hone
    • kossetsu 骨折
      Bone fracture.
    • oru 折る (transitive.)
      oreru 折れる (intransitive.)
      To fracture. To break.
  • kokkaku 骨格
    Skeleton. (anatomy.)
    • gaikokkaku 外骨格
      Exoskeleton. "External skeleton."
    • naikokkaku 内骨格
      Endoskeleton. "Internal skeleton."
  • gaikotsu 骸骨
    Skeleton. (corpse, evil Halloween monster thing, etc.)
  • kansetsu 関節
    • dakkyuu 脱臼

The counter for bones is hon 本, since it counts long, cylindrical objects and bones are long, cylindrical objects.
  • hone ippon 骨一本
    One bone.
  • ni-hon 骨二本
  • sanbon 骨三本
  • yon-hon 四本
  • ni-hyaku roku-hon 206本
    Two hundred six.

Cranium Bones

  • zugaikotsu 頭蓋骨
    Cranium. "Head lid bone."
  • koutoukotsu 後頭骨
    Occipital bone. "Behind head bone."
  • zentoukotsu 前頭骨
    Frontal bone. "Front head bone."
  • sokutoukotsu 側頭骨
    Temporal bone. "Side head bone."
  • touchoukotsu 頭頂骨
    Parietal bone. "Head top bone."
  • choukeikotsu 蝶形骨
    Sphenoid bone. "Butterfly shape bone."
  • shikotsu 篩骨
    Ethmoid bone.
  • jishoukotsu 耳小骨
    Ossicles. "Ear small bone."
    • tsuchikotsu 槌骨
      Malleus. "Hammer bone."
    • kinutakotsu 砧骨
    • abumikotsu 鐙骨

Facial Bones

  • ganmenkotsu 顔面骨
    Facial bone.
  • kabikoukai 下鼻甲介
    Inferior nasal concha.
  • ruikotsu 涙骨
    Lacrimal bone. "Tear bone."
  • bikotsu 鼻骨
    Nasal bone. "Nose bone."
  • jokotsu 鋤骨
  • jougakukotsu 上顎骨
    Maxilla. "Upper jawbone."
  • kougaikotsu 口蓋骨
    Palatine bone. "Mouth lid bone."
  • kyoukotsu 頬骨
    "Cheekbone." Zygomatic bone.
  • kagakukotsu 下顎骨
    Mandible. "Lower jawbone."
  • zekkotsu 舌骨
    "Tongue bone." Lingual bone. Hyoid bone.
  • shijou-hougou 矢状縫合
    Sagittal suture.
  • kanjou-hougou 冠状縫合
    Coronal suture.

Spine & Vertebrae

  • sebone 背骨
    "Backbone." Spine.
  • sekitsui 脊椎
    Spine. Backbone. Vertebral column.
    • keitsui-doubutsu 脊椎動物
      Vertebrate animal.
    • sekizui 脊髄
      Spinal cord.
  • sekichuu 脊柱
    Spinal column. Spine.
  • tsuikotsu 椎骨
    sekitsuikotsu 脊椎骨
    Vertebra. (singular.)
    Vertebrae. (plural.)
  • keitsui 頸椎
    Cervical vertebrae. "Neck vertebra."
  • kyoutsui 胸椎
    Thoracic vertebrae. "Chest vertebra."
  • youtsui 腰椎
    Lumbar vertebrae. "Lower-back vertebra."
  • sentsui 仙椎
    Sacral vertebrae.
  • bitsui 尾椎
    "Tail vertebra."
    Caudal vertebrae. (animals.)
    Coccygeal vertebrae. (people.)

Some specific vertebrae:
  • dai ichi keitsui 第一頸椎
    First cervical vertebra. C1.
    • Also known as:
    • kantsui 環椎
  • dai ni keitsui 第二頸椎
    Second cervical vertebra. C2.
    • jikutsui 軸椎
      Axis. Epistropheus.
  • dai nana keitsui 第七頸椎
    Seventh cervical vertebra. C7.
    • ryuutsui 隆椎
      (no English alias.)

Some other aliases:
  • senkotsu 仙骨
    • Formed when the sacral vertebrae S1 to S5 fuse together in adulthood, a process starting at 18 years of age and ending at 30 years old. [SACRUM ANATOMY -, accessed 2019-04-09.]
    • Wait, what.
    • This happens?!
  • bikou 尾骨
    Coccyx. "Tailbone."

Rib Cage Bones

  • kyoukotsu 胸骨
    Sternum. "Chest bone."
  • rokkotsu 肋骨
    abarabone あばら骨 (or 肋骨)
    abara あばら (or 肋)
    Rib bone.

There are 12 rib bones in total.
  • dai ichi rokkotsu 第一肋骨
    First rib bone.
  • dai ni rokkotsu 第二肋骨
    Second rib bone.
  • (etc.)
  • dai juu-ni rokkotsu 第十二肋骨
    Twelfth rib bone.

Shoulder & Arm Bones

  • kenkoukotsu 肩甲骨 (or 肩胛骨)
    Shoulder blade. Scapula.
  • sakotsu 鎖骨
    Clavicle. Collar bone. "Chain bone."
  • jouwankotsu 上腕骨
    Humerus. "Upper arm bone."
  • zenwankotsu 前腕骨
    Forearm bones. (ossa antebrachii.)
    • toukotsu 橈骨
      Radius. Radial bone.
    • shakkotsu 尺骨

Hand Bones

  • shukonkotsu 手根骨
    Carpal bones. Carpus. "Hand-root bones."
    Wrist bones. (colloquial.)
  • kin'i shukonkotsu 近位手根骨
    Proximal carpal bones.
    • shuujoukotsu 舟状骨
      Scaphoid bone. "Boat-shape bone."
    • ketsujoukotsu 月状骨
      Lunate bone. Semilunar bone. "Moon-shape bone."
    • sankakukotsu 三角骨
      Triquetral bone. Triquetrum. Pyramidal. "Triangle bone."
    • toujoukotsu 豆状骨
      Pisiform bone. "Bean-shape bone." (pisiforme means "pea-shaped" in Latin.)
  • en'i shukonkotsu 遠位手根骨
    Distal carpal bones.
    • dairyoukeikotsu 大菱形骨
      Trapezium bone. Greater multangular bone. "Big diamond-shape bone."
    • shouryoukeikotsu 小菱形骨
      Trapezoid bone. Lesser multangular bone. "Small diamond-shape bone."
    • yuutoukotsu 有頭骨
      Capitate bone. "Having-head bone." (Latin: capitate, "having a head.")
    • yuukoukotsu 有鈎骨
      Hamate bone. Unciform bone "Having-hook bone." (Latin: hamus, uncus, "hook.")
  • chuushukotsu 中手骨
    Metacarpal bones. Metacarpus.
    Palm bones. "Middle-hand bones."
    • dai ichi chuushukotsu 第一中手骨
      First metacarpal bone. Metacarpal bone of the thumb.
    • Etc.
  • shikotsu 指骨
    "Finger bones."
    Phalanx bone.
    Phalanges. (plural.)
    • Feet phalanges are shikotsu 趾骨.
    • kisetsukotsu 基節骨
      Proximal phalanges. "Base joint bone."
    • chuusetskotsu 中節骨
      Middle phalanges. Intermediate phalanges. "Middle joint bone."
    • matsusetsukotsu 末節骨
      Distal phalanges. "End joint bone."
    • daisshi 第一指 (hand.)
      daisshi 第一趾 (foot.)
      First phalanx.

Leg Bones

  • kotsuban 骨盤
    Bony pelvis.
  • koshibone 腰骨
    "Hip bone." (common term.)
  • kankotsu 寛骨
    Hip bone. (anatomical.)
    • zakotsu 坐骨
      Ischium. "Sit bone."
    • choukotsu 腸骨
      Ilium. "Intestine bone."
    • chikotsu 恥骨
      Pubic bone. "Shame bone."
  • daitaikotsu 大腿骨
    Femur. Thigh bone.
  • shitsugaikotsu 膝蓋骨
    hiza no sara 膝の皿
    Knee cap. Patella.
  • kataikotsu 下腿骨
    Lower leg bone. (ossa cruris.)
    • keikotsu 脛骨
      Tibia. Shinbone. Shankbone.
    • hikotsu 腓骨
      Fibula. Calf bone.
  • sokkonkotsu 足根骨
    • kin'i sokkonkotsu 近位足根骨
      Proximal tarsals.
    • kyokotsu 距骨
      Talus bone. Astragalus. Ankle bone.
    • shoukotsu 踵骨
      Calcaneus. Heel bone.
    • shuujoukotsu 舟状骨
      Os naviculare. (same name as the counterpart on the hand.)
    • en'i sokkonkotsu 遠位足根骨
      Distal tarsals.
    • naisoku ketsujoukotsu 内側楔状骨
      Os cuneiforme mediale.
    • chuukan ketsujoukotsu 中間楔状骨
      Os cuneiforme intermedium.
    • gaisoku ketsujoukotsu 外側楔状骨
      Os cuneiforme laterale.
    • rippoukotsu 立方骨
      Cuboid bone.
  • chuusokukotsu 中足骨
    Metatarsal bones. Metarsus.
  • shikotsu 趾骨
    Phalanges. (feet.)

Word Patterns

There are some word patterns involving terms for the body parts that should be noted.

Body Sides

A number of words for body parts include a morpheme that refers to a side or location. For example:
  • uchi, nai
    Inside. Inner. Internal. Endo-.
  • soto, gai
    Outside. Outer. External. Exo-.
  • saki
  • ura
  • kou
    Carapace. (top side, e.g. hands, feet.)
  • ue, uwa, jou
    Up. Upper. Above.
  • shita, ka
    Down. Lower. Below.
  • hidari
  • migi
  • ryou
  • kata
    One of two.

A vertical example:
  • kuchibiru
    • uwa-kuchibiru 上唇
      Upper lip.
    • kashin 下唇
      Lower lip.

Note above the uwa and kuchibiru are both kun'yomi readings, while ka and shin are both on'yomi readings.

A horizontal example:
  • te
  • hidari te 左手
    Left hand.
  • migi te 右手
    Right hand.

An example with ryou and kata:
  • ryou te 両手
    Both hands.
  • kata te 片手
    One hand. (of the two hands you have.)

Some words that refer to general body sides:
  • tainai 体内
    Inside of the body.
  • taigai 体外
    Outside of the body.
  • jouhanshin 上半身
    Upper-half of the body.
  • kahanshin 下半身
    Lower-half of the body.
  • joutai 上体
    Upper body.
  • katai 下体
    Lower body.

Some morphemes that are used in more technical, anatomical words:
  • chuu
    Center. Central.
  • soku
    Side. Lateral.
  • kin'i 近位
    Proximal. "Near position."
  • en'i 遠位
    Distal. "Distant position."
  • zen
    Front. Frontal.
  • kou
    Behind. Posterior.

o- お~ Prefix

A number of words for body parts routinely get an o- お~ prefix attached to them. This is called bikago 美化語, "beautified language." Grammatically, it serves no purpose whatsoever, and doesn't change the meaning of the word. (although there are some exceptions.)

It merely gives a more respectful treatment to the word (for the body part) so it sounds more refined than normal, more polite.
  • te
  • ote お手
    Hand. (also.)
    • But it sounds more refined.

In some words, the prefix go- ご~ is used instead with the same effect. They're both spelled with kanji as 御, but normally they're spelled without kanji.

Not all words get the prefix. More common words, such as hand, tend to get the prefix more often. Another word that normally gets the prefix is "stomach," onaka お腹.

In anime, caring, refined characters tend to use the refined words more. Specially caring mothers talking to their children, or the maiden-like girls.

Some words pretty much always get the prefix. For example, odeko お凸, "forehead," is the normal way of saying the word, rather than just deko 凸.

Reduplicated Plurals

There are some very specific body parts that can get the o prefix and get reduplicated (said twice) to refer to their plural. For example:
  • otete お手手 (or お手)
  • omeme お目目 (or お目々)

One way it's used:
  • otete wo arau お手手を洗う
    To wash hands.
    • Very important so you don't get sick!

Such words aren't used formally. They're mostly used toward babies, small children, pet animals, etc. It's also unnecessary due to how plurals work in Japanese. But you may end up seeing them in anime eventually.

In particular, since it's used toward children, the words can sound patronizing depending on context: like if you tell someone to show their hands using otete you're treating them like a small child.


A number of body parts are involved into idiomatic expressions. For reference:
  • hara ga tatsu 腹が立つ
    "The stomach stands up."
    • To get angry at something or someone. To become irritated, annoyed about something.
  • te wo dasu 手を出す
    "To let out one's hand." (in the same sense as unsheathing a sword or pulling out a gun.)
    • To put your hand on someone. To do something to someone.
    • In anime, generally used as: "don't you dare put your hands on her!"
  • te wo utsu 手を打つ
    "To shoot a hand."
    • Or "to deal a hand." In the sense of making a move in a game, a strategical move.
    • uteru te wa uta 打てる手は打った
      The hands [that] [I] can shoot [I've] shot.
      I've done everything I could do.
      I've exhausted my strategic moves, now I can only pray the plan works out.
  • mimi wo kasu 耳を貸す
    "To lend a ear."
    • To listen to what someone has to say.
  • kata wo kasu 肩を貸す
    "To lend a shoulder."
    • To come to someone's aid.
  • kuchi ni au 口に合う
    "To match one's mouth."
    • To suit one's taste. If someone will like eating, drinking it.
    • okuchi ni au ka wakarimasen ga
      [I] don't know if it will suit your palate, however. (expression used when offering someone food they might not like.)
  • atama wo furu 頭を振る
    kubi wo furu 首を振る
    "To shake one's head."
    • Eh, this isn't an idiom but whatever. It means "to say no," but your head. You know, the gesture.
  • koshi wo ireru 腰を入れる
    "To insert one's back."
    • To put strength in it.
  • kubi ni naru 首になる
    "To become a neck."
    • kubi can mean "decapitated head," so:
    • To become a decapitated head.
    • But this is normally used in the sense of:
    • To be fired from your job.

Phrases that compliment or criticize a body part are usually actually referring to an ability intrinsic of that body part. For example:
  • atama ga ii 頭がいい
    "[Your] head is good."
    [You're] smart.
  • atama ga warui 頭が悪い
    "[Your] head is bad."
    [You're] stupid.
  • me ga ii 目がいい
    "[Your] eyes are good."
    You have a good sense for this. You can tell a product of good quality when you see one.
  • me ga nai 目がない
    "[You] don't have eyes."
    To you, quality doesn't matter.
    • A more specific example:
    • amai mono ni me ga nai 甘いものに目がない
      Toward sweet things, [he] doesn't have eyes.
      He will eat anything that's a sweet. It doesn't matter what it is, he won't be picky, he won't be choosy, he has no eyes for them.
  • me ni kurui wa nai 目に狂いはない
    "[You] have no insanity in the eyes."
    • Your judgement isn't wrong.
    • You judged something correctly.
    • For example, when a character A recruits character B to become a super-hero and save the world and then B ends up being exactly the sort of good guy that A expected him to be. In that case, A's judgement of B wasn't wrong. There was no "insanity" in A's eyes.
  • ashi ga hayai 足が速い
    "[Your] legs are fast."
    [You're] fast.

The following is a set phrase that's considered humble language, so it normally comes with the o prefix:
  • ome ni kakaru お目にかかる
    "To pour [me] onto [your] eyes."
    To meet [you].
    • Often used when you meet someone important for the first time, e.g. the boss of another company, a king of some country, the tic-tac-toe world champion, etc.

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