Saturday, October 15, 2016


In Japanese, nya にゃ, nyan にゃん, or nyaa にゃー (also spelled にゃあ and にゃぁ), or "nyah," are onomatopoeia that mean "meow," the sound that cats make. That is, in order to say "meow" in Japanese, one of those words are used.

They can also be spelled with katakana, as ニャ, ニャン, ニャー, ニャア, and ニャァ. And there are other variants, too, like myaa みゃー.

Examples of nyaa にゃー, nya ニャ, nyan にゃん being used in Japanese.
Manga: K-On!, Keion! けいおん! (Volume 2)
Manga: Doll-Kara, どるから (Chapter 1)
Manga: Nyan Koi! にゃんこい! (Chapter 17)


English only has one way to say "meow," while Japanese has multiple, different ways. This is likely because the Japanese language simply makes more use of onomatopoeia than the English language.

While English spelling can be confusing and erratic at times, Japanese spelling is very consistent and straightforward, so it's easy to transcribe sounds and variants of sounds in Japanese, so you have a shorter nya, a longer nyaa, a more nasal nyan, and so on.

にゃー ちょこん
Manga: Nyan Koi! にゃんこい! (Chapter 17, ショコラ)
  • Context: a "cat," neko 猫.
  • nyaaa
  • chokon
    *doing something while being small*
    (mimetic word.)

The word nyaa にゃあ and its variants are strongly associated with the cats that meow them. There's a bunch of series with nya or something in their titles.

Some characters have nya in their names perhaps because it sounds cute like cats, or it could be a mere coincidence.

  • Nyaruko ニャル子 is a character whose name comes form the H.P. Lovecraft character "Nyarlathotep," Nyaruratotepu ニャルラトホテプ. Considering the character doesn't seem to share anything with Nyarlathotep besides the name, it's possible the author chose to base the character on Nyarlathotep JUST for the nickname to have nya in it.
  • Satanya サタニャ, "Satania," is the nickname for Satanikia サタニキア, "Satanichia," in the series Gabriel DropOut.

At The End of Sentences

In manga and anime, sometimes you have a cat character that speaks, or a cat girl that speaks, and they will sometimes end their sentences with nya. This is called a gobi 語尾 and is just intended to give personality to the way the character's speak. Some examples of how it's used:

With nya. Normal.
sou nya!
That's right!
sou da!
(same meaning.)
sou da nya
I think so, too.
sou da na
(same meaning.)
nyanda to!?
What did [you] say?
nanda to?!
(same meaning.)
(same meaning.)
nyanka kowai
That seems scary.
nanka kowai
(same meaning.)

An example:

その体については申し訳ないと思ってるニャ 近くに手頃な肉体がなくてニャ~~・・・ 残念だけど元の体にはもう戻れないニャ 君の肉体は活動を停止してしまったからニャ !!
Manga: Doll-Kara, どるから (Chapter 1)
  • Context: an old man saves a cat from truck-kun and ends up getting killed in the process. The cat, thankful, puts him in the body of a young girl, then explains the situation to him.
  • sono karada ni tsuite wa {moushi-wake nai} to omotteru nya
    About that body, [I] feel {sorry} meow.
    I'm sorry about you ending up in that body, meow.
  • chikaku ni {tegoro na} nikutai ga nakute nya~~...
    There weren't any {suitable} bodies nearby, [you see], meow~~.
    • ~ga nakute na ~がなくてな - "there weren't [...], you see."
  • {zan'nen da} kedo moto no karada ni wa mou modorenai nya
    {It's unfortunate}, but you can't return to your former body anymore, meow.
  • kimi no nikutai wa katsudou wo teishi shite-shimatta kara nya
    Because your body has ceased activity, meow.
    • You're dead, meow.
    • ~wo teishi suru - "to cease," "to stop," suru-verb.

Honorific Suffix

The word nyan にゃん may be used as a cutesy, diminutive honorific suffix after someone's name, like ~san ~さん, or more close to ~chan ~ちゃん in this case.

ニャーッて言ってみてニャーッて に・・・にゃ~~・・・? はっ!!つい!! あだ名はあずにゃんで決定だね!!
Manga: K-On!, Keion! けいおん! (Volume 2, Page 31)
  • Context: Nakano Azusa 中野梓, a new club member, puts on "cat ears," nekomimi 猫耳.
  • nyaa tte itte-mite, nyaa tte
    ニャーッて言ってみて ニャーッて
    Try saying "meow," [say] "meow."
  • ni... nya~~...?
    M... meow~~...?
  • ha'! tsui!!
    Ah!! [I did it without thinking]!! (in the sense of not intending to say it, but getting carried away.)
  • ada-na wa Azunyan de kettei da ne!!
    [It] is decided: [your] nickname will be Azunyan!! (Azusa plus "meow.")


Sometimes, nyaa is used in other word play involving cats. Notably:

Is also known as the "Cat's Day," neko no hi 猫の日, because ni, ni, ni 222 is close to meowing nya, nya, nya.

"To Meow" in Japanese

To say the verb "to meow" in Japanese, you would use naku 鳴く, which means "(for an animal) to make a sound," i.e. "to cry." Observe:

  • neko wa "nyaa" to naku
    Cats make the sound "meow."
    Cats meow "meow."
  • inu wa "wan" to naku
    Dogs make the sound "woof."
    Dogs bark "woof."

This isn't to be confused with the homonym naku 泣く, which means "to cry (tears)," instead.

Animal Words Honorific Suffixes

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  1. My cat is a bengal mix and she does not say meow, she says nya and nye,too!Bengal cats talk like this :D