And kanji with manga
Sunday, February 12, 2017

Mama, Kono Mama, Sono Mama - Meaning in Japanese

One Japanese word that doesn't exist in English is mama まま, which is often accompanied by a pronoun: kono mama このまま, sono mama そのまま, ano mama あのまま. This word can't be translated literally (one word for one word), but, thankfully, its meaning is actually very simple.

One given mama まま would be a given apparent "situation" or "condition." It's the "way (something) is." This word hardly makes sense alone, so an adjective or adjectival pronoun, like the kosoado kotoba こそあど言葉, practically always preceeds it.
  • kono mama ja min'na ga shinjau! このままじゃみんなが死んじゃう!
    The way it's going everyone's gonna die!
    If it stays this way everyone's gonna die!
    It it continues like this everyone's gonna die!

As you can see above, we can translate it to English in multiple ways. There isn't (afaik) a single English word which you can use to say "the way it has been being."

Sometimes you can translate mama as just "way," but often you can't. Not to mention that "way" has multiple meanings in English and multiple translations Japanese. A michi 道, "road" would be way. The pronouns kou こう, sou そう, etc. are "this way" and "that way" for method. And so on.

In anime and manga, most of the time you'll see the word mama まま used in phrases saying shit is totally going to hit the fan. The ship is going to sink. And nothing is going to work. The word is often used by a party member character bawling around.
  • ano mama ja katenai! あのままじゃ勝てない!
    That way [he] can't win! (there has to be a better way!)
    [He] can't way like that!
    If [he] continues to try to win the way [he]'s been trying to win [he] won't win!

You don't need a verb for the word mama まま. Sometimes people just want to say the current way is... something.
  • sono mama de ii そのままでいい
    That way is good.
    It's better that way.
    Stay that way.
    Keep it that way. (when posing or positioning something)
  • kono mama ja dame da このままじゃダメだ
    This way won't do.
    If it goes on like this it won't work.

You can also use it with an normal adjective before mama instead of adjectival pronouns kono, sono, ano.
  • zan'nen desu ga, koitsu wa isshou baka no mama 残念ですが、こいつは一生馬鹿のまま
    Unfortunately, this guy will stay an idiot his whole life.
  • ore wa ima no mama ga suki 俺は今のままが好き
    I like the way it is now.
  • datenshi ni natteinai! tenshi no mama da! 堕天使になっていない!天使のままだ!
    [He] hasn't become a fallen angel! [He]'s still an angel!

One last note is that the word mama まま has (as always, because the Japanese language just loves doing this) a homonym: mama ママ, which as you might expect means "mommy." It's like Italian/Spanish "mi mama" or "mama mia" etc.
  • papa to mama パパとママ
    Daddy and mommy

And, yeah, this is kind of funny if you think about it because you might go through the past examples and think "[with] this mommy everyone's gonna die" or "that mommy can't win" or "this mommy is good." Thankfully, the mommy mama is much rarer in Japanese than the mama this post is about.

* This article was written by request. You can request an article about some word in the comments.


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  1. I just finished watching the first season of The Testament of Sister New Devil, and I heard "kono mama" a lot in that final episode when (like you said) the stuff was hitting the fan.
    Which of course lead me to look it up and find this post! Keep up the good work!

  2. このままじゃダメ
    Does Nier Automata count as anime? no? Anyway, thank you!

  3. Wait--so can it be translated as "situation" or not?
    I feel like, from what I've read here, that's a single English word that basically fits the meaning of "まま”... Am I confused?

    1. Well, you could, but "this situation is not good" sounds weird. Something like "it can't go on like this" sounds better. So I don't think a translator would choose "situation" for the translation of まま.

  4. This post has been VERY helpful thank you!!☺

  5. OH my, this word is actuali existing in my first language. Lucky :D