Friday, July 21, 2017

Genki - Meaning in Japanese | 元気

Are you genki 元気? I mean, genki desu ka 元気ですか? No? Do you even know what genki means? Sure there are some anime characters that are called the genki type, and you may not be one of those, but is the meaning of one genki the same as the other? What does genki mean anyway?

If we look at the kanji, genki 元気 is written with the kanji for moto 元, "former," "origin," and ki 気, which we can assume means "feeling" this time and not "air" as it does some times. So... "former feeling"? "Original mood"? What's that supposed to mean? The kanji doesn't seem to help!

The actual meaning of genki is more like "doing well." Which is, well, weird, because "doing well" is a clause in English, while genki 元気 is an adjective / noun in Japanese. But that's just how it works. And you can see it in these examples:
  • genki ka? 元気か
  • genki desu ka? 元気ですか
  • ogenki desu ka? お元気ですか?
    Are you doing well?
    How are you doing? (alternatively)
  • genki desu 元気です
    I'm doing well.
  • genki sou 元気そう
    Seems to be doing well
  • genki nasasou 元気なさそう
    Does not seem to be doing well.
  • genki de nani yori 元気で何より
    Nothing more important than [you] doing well.
    (used when greeting someone who just went through some trouble, but is otherwise healthy)

See? It just works!

Sometimes genki 元気 is also translated as "healthy" or "lively" or "happy." It varies. You can think of it like this: if you are genki, you are not affected by something (sickness, fatigue, sadness), and if you are not affected by something, then you are in your "original mood."

Further, if you are full of genki, or rather, genki ippai 元気一杯, then you are not just "doing well," you'd be doing "too well." It's the difference between having energy to do something and being full of energy to do stuff.

This helps explains some set phrases containing genki, for example:
  • genki wo dasu 元気を出す
    genki wo dashite 元気を出して
    genki wo dase 元気を出せ
    Bring out the genki (literally)
    Get motivated.
    Stop being sad.
  • genki ga deru 元気が出る
    Genki leaves (literally, and by itself, probably. Used as adjective for comedy that "makes you happy" for example)
    To get motivated (not specifically by yourself)

Grammatically speaking, genki 元気 is both noun and adjective, so that means there are a couple of different phrases that mean the same thing with it though nuances vary:
  • genki nai ne 元気ないね
  • genki ga nai ne 元気がないね
    [He] isn't doing well, is [he]?

Above, the first example is an adjective (literally "not doing well") while the second is a noun (literally "doing well doesn't exist," and less literally "doing well can't be found"). The adjective notion gets more obvious, of course, when it describes a noun, like this:
  • genki na ko 元気な子
    Child doing well.
    Healthy child.
    Lively child.
    Happy child (though this is a bit of a stretch)

Further, for compound words the na な particle isn't needed.
  • ninki kyara 人気キャラ
    Popular character (of anime, manga, etc.)
  • genki kyara 元気キャラ
    Lively character.
    Energetic character.
  • genkikko 元気っ子
    Genki girl (character or real life)

Needless to say, you can assume most characters (and people) are normally "doing well." So the difference between a mere "doing well" character and a deliberately genki character is probably that the genki one goes around smiling and making jokes and laughing or something. Also wearing bright colors, probably. You know, that sort of silly happy stuff.

Normal vs. Genki Character example from manga Nichijou 日常, showing Yuuko saying suramappagi スラマッパギ

So that's the secret behind the meaning of the word genki and genki anime characters.

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