Friday, July 21, 2017

genki 元気

In Japanese, genki 元気 means "lively," "full of energy," "healthy," "fine," and so on. It's a word that's used in two ways: to ask if someone is doing fine, physically, or to tell someone to stop being gloomy and get motivated.

How Are You Doing?

The most common way genki is used is to ask people if they're genki or not. This is often done as a casual greeting, specially toward someone you haven't seen for some time. In other words, genki means "how are you doing?" in Japanese. A few examples:
  • hisashiburi. genki desu ka?
    Long time. Is genki?
    Long time no see. How are you doing?
  • minna genki desu ka?
    Is everybody genki?
    Are you all doing fine?

There are various variations of the phrase above. For example, the phrases below all translate to English the same way: "is genki?" Which means "Are [you] genki?" "Are you lively?" "How are you doing? Are you doing fine?"
  • genki?
    (bare question.)
  • genki ka?
    (with ka particle.)
  • genki kai?
    (with kai particle.)
  • genki desu ka?
    (with copula plus ka.)
  • o-genki desu ka?
    (with o お polite prefix.)
  • o-genki de irasshaimasu ka?
    (with sonkeigo 尊敬語, "honorific speech.")
  • genki nano?
    (with na no compound.)

Similarly, there are various ways to answer this.
  • hai はい
    ee ええ
    aa ああ
    un うん
  • genki desu
    [I'm] genki.
  • watashi wa genki desu yo
    I'm genki!


Sometimes, after saying whether someone is genki, the following phrase is uttered:
  • genki de nani yori
  • o-genki de nani yori

This phrase means "there's nothing more important than being genki." In other words, "there's nothing more important than being healthy, being well."

As for why it means that, it's important to note that the phrase is incomplete: it's missing a verb or adjective.
  • XでYよりZ
    With X, rather than Y, Z.
    X, unlike Y, fits Z.
    X is more Z than Y.
  • 元気で何よりZ
    genki is more Z than nani.
    genki is more "important" than nani.
    genki is more "valuable" than nani.

Generally, nani 何 means "what," but interrogative pronouns in Japanese simply refer to stuff that can't be specified. So nani means both "what thing" and "any thing" depends on context.
  • genki is more important than anything.
  • Nothing is more important than genki.

Not Genki

There are two ways to say someone isn't genki.
  • genki janai
    To not be genki. To not be lively.
  • genki ga nai
    To not have genki. To not have energy.

Seeming Lively

There are various phrases that can be used to note if someone is genki or not.
  • genki nai na
    [You] don't seem genki, [do you]?
    • You seem gloomy.
  • genki nai ne
    [You] don't seem genki.
    [He] doesn't seem genki, [don't you think]?

The sou そう suffix can be used after genki, for example.
  • genki-sou da
    Seems genki.
    [He] seems lively.
  • genki nasasou da
    Seems not genki.
    [He] seems gloomy.

As Adjective

Grammatically, genki is a na-adjective and can be used in the attributive as well.
  • oneesan wa genki
    [My] older sister is genki. (predicative.)
    [The] young lady is genki.
  • genki na oneesan
    A lively young lady. (predicative.)
    [My] lively older sister.

A few more examples:
  • genki na hito
    A lively person.
  • genki na ko
    A lively child.
    A lively person.
  • genki-sou na hito
    A person that seems lively.
  • genki-nasa-sou na hito
    A person that doesn't seem lively.
    A person that seems gloomy.


In Japanese, genki, "liveliness," "motivation," "energy," is something that "comes out" of oneself, deru 出る.
  • genki ga deru
    The genki comes out.
    To feel motivation.
    To start feeling lively. To stop feeling gloomy.
    To regain one's energies.

Grammatically, deru 出る is intransitive: it comes out on its own, and dasu 出す is transitive: someone makes it come out.
  • genki wo dasu
    To make genki come out.
    To make yourself feel motivation.
    To stop feeling gloomy. To get back on your feet.

Japanese has various forms that can be interpreted as imperative: telling people to do things, or, in this case, telling people to make the genki come out.
  • genki wo dase
  • genki wo dashite

The phrases above mean:
  • Come on, stop feeling down! Smile!
  • Get up, let's go do stuff and have some fun!
  • Stop watching depressing anime all the time and go outside!

On the other hand:
  • genki ga denai
    Genki doesn't come out.
    I'm not starting feeling motivated no matter what I do.

Anime Personality

In anime, genki 元気 often refers to characters with an energetic, happy, smiley personality, that never get down and never get gloomy, and are high-tension all the time.
  • genkikko
    A genki girl. (or guy.)

みおちゃーん スラマッパギ 相生祐子 高1 元気 あ ゆっこ おはよー あれ?スラマッパギ素通り!? 長野原みお 高1 ふつう
Manga: Nichijou 日常 (Episode 1)
  • Context: the characters are introduced.
  • Mio-chaan, suramappaegi
    みおちゃーん スラマッパギ
    Mio-chaan, selamat pagi.
    • Selamat pagi means "good morning" in Malay.
  • Aioi Yuuko, kou-ichi, genki
    相生祐子 高1 元気
    Aioi Yuuko, first year high school student, energetic.
  • a Yukko, ohayoo
    あ ゆっこ おはよー
    Ah, Yukko, good morning.
  • are? suramappagi sudoori!?
    [Uh, what]? Went through [my] selamat pagi!?
    • In the sense that Mio said good morning in Japanese, completely ignoring the Malay greeting.
  • Naganohara Mio, kou-ichi, futsuu
    長野原みお 高1 ふつう
    Naganohara Mio, first year high school student, normal.
    • Mio is normal, unlike Yuuko, which is genki.


The kanji of genki 元気 mean:
  • moto
    Base. Origin. Root. Source.
  • ki
    Spirit. Feeling.

The word genki 元気 is supposed to be refer to the "source of one's power," chikara no minamoto 力の源, in the same sense that the water of a river flows from its source, the motivation of a person flows from somewhere.

Origin of the Word

In the past, it was also spelled as genki 減気, literally "reduction of feeling." It was used when someone was sick, and the sickness became weakened, the bad feeling went away, was reduced. With time, the spelling and the meaning changed, until it became what it s today. [元気 -, accessed 2019-06-04]

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