Tuesday, February 26, 2019

atama ga ii 頭がいい

In Japanese, atama ga ii 頭がいい means someone is "smart," "intelligent," has "good brains." It's a phrase containing atama 頭, "head," the body part, and the i-adjective ii いい, "good." So it literally means "head is good."

It's also spelled atama ga ii 頭が良い. A synonymous variant is atama ga yoi 頭がよい.

An example of 頭いい in Japanese.
Manga: Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai ~Tensai-Tachi no Ren'ai Zunousen~ かぐや様は告らせたい~天才たちの恋愛頭脳戦~ (Chapter 9)


Generally speaking, the phrase atama ga ii is used as a compliment.

It follows the patterns of phrases such as:
  • sutairu ga ii スタイルがいい
    Style is good.
    • Knows to dress well.

In particular, a lot of bishoujo 美少女 characters are atama ga ii, because just being a "beautiful girl" isn't enough for a Mary Sue, she has to be smart, athletic, popular, etc.

美人だし、頭もいいし、人気者だし、 quote from manga Komi-san wa, Comyushou desu. 古見さんは、コミュ症です。 (Chapter 14)
Manga: Komi-san wa, Comyushou desu. 古見さんは、コミュ症です。 (Chapter 14)
  • bijin dashi,
    atama mo ii shi,
    ninkimono dashi,

    She's beautiful, smart, popular,

Of course, atama ga ii can be used sarcastically too, but it's normally used as a compliment.

Atama ga Warui 頭が悪い

The antonym, calling someone "stupid," would be atama ga warui 頭が悪い, "head is bad," because warui 悪い, means "bad."

A synonymous variant is:

The negative form of atama ga ii has similar effect:
  • atama ga yokunai 頭がよくない
    Head isn't good.
    Isn't smart.
  • atama ga warukunai 頭が悪くない
    Head isn't bad.
    Isn't dumb.

Note that there are various ways of insulting somebody's intelligence in Japanese. See baka 馬鹿 for details.


Since both atama ga ii and atama ga warui have atama marked as the subject of the sentence by the ga が particle, you'd usually need the topic marking particle wa は in order to elaborate whose head is good or bad. For example:
  • kimi wa atama ga ii
    As for you, the head is good.
    About you: good brains.
    [You're smart.]
  • kimi wa atama ga warui
    As for you, the head is bad.
    About you: bad brains.
    [You're dumb.]

Atama wa ii 頭はいい

Note that because Japanese hates you, there are less common variants with different particles which would affect the nuance of the phrase.
  • kimi ga atama ga ii
    • This is emphasizing "you." Your head is good, not anybody else's.
  • kimi wa atama wa ii
    • Here we have a contrastive wa は.
    • It means your head is good, unlike the rest, which's bad.
    • In the sense you're smart, but you suck at everything else.
    • Or maybe it's talking about a guy who is smart, but ugly, so there's a plus, but a minus too.
  • kimi wa atama wa warui
    About you: head is bad.
    You're dumb.
    • Maybe your STR is high, but your INT stat is low, so you mayn't be the best character is our party to do what we're about to do.

Atama no ii 頭のいい

The phrase can also be used as an adjective, coming before a noun. Technically, the phrase becomes a relative clause given that it includes a case marking particle, the ga が. Furthermore, because it's a relative clause, the ga が can be replaced by the subject marking particle no.
  • atama ga ii hito 頭がいい
    atama no ii hito 頭のいい人
    atama ga ii ko 頭がいい
    atama no ii ko 頭のいい子
    A person [whose] head is good.
    A smart person.
  • atama ga ii hito 頭が悪い人
    atama no ii hito 頭の悪い人
    atama ga ii ko 頭が悪い子
    atama no ii ko 頭の悪い子
    A person [whose] head is bad.
    A dumb person.

Atama ii 頭いい

Sometimes, the ga が is omitted in order to shorter the phrase:
  • atama ii 頭いい
  • atama warui 頭悪い
  • atama ii hito 頭いい人
    Smart person.
  • atama warui hito 頭悪い人
    Dumb person.
頭いい!! お姉ちゃん天才!? ふふ・・・・・・ まぁね quote from manga Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai ~Tensai-Tachi no Ren'ai Zunousen~ かぐや様は告らせたい~天才たちの恋愛頭脳戦~ (Chapter 9)
Manga: Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai ~Tensai-Tachi no Ren'ai Zunousen~ かぐや様は告らせたい~天才たちの恋愛頭脳戦~ (Chapter 9)
  • atama ii!!
    [Wow, you're so] smart!!
  • oneechan tensai!?
    [Are you] a genius, sis!?
  • fufu......
  • maa ne
    [Sort of].

Atama no Yosa 頭の良さ

The phrase atama no yosa 頭の良さ refers to how smart someone is. Literally, it's turning atama 頭 into a possessive no-adjective with the no の particle for yosa 良さ, which the sa-form, "-ness" form, of ii いい.
  • atama no 頭の
  • yosa 良さ
  • atama no yosa 頭の良さ
    The good-ness of the head.
    How good the head is.
    How smart [you are].
  • atama no warusa 頭の悪さ
    The bad-ness of the head.
    How bad the head is.
    How dumb [you are].

Atama ga Yosasou 頭が良さそう

The phrase atama ga yosasou 頭が良さそう refers to how smart someone seems. It uses the sou-form of ii, which is irregularly attached to the sa-form: yosasou 良さそう. For warui, it's a regular, attached to the stem: warusou 悪そう.
  • atama ga yosasou 頭が良さそう
    The head seems good.
    [You] seem smart.
  • atama ga warusou 頭が悪そう
    The head seems bad.
    [You] seem dumb.

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