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.

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, かぐや様は歩きたい)


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

It follows the patterns of phrases such as:
  • sutairu ga ii
    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.

Manga: Komi-san wa, Comyushou desu. 古見さんは、コミュ症です。 (Chapter 14, あがり症です)
  • 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
    Head isn't good.
    Isn't smart.
  • atama ga warukunai
    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.


The phrase atama ga ii is the predicative clause of a possessive double subject construction. The small subject, usually marked by the ga が particle, is possessed by the large subject, usually marked as the topic by the wa は particle. For example:
  • kimi wa {atama ga ii}
    {Good is true about head} is true about you.
    {Head is good} is true about you.
    Your {head is good}
    You're smart.
  • kimi wa {atama ga warui}
    {Bad is true about head} is true about you.
    {Head is bad} is true about you}
    Your {head is bad}.
    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.
    • 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. This is called a null particle, and is represented in analysis as the Greek letter phi φ.
  • atama φ ii
  • atama φ warui
  • atama φ ii hito
    Smart person.
  • atama φ warui hito
    Dumb person.
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, かぐや様は歩きたい)
  • atama φ ii!!
    [Wow, you're so] smart!!
    • atama ga ii - without omission.
  • oneechan φ tensai!?
    [Are you] a genius, sis!?
    • oneechan wa tensai? - without omission.
  • 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
  • yosa
  • atama no yosa
    The good-ness of the head.
    How good the head is.
    How smart [you are].
  • atama no warusa
    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
    The head seems good.
    [You] seem smart.
  • atama ga warusou
    The head seems bad.
    [You] seem dumb.

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