20+ Cool Japanese Words you Won’t Learn at School

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Japanese learners are very fortunate for the fact that there are so many resources available for studying Japanese. There are countless textbooks, apps and online learning tools that will have you up to exam standard in no time!

That being said, the way in which we speak Japanese in an academic setting vs a social setting is a bit different. As in every language, new words and new ways of speaking evolve, usually through the youth. 

So, although what you are saying may be correct by the book, it might not be the ‘coolest’ thing to say! Here is a list of a few of those ‘cool’ words often used in Japanese today.




A serene bamboo forest path with sunlight filtering through the trees. The Japanese word "かっこいい" (kakkoii), a cool Japanese vocabulary word meaning "cool," is overlaid on the image. Two people walk down the path, soaking in the tranquil beauty and learning Japanese in nature.

The first on our list of ‘cool’ words is of course the Japanese term for ‘cool’kakkoii (かっこいい, sometimes カッコイイ).

Kakkoii represents anything stylish, impressive or perhaps trendy. It is often used in the same way we use ‘cool’, for example a cool car etc. It can also be used to describe a handsome man! 

You may hear people pronounce it as kakkee (カッケー / かっけえ). This is a common way to make an i-adjective sound more cool! It is generally seen as a slightly rougher, more manly form of speech.



Dangerous / Crazy

Illustration of the Japanese word "yabai," meaning "crazy, awesome, wild," against a cityscape background with the text "Cool Japanese Words" on top, perfect for any school project or to spice up your notes.

Yabai (やばい) is probably the most important word on this list! You just need to spend ten minutes around a bunch of young people and you are bound to hear this word being thrown around!

According to the dictionary, the literal translation of yabai is ‘dangerous’ or ‘risky’, and therefore has a rather negative connotation. It is unknown how its meaning changed over the years, but it is now used as a sort of exclamation of excitement among the youth.

It can be used to mean various different things from ‘wow’ to ‘crazy’ to ‘awesome’ to ‘WTF’… I mean, pretty much anything! Depending on how and when it is uttered, it can express either a positive or negative reaction.

It comes in various forms such as the shortened yaba (やば) and yabee (ヤベー) which we discussed previously!




Text reads "Cool Japanese Words すごい sugoi amazing" over an image of a sunset behind a Torii gate. "teamjapanese.com" is at the bottom. Learn Japanese effortlessly with stunning visuals.

Sugoi (すごい) is slightly similar to yabai in that it expresses a sort of ‘wow’ sentiment. It generally translates as ‘amazing’, although is not necessarily reserved for positive situations.

Yabai is a good word to know as it is very hip and is great for conversations with friends. However, if you want to be a little more polite, use sugoi as it is a word used by people of all ages and is suitable for varying social situations!

Similarly to the previous words, it can also be pronounced in a cooler way –sugee (スゲ) or even sugo (すごっ)




Image of Japanese lanterns with the phrase "おっす ossu hey" in white text. The top text reads "cool Japanese words" and the bottom shows "teamjapanese.com". These are some cool words you might not learn at school.

Believe it or not, but ossu (おっす) is thought to be a very shortened version of ohayou gozaimasu (おはようございます), which means ‘good morning’ in Japanese.

It’s a ‘cool’ way of greeting someone in Japanese, regardless of whether it is morning or not. It is another phrase that is spoken more so by men rather than women.



Hey (good morning)

Cherry blossoms over a river with a bridge in the background. Text: "おはよう ohayou hey (good morning)" from teamjapanese.com. Dive into cool Japanese words and phrases to learn at school!

Now, ohayo (おはよう) is a phrase that the girlies are loving these days! Of course, It literally means ‘good morning’, but don’t be surprised if you meet up with the girls late in the evening and they still greet you with ohayo!

It is not really known why it became a trendy greeting but if you want to be like the ‘it girls’ in Japan, you know what to say!




Cherry blossom trees along a river with pedal boats on the water. Text reads: "ちょう chou very" and "cool Japanese words" at the top, showcasing some of Japan's unique vocabulary.

Chou (ちょう) means ‘ultra’ or ‘very’ in Japanese and is used for emphasis. The more formal version would be totemo (とても).

For example:

Ano inu chou kawaii!
That dog is soo cute! 




Image of a pagoda with autumn foliage and Mount Fuji in the background. Overlay text reads "cool Japanese words めっちゃ meccha very" and "teamjapanese.com" at the bottom, showcasing interesting Japanese words you won't learn at school.

Meccha (めっちゃ) holds pretty the same meaning as chou and is used in just about the same way!

Interestingly, it is a shortened version of the word meccha kucha (めっちゃくちゃ) which can mean ‘messy’ or even ‘absurd’ or ‘extreme’. The slang term was made popular by the young people of the Kansai region.

Maji (de)

まじ (で)


A pathway lined with red torii gates features cool Japanese words such as "まじ(で)" and "maji (de)" with the translation "seriously" in English, making it a great spot to learn Japanese.

Maji is short for majime (真面目 / まじめ), which is an adjective that describes a ‘serious’ or ‘diligent’ person. 

Its truncated counterpart maji is now used as a slang term among young people to mean ‘really?!’ or ‘seriously?!’ You can simply say maji , otherwise you can say maji ka, using the question particle ka (か), or alternatively, maji de (で).



You can do it

A snow-capped mountain under a clear blue sky with the words "Cool Japanese Words" at the top and "ガンバ ganba you can do it" in the center. The website "teamjapanese.com" is at the bottom. Perfect for anyone looking to learn unusual Japanese words!

If you haven’t already guessed, ganba (ガンバ / がんば) is a shorthand way of saying ganbatte (頑張って / がんばって). It is a phrase that means ‘good luck’ or ‘you can do this!’. 

As you can tell, the Japanese youth love to shorten words to make them sound cooler, but make sure to stick to the slang version only in casual situations! 




A dimly lit traditional Japanese street is overlaid with the word "ウザイ," along with its English translations "uzai" and "annoying." This cool Japanese word is a great way to learn Japanese vocabulary in an authentic setting.

It can be a fun guessing game to try and figure out what each of these slang terms and short for. What would you guess uzai (ウザイ / うざい) is?

If you guessed urusai (うるさい), you would be correct!

Urusai is an adjective meaning ‘annoying’ in Japanese. It can also describe something ‘noisy’, and therefore can be used as a way of telling someone to ‘shut up!’. Obviously it’s not a very polite term, so be careful with this one!




Aerial view of a Japanese city with a mountain in the background. The text "cool Japanese words" and "ムズイ muzu difficult" is displayed on the image, perfect for Japanese language learning enthusiasts looking to discover cool words.

Muzui (ムズイ / むずい) is a cool way of saying muzukashii (難しい / むずかしい). Muzukashii means ‘difficult’ or ‘complicated’.                                                                             




Narrow alley with hanging lanterns and signs. Text reads "cool Japanese words: キモい, kimoi, gross". TeamJapanese.com is noted at the bottom for those eager to learn Japanese vocabulary.

Kimoi (キモい / きもい) might be a little bit harder to decipher. It is in fact short for the phrase kimochi warui (気持ち悪い / きもちわるい) which is used in relation to anything unpleasant that would perhaps make you feel bad or unseasy. 

Kimoi is a pretty strong word used to show your disgust for something.




A curious deer in the foreground with cherry blossom trees and people in the background. The text reads "ウケる" (ukeru) in Japanese, with "funny" as the translation. It's one of those cool Japanese slang words you might not learn at school!

The next cool word on our list is ukeru (ウケる / うける) not to be confused with 受ける, a verb meaning ‘to receive’. 

This particular ukeru actually means ‘funny’ in Japanese! Not sure how it came to be, but the cool kids have solidified it into a regularly used term these days. 




Image of traditional Japanese architecture with the text "Cool Japanese Words" and "warota," which means "lol," displayed prominently. The background is of a clear sky. Learn about these cool japanese slang words on the website "teamjapanese.com" at the bottom.

Warota (ワロタ / わろた) is a distortion of the word warau (笑う / わらう) meaning ‘to laugh’ in Japanese.

It is often referred to as the ‘LOL’ of the Japanese language. If you notice comments on Japanese social media which read ‘wwwww’ it actually depicts laughter! The ‘w’ represents warau/warota.




Cityscape of colorful buildings in Japan with large signs. Text overlay reads: "cool Japanese words," "ハマる hamaru," and "addicted"—Japanese words you won't learn at school. A white truck is visible on the street.

Hamaru (ハマる / はまる) would be a word widely used by Japanese girls. The original meaning of hamaru means ‘to fit into’ and also ‘to be fit for’. 

As a slang term, it is used to mean ‘addicted to’. It is generally used in the present continuous teiru (ている) tense to represent that you are currently really into something!


Wandairekushon ni meccha hamatteiru!
I am really into One Direction




Cherry blossoms in bloom by a river, with the Japanese word モテる (moteru) meaning "popular" written in white text on the image. "Cool Japanese Words," "teamjapanese.com," are also displayed. Celebrate the beauty of the Japanese language with this picturesque scene.

Moteru (モテる / もてる), means ‘to be popular’ in Japanese. Someone who is moteru is ‘popular’ or ‘sought after’ by others, specifically in the dating scene. They may also be referred to as motemote (モテモテ / もてもて).

Tapiru / tapirou

タピる / タピろう

Let’s get boba

A dimly lit Japanese street adorned with lanterns overhead. Text overlay in English and Japanese reads "tapiru/tapirou" meaning "let's get boba." Discover more cool Japanese words at teamjapanese.com.

In Japanese, ‘bubble tea’ or ‘boba’ is referred to as tapioka (タピオカ / たぴおか). (Tapioca being what the little chewy balls are made from). Tapiru (タピる / たぴる) is a made up verb which meanings ‘to drink/get boba’!

It is super popular with girls, often used in the volitional form tapirou (タピろう / たぴろう) as an invitation ‘shall we get boba?’

Insta bae



Image of Mount Fuji in the background with a field of pink flowers in the foreground. Japanese words and their translations are displayed: "インスタ映え" (insutabae) meaning "Instagrammable." A perfect scene to learn Japanese vocabulary while enjoying cool Japanese words.

With social media being such an integral part of young people’s lives, it’s no surprise that various new words pop up to reflect this. Insta bae (インスタ映え / いんすたばえ) was actually voted as Japan’s buzzword of 2017! But what is it?

The term merges the shortened Japanese word for ‘Instagram’ and the verb haeru (映える / はえる) meaning ‘to look attractive’. (Note that in this expression it is pronounced with a b)

We have similar terms in English, e.g: ‘Instragrammable’ and ‘Insta-worthy’. All words describe someone/something aesthetically pleasing that would rack up the likes on Instagram. 



Party people

A busy street in Japan at night, illuminated by neon lights, with text overlay describing the cool Japanese word "パリピ" (parapi) meaning "party people." This is one of those fun Japanese words you might not learn at school.

Paripi (パリピ / ぱりぴ) is a word inspired by the English ‘party people’. As the name suggests, paripi refers to people who frequent nightclubs and are considered party animals.

It can also describe people who are just high energy and extroverted! 




An orange torii gate against a blue sky background with the Japanese word "ぴえん" and its pronunciation "pien", translated as "boo hoo". Text at the top reads "Learn Japanese: Cool Words"

Pien (ぴえん) evokes a feeling more so than a meaning. It is kind of an onomatopoeic term used to express a sobbing sound. We might say ‘boo hoo’ or ‘waa’ in English. The best way to visualise it would be the puppy eyes emoji 🥹.

Pien was named as the word of the year in 2020 by publishing company Sanseido! Depending on the situation, it can represent both sad or happy tears.

Cool Japanese words

We hope you enjoyed learning these cool Japanese words! These cool words are used in Japan today and will help you sound more natural when you speak Japanese. Just remember not to use slang words in a formal context, such as at work!

What’s you’re favourite cool Japanese word? Please share in the comments!

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Hannah Stafford

Hannah is a half Irish/half Japanese girl living in Ireland. Her love for Japan and the Japanese language led her to studying languages and translation in university where she specialised in Japanese. She spent a year studying abroad at Rikkyo University in Tokyo. In her free time, Hannah enjoys using her sewing machine to upcycle clothes and create new pieces!

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