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Table of Contents >Vocabulary> idiomatic expressions

Japanese idiomatic expressions 慣用表現 (かんようひょうげん)

Some of idiomatic expressions frequently used. For more comprehensive lists, refer to Japanese Idiom Books

Japanese idiomatic expressionsEnglish translationremarks
愛想(あいそ)が尽(つ)きるto be disgusted with; to be fed up with
開(あ)いた口(くち)が塞(ふさ)がらないto be shocking; to be jaw-dropping
阿吽(あうん)の呼吸(こきゅう)the harmonizing, mentally and physically, of two parties engaged in an activity
揚(あ)げ足(あし)を取(と)る to find fault with someone
足(あし)が地(ち)に着(つ)かないlosing oneself; walking on air
足元(あしもと)を見(み)るto take advantage [ of a weak situation]
足(あし)を棒(ぼう)にする walk your legs off
呆気(あっけ)に取(と)られるbe taken aback by
危(あぶ)ない橋(はし)を渡(わた)るmake a risky attempt; tread on dangerous ground
泡(あわ)を食(く)う lose one's head; lose one's presence of mind
息(いき)を呑(の)むto have one's breath taken away
息(いき)を引(ひ)き取(と)るto pass away; to breathe one's last
意地(いじ)を張(は)るto be obstinate; to be stubborn
以心伝心(いしんでんしん)tacit understanding
居(いた)た堪(たま)れないunable to endure being somewhere a second longer; feel like running away
至(いた)れり尽(つ)くせりleaving nothing to be desired
一(いち)か八(ばち)かsink or swim; desperate
一笑(いっそう)に付(ふ)すto laugh [something] down
一寸先(いっすんさき)は闇(やみ) No one knows what the future holds
色(いろ)を付(つ)けるmake some concession; add something extra
現(うつつ)を抜(ぬ)かすto be infatuated; to be hooked on
打(う)って付(つ)けthe most suitable
馬(うま)が合(あ)う to get on well [with a person]
裏目(うらめ)に出(で)るbackfire
裏(うら)を掻(か)くto outwit; to counterplot
雲泥(うんでい)の差(さ)a world of difference
うんともすんともmake no response whatever
大風呂敷(おおぶろしき)を広(ひろ)げる blow one's [own] horn; blow one's own trumpet
大目(おおめ)に見(み)るto condone; lenient with
奥歯(おくば)に物(もの)が挟(はさ)まるtalking around [something]
おくびにも出(だ)さないnot revealing [thoughts]; not breathing a word
お先真(おさきま)っ暗(くら)[of the future] very bleak; dim
押(お)し付(つ)けがましいpushy; self-assertive
お茶(ちゃ)を濁(にご)すdoing something in a halfhearted;to give an evasive answer
鬼(おに)に金棒(かなぼう)making a strong person even stronger
思(おも)う壺(つぼ)turning out just as one wished;playing into somebody's hands
恩(おん)に着(きせ)せるthe favor one has done to somebody; harp on how grateful somebody should be to one
顔(かお)が利(き)く to have a lot of influence
顔(かお)を立(た)てるsave somebody's face
笠(かさ)に着(き)るtake advantage of somebody's position [authority, influence]
肩(かた)がこるto have stiff shoulders - to be ill at ease
固唾(かたず)を呑(の)むto hold one's breath [in fear, anxiety, etc.]
片(かた)を付(つ)けるto settle [a problem]
火中(かちゅう)の栗(くり)を拾(ひろ)うto take a risk for someone; to endanger oneself for someone
金(かね)に糸目(いとめ)を付(つ)けず [doing something] regardless of cost
痒(かゆ)いところに手(て)が届(とど)くfocusing on even the finest of details
間一髪(かんいっぱつ)[escape by] the skin of one's teeth;
肝(きも)を潰(つぶ)す to be frightened out of one's wits
釘(くぎ)をさすto remind [a person] of
口(くち)を出(だ)す butt in; intrude
首(くび)が回(まわ)らない One is up to his neck
首(くび)を長(なが)くして looking forward; expectantly
雲(くも)を摑(つか)むようなhazy; elusive
血相(けっそう)を変(か)えるto change facial expression or color [due to anger, embarrassment, etc.]
煙(けむり)に巻(ま)くboggle/mystify somebody's mind
見当(けんとう)がつくto have a [rough] idea [of what the situation is]
腰(こし)が重(おも)いslow to act.
言葉(ことば)に甘(あま)えるavail oneself of somebody's kind offer
言葉(ことば)を濁(にご)す equivocate;to be evasive
差(さ)し出(で)がましい pushy;impertinent;meddlesome
匙(さじ)を投(な)げるgive something up as hopeless
思案(しあん)に暮(く)れる to be lost/buried in thought
時間(じかん)を稼(かせ)ぐto gain/buy time
舌(した)を巻(ま)くmarvel;to be astonished
正真正銘(しょうしんしょうめい)genuine
尻(しり)を叩(たた)くurge/goad somebody on
隅(すみ)に置(お)けない witty and knowing; not to be underestimated
切羽詰(せっぱつま)るbe driven into a corner;to be at one's wit's end
相談(そうだん)に乗(の)るgive advice counsel to
血(ち)が騒(さわ)ぐtingling with excitement
辻褄(つじつま)が合(あ)うto be consistent; to be coherent
手(て)が回(まわ)らないtoo busy to do [things]
手(て)も足(あし)も出(だ)せないbe at a loss what to do; be quite helpless
手持(ても)ち無沙汰(ぶさた)having nothing to do
手(て)を引(ひ)くto withdraw from [a deal]; to wash one's hands of
手(て)を焼(や)くto have difficulty with
途方(とほう)に暮(く)れる to be at a loss; be bewildered
取(と)り越(り)し苦労(ぐろう)worry needlessly about the future; cross one's bridges before one comes to them
何食(なにく)わぬ顔(かお)nonchalant look; air of innocence
似(に)たり寄(よ)ったりmuch the same
寝耳(ねみみ)に水(みず)bolt from the blue; great surprise
腹(はら)を決(き)めるmake a resolve] [to do]; make up one's mind
腹(はら)を割(わ)ったfrank/ heart to heart [talk]
腑(ふ)に落(お)ちないcannot understand; doesn't make sense
臍(へそ)を曲(ま)げるto become perverse
魔(ま)が差(さ)す to be possessed by an evil spirit;to succumb to temptation
間(ま)が悪(わる)いunlucky; bad timing
真(ま)っ赤(か)な嘘(うそ)a downright lie
真(ま)に受(う)けるtake [somebody's joke/lie] seriously;take somebody at his word
水(みず)と油(あぶら)incompatible; like oil and water
水(みず)に流(なが)す to forgive and forget; to let bygones be bygones
耳(みみ)を疑(うたが)うto not believe one's ears
虫(むし)がいいasking too much;pusing one's luck
虫(むし)が知(し)らせるto have a premonition; to have a presentiment
虫(むし)が好(す)かないhaving an antipathy to
止(や)むを得(え)ない cannot be helped; unavoidable
割(わり)が合(あ)わないwont pay for the cost
輪(わ)を掛(か)ける to be even more [so]



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