Word of the Week: 気をつけて

It’s time for Word of the Week again! Last week we looked at a Japanese word or phrase beginning with ‘ka’ (か), and focussed on the word かわいい (kawaii), which means ‘cute’. This week I’m looking for a word or phrase beginning with ‘ki’ (き). A big thank you to those who joined in with suggestions this week:

zoomingjapan suggested ‘kirakuna’ (気楽な), ‘carefree’ or ‘easygoing’; ‘kireina’ (きれいな), ‘pretty’ or ‘beautiful’; and ‘kirai’ (嫌い), ‘dislike’ or ‘hate’; and Japan Australia suggested ‘ki ni shi nai de kudasai’ (気にしないでください), ‘never mind’ or ‘don’t worry about it’; ‘kimochi ga ii’ (気持ちがいい), ‘feels good’; and ‘kimae ga ii’ (気前がいい), ‘generous’.

These were all great ideas, but in the end I decided to write about…


(ki o tsukete)

You might have noticed that the kanji 気 (ki) appears in a few of the suggestions above, and it’s a kanji you’ll soon get to know if you’re studying Japanese. Probably one of the most common phrases you’ll see this kanji in is 元気 (genki), meaning ‘health’, ‘energy’ or ‘vitality’, and you’ll use ‘genki’ in the question お元気ですか(ogenki desu ka / how are you?). 気 means ‘spirit’, ‘mind’, ‘heart’, or ‘atmosphere’, and is also thought of as a kind of energy we all have inside us – part of our mind and spirit. I know that all sounds a bit ‘new agey’, but having done tai chi for a while (a long time ago) I can understand how 気 is like ‘chi’ (or ‘qi’); a force or energy inside a person that needs to be controlled and nurtured.


(Image source)

Anyway, what does 気をつけて (ki o tsukete) mean? Literally, it means something like ‘attach your energy’, but actually it means ‘take care’ or ‘be careful’. You could also read it as ‘keep your wits about you’, which is an interpretation I quite like. ‘Ki o tsukete’ is said in situations such as:

  • to someone about to go on a long trip (note: it’s not appropriate to say ‘ki o tsukete’ to someone just going out to work (you would say ’itterasshai’ ( いってらっしゃい)), but you can say it if someone is going to be away for a while
  • to tell someone to watch out, e.g. if the ground is slippery or they haven’t seen the car that’s coming
  • if someone is unwell, although in that case you might also use おだいじに (get well soon / お大事に)

You’ll hear parents saying ‘ki o tsukete’ to their children a lot, especially when they’re climbing or using scissors or doing something that could be dangerous.

To listen to the correct pronunciation for this phrase, please click here. I’m sure this is a phrase you’ll hear and use a lot in Japan!

Ki o tsukete

(Image source)


Next week’s post will be about a word or phrase beginning with ‘ku’ (く), so please leave your suggestions below. The word can be a verb, adjective or expression, but no nouns please! For example, ‘kudasai’ (ください) meaning ‘please’ would be acceptable, but ‘Kumamoto’ (熊本), the place, would not. I look forward to reading your ideas! (*^_^)v

Word of the Week 2014

8 thoughts on “Word of the Week: 気をつけて

  1. Great Posts again! 気をつけて is probably one of the best ones so good choice there. A few suggestions for next week are:

    Kuinonai (悔いのない) No Regrets!
    kuchidoke(口どけ) Melt in the mouth
    Kurushii (苦しい) Painful


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