Word of the Week: 失礼します

It’s time for Word of the Week again! Last week we looked at a Japanese word or phrase beginning with ‘sa’ (さ), and focussed on the phrase 猿も木から落ちる (さるもきからおちる) (saru mo ki kara ochiru), which is a proverb meaning ‘even monkeys fall from trees’. This week I’m looking for a word or phrase beginning with ‘shi’ (し). A big thank you to those who joined in with suggestions this week:

Japan Australia  suggested ‘shitsurei shimasu’ (失礼します), ‘excuse me’; ‘shinsetsu na (親切な), ‘kind’ or ‘nice’; ‘shinsen na’ (新鮮な), ‘fresh’; and ‘shikatanai’ (仕方ない), ‘that’s life!’; and zoomingjapan suggested ‘shikkari’ (しっかり), ‘reliable’ or ‘level headed’.

Everyone’s ideas were great, and this week I have decided to write about…

失礼します (しつれいします)

(shitsurei shimasu)

‘Shitsurei shimasu’ (失礼します) was a phrase I heard straight away when I moved to Japan, and was taught to use in the longer form of ‘osakini shitsurei shimasu’ (お先に失礼します) during my teacher training.

‘Shitsurei’ (失礼) on its own means ‘discourtesy’ or ‘impoliteness’, but is also used as an expression on its own to mean ‘excuse me’ or even ‘goodbye’. ‘Shitsurei shimasu’ (失礼します) is one of those Japanese phrases that’s hard to translate exactly, but basically it can mean ‘I’m leaving’, ‘sorry to have interrupted’, or ‘excuse me’. The longer phrase I mentioned, ‘osakini shitsurei shimasu’, is a phrase said particularly when leaving work before others, meaning ‘sorry, I’m leaving before you (whilst you’re still working)’.

osakini shitsurei shimasu

(Image source)

When I was in Japan, apart from saying ‘osakini shitsurei shimasu’ almost every day I hardly ever used ‘shitsurei shimasu’ on its own. However, in my current job I’ve found a situation in which I do need to use it. I often need to call hotels in Japan, and ‘shitsurei shimasu’ is a great polite phrase to end a formal phone call with. It would seem strange to end the call with ‘sayonara’ (さよなら), ‘goodbye’, as the word just isn’t used in that way. Instead, ‘shitsurei shimasu’ makes the perfect ‘goodbye and sorry for interrupting’ phrase. (Of course, if you were talking to a friend on the phone you wouldn’t say this – ‘jyaa, mata ne’ (じゃあ、またね), ‘see you’, would be more appropriate.)

‘Shitsurei shimasu’ can be used in other situations too, for example:

  • squeezing past someone in a crowded place
  • entering a room
  • a hairdresser or barber would say the phrase before they begin cutting your hair (i.e. before they touch you)

Although ‘shitsurei shimasu’ is already a very polite phrase, if you feel the need to be even more polite you can say ‘shitsurei itashimasu’ (失礼いたします). ‘Itashimasu’ is the humble or polite form of ‘shimasu’. It would be super polite to use ‘shitsurei itashimasu’ though, so use with caution!

The literal translation of ‘shitsurei shimasu’ is ‘I’m going to be rude’. So, next time you’re in Japan and feel you might be about to do something rude, try saying ‘shitsurei shimasu’! 😉 If you feel you need some practice, try this quirky video…


Next week’s post will be about a word or phrase beginning with ‘su’ (す), so please leave your suggestions below. The word can be a verb, adjective or expression, but no nouns please! For example, ‘sumimasen’ (すみません) meaning ‘sorry’ or ‘excuse me’ would be acceptable, but ‘sushi’ (すし) would not. I look forward to reading your ideas! (*^_^)v

Word of the Week 2014

6 thoughts on “Word of the Week: 失礼します

  1. Thanks for using my suggestion this week! Shitsurei shimasu is a common expression I find myself using a lot here in Japan in my daily life. A few suggestions for next week are:

    Suki desu (好きです) Like
    Susumemasu (勧めます) Recommend
    Sugoi (すごい) Great!


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