Word of the Week: 不味い

It’s time for Word of the Week again! Last time we looked at a Japanese word or phrase beginning with ‘ho’ (ほ), focussing on ほめる / 褒める (homeru), meaning ‘to praise’ or ‘to admire’. This week I’m looking for a word or phrase beginning with ‘ma’ (ま). A big thank you for the suggestions this week:

Japan Australia suggested ‘maamaa’ (まあまあ), an informal phrase meaning ‘average’, ‘so-so’ or ‘the same as usual’; ‘maji de’ (マジで), ‘an informal phrase that means ‘really?’ or ‘are you serious?; and ‘mazui’ (不味い), an informal term that refers to something that tastes terrible or something that sucks.

I wonder where everyone was this week. Thank you to Japan Australia for always contributing! All three suggestions were great, and in the end I decided to write about…

まずい / 不味い


I chose to write about ‘mazui’ today because when I saw it written there in the comments section I realised I had almost forgotten the word! ‘Mazui’ is an informal word referring to something that tastes bad or sucks, and can also refer to something that is ugly, clumsy, awkward or unpleasant. It’s usually written in kana alone: まずい but can also be written in kanji: 不味い. The kanji are interesting as they literally mean ‘bad taste’.

I did a Google images search for まずい and this is what I found:


Google images search for まずい

In conversation, the ‘i’ of ‘mazui’ is often dropped and it comes out sounding like ‘ma-zu’, which always makes me think of English words like ‘bleurgh’. The word can be said alone, like ‘yuck’, or you could put it in a sentence. Often it’s just an exclamation or reaction to something which tastes bad. Of course, it’s not very polite, but it’s not a ‘bad word’.

For me, the most ‘mazui’ food in the world would have to be natto (納豆) – fermented soy beans. I can cope with most things, but natto is just so stinky and sticky and gross. (>_<)

Natto ruining a perfectly good bowl of rice

Natto ruining a perfectly good bowl of rice

(Image source)

So, just a short post this week, but hopefully you’ll all join in with some suggestions to give me something awesome to write about next week!


Next week’s post will be about a word or phrase beginning with ‘mi’ (み), so please leave your suggestions below. The word can be a verb, adjective or expression, but no nouns please! For example, ‘miru’ (見る) meaning ‘to look’ or ‘to watch’ , would be acceptable, but ‘Miyajima’ (宮島), the place, would not. I look forward to reading your ideas! (*^_^)v

Word of the Week 2014

8 thoughts on “Word of the Week: 不味い

  1. Thanks for choosing my suggestion. Mazui is a good one and unfortunately one that I do use quite a lot from time to time. A few suggestions for next week are:

    Misete kudasai (見せて下さい。) Please show me
    Michi ni mayotte shimaimashita (道に迷ってしまいました。) I’m Lost
    Mitsukeru (見つける) Find
    Minu ga hana (見ぬが花。) Japanese proverb which means “Reality can’t compete with imagination”


  2. How about miso (みそ)?
    Miso can mean “the key” or the important feature as in “koko ga miso dakara yoku kiite ne” (ここがミソだからよく聞いてね。) Also, miso can refer to a small kid, who is allowed to play games with bigger kids but not counted as a serious player. For example, “-chan wa miso ne” (〜ちゃんはミソね。) I came across a website that says this usage is Tokyo dialect but I’m not sure it’s true!


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