Word of the Week: みそ

It’s time for Word of the Week again! Last time we looked at a Japanese word or phrase beginning with ‘ma’ (ま), focussing on まずい / 不味い (mazui), a word which refers to something that tastes bad or sucks. This week I’m looking for a word or phrase beginning with ‘mi’ (み). A big thank you for the suggestions this week:

Japan Australia suggested ‘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), ‘to find’; and ‘minu ga hana’ (見ぬが花), a Japanese proverb which means ‘Reality can’t compete with imagination’; Yukiko suggested ‘miso’ (みそ), meaning ‘the key or important feature’ or referring to a small kid who is allowed to play games with bigger kids but not counted as a serious player; and lovelycomplex22 suggested ‘miryoku’ (魅力), a noun meaning ‘charm’ or ‘appeal’.

There were some great ideas this week! In the end I decided to write about…



The only meaning of the word ‘miso‘ that I knew before was ‘bean paste’, as in the bean paste that makes up delicious miso soup.

Miso soup

Of course, that’s not what I’m writing about today! Yukiko taught me that ‘miso’ can have another meaning. ‘Miso’, she told me, “can refer to a small kid, who is allowed to play games with bigger kids but not counted as a serious player. For example, “Yuki-chan wa miso ne” (ゆきちゃんはミソね)”. Yukiko thinks this might be Tokyo dialect, but she’s not sure. I’ve certainly never heard this before, and I can’t find anything about it online. This use of ‘miso’ could also apply to someone who just started at a company and didn’t yet feel like they were ‘playing properly’. They’re adding some flavour, but not yet a key ingredient.

In contrast, the other usage of ‘miso’ that Yukiko mentioned was as the ‘key’ or ‘important’ feature. For example: “koko ga miso dakara yoku kiite ne” (ここがミソだからよく聞いてね), which means “this is the main point, so listen carefully!”. Another example, from Jisho.org, is: “kono denshi jisho wa keitaishiyasuitokoro ga miso desu” (この電子辞書は携帯しやすいところが味噌です) – “The good thing about this electronic dictionary is that it’s easy to carry”.

Whilst researching uses of the word ‘miso’ I discovered that apparently city people used to sometimes say “you smell like miso” to mean “you come from the countryside” (source). I also found a proverb with ‘miso’ in it: てまえみそ (temae miso) which means ‘singing one’s praises’. The proverb envisions a person who is raving about the greatness of their own home-made miso (source).

Finally, there’s one more use of ‘miso’ I heard a while ago in a phrase: “choshoku-no miso-shiru-o tsukutte kureru?” (朝食のみそしるを作ってくれる?). This phrase literally means “will you make my miso soup for breakfast?” but actually this is a marriage proposal!! It’s a phrase that’s very telling of Japanese culture – the wife is typically expected to get up early and make breakfast for the family.


Next week’s post will be about a word or phrase beginning with ‘mu’ (む), so please leave your suggestions below. The word can be a verb, adjective or expression, but no nouns please! For example, ‘muzukashii’ (むずかしい) meaning ‘difficult’ , would be acceptable, but ‘musume’ (娘), ‘daughter’, would not. I look forward to reading your ideas! (*^_^)v

Word of the Week 2014

6 thoughts on “Word of the Week: みそ

  1. I haven’t heard that one before! Nou Miso (脳みそ) is quite common and means “brain”. A few suggestions for next week are:

    Muri desu (無理です) Impossible or can’t do it
    Muri shinai de (無理しないで) Means “take it easy!” or “don’t kill yourself!”
    Mukatsuku (ムカつく) Informal term for “being irritated” or “pissed off”


  2. お久しぶりです。




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