What does the Japanese word “erai” mean?

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The multifaceted term “erai” in Japanese is both intriguing and versatile. Let’s explore its various representations and nuances.

Different Transcriptions of “Erai”

  • Rōmaji: Using the Latin alphabet, “erai” is transcribed as such.
  • Kanji: The Chinese character representation is 偉い.
  • Hiragana: For words of Japanese origin, “erai” is penned as えらい.
  • Katakana: To represent foreign words, it’s written as エライ.

Pronunciation-wise, it sounds like “eh-rai”.

Contextual Use of “Erai”

While “erai” generally carries a positive undertone, it can sound condescending if misused. It’s essential to consider the recipient, especially when aiming to compliment. This adjective is often reserved for children or those perceived to be of a lower social or educational status. Using “erai” in response to an adult or someone of higher status might be deemed impolite.

Synonyms and Similar Expressions

The Japanese language is rich, offering various words akin to “erai”. Some include:

  • Eraidesu ne (偉いですね): Translates to “great” or “good”.
  • Kyodaina (巨大な): Meaning “huge” or “colossal”.
  • Dekai (でかい): Denotes “huge” or “vast”.
  • Subarashii (すばらしい): Means “magnificent” or “excellent”.
  • Sugoi (すごい): Translates to “incredible” or “wonderful”.

Examples of “Erai” in Sentences

  • Kare wa jibun de erai to omotte iru (彼は自分で偉いと思っている): “He believes he’s remarkable.”
  • Soko ga kanojo no erai tokoroda (そこが彼女の偉いところだ): “That’s one of her most admirable traits.”
  • Erai hito (偉い人): “A distinguished individual.”
  • Erai yuki (えらい雪): “A significant snowfall.”
  • Erai koto ni natta (えらいことになった): “It’s become quite significant.”

Names and Surnames in Japanese

In countries like Japan, the surname precedes the first name. For instance, in “Watanabe Akiko”, “Watanabe” is the surname, and “Akiko” is the first name. Intriguingly, as names are traditionally written vertically, the surname is referred to as “ue no namae” (the name above), while the first name is “shita no namae” (the name below).

Reading Manga

Manga, or Japanese comics, offer a practical way to understand the use of “tategaki” (vertical writing) and “yokogaki” (horizontal writing). Manga starts from what Western readers would consider the end, and the reading flows from the top right to the left, then top to bottom.


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    • Marc, B. Japanese in cartoons. (2014). Spain. Regular Publisher.
    • Trombley, G.; Takenaka, Y. Japanese From Scratch! Volume 1. (2013). Spain.
    • The dialects of Japanese. Nippon.com. Available at https://www.nippon.com/en/features/jg00042/
Cecilia Martinez (B.S.)
Cecilia Martinez (Licenciada en Humanidades) - AUTORA. Redactora. Divulgadora cultural y científica.

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