ぐうの音も出ない (ぐうのねもでない, guu no ne mo denai) is an advanced Japanese idiom that means “you get lost for words because someone gets you in an argument”. In other words, it indicates a touché moment when you are too baffled/shocked even to say “touché” or any other word. Literally, this idiom means that you cannot even say “guu”, a tiny glottal sound you’d make when you try to say something back but cannot think of any word to say.
This expression is usually used when someone gives you a flawless, logical and/or blunt criticism or argument that you cannot rebut at all. Some people also use this word to describe something that is very good and leaves you speechless, although this usage deviates from the original definition.
This idiom is often used as “ぐうの音も出ないほど(の)〜” (guu no ne mo denai hodo), meaning “so 〜 that I can’t think of any word to say”. For instance, “ぐうの音も出ないほどの正論” means “so fair an argument that I can’t think of any word to say to deny it”, where “正論” means “a fair argument”. You may also say “ぐうの音も出ないほど美味しい” meaning “so delicious that I can’t think of any word to say.” In these cases, this idiom modifies and intensifies another word.
Usage as Internet Slang
On the Internet, “ぐうの音も出ないほど” is often abbreviated as “ぐう” (guu) and combined with other words. For instance, the expression “ぐうの音も出ないほどの正論” can be abbreviated as “ぐう正論” (guu seiron). Another example is “ぐうかわ” (guu kawa), that stands for “ぐうの音も出ないほどかわいい“, meaning “so cute/hot that I can’t think of any word to say”.
Note that these abbreviated expressions sound very casual and predominantly used on the internet only. Therefore, some people will find you weird if you use them in real life.
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ぐうの音も出ない can be divided into two parts “ぐうの音も” and “出ない”. The first part means “even the sound of ‘guu'” and the latter means “not come out”. Therefore, the idiom indicates that even a glottal sound “guu” does not come out of your mouth because you’re too surprised or baffled to say any word. Note that in this idiom 音 reads “ね (ne)”, different from its common reading “おと (oto)”.
My friend told me “Why the heck it is taking so long for you to graduate from university?” and I was lost for words.
It was so perfect a goal that I couldn’t think of any word to say.
Ex3 (On the Internet)
That female idol is really so hot that I can’t think of any word to say.
Synonyms: 返答に詰まる (be stumped; unable to answer)
Synonyms in English: be stumped, lost for words, touché
Related words and phrases: 正論 (fair argument), 音 (sound), 出る (come out), かわいい (hot)