This post introduces essential Japanese words related to love/romance. If you’re keen to talk about love and romance in Japanese, then this is a must-read!
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モテる (moteru) is a very common Japanese word that means “be popular with men/women (people of the gender one is attracted to)”. When someone is really really popular, you can describe them as “モテモテ (motemote)”. On the other hand, when you want to say someone is not popular, you can say “モテない”, or “非(ひ)モテ” (slang, often used to describe oneself as self-deprecation), both meaning “not モテる”.
Related to this, there is an interesting Japanese word called モテ期(き) (moteki), which means “a period of time when you suddenly モテる (become popular with men/women)”. It is often said that everyone should experience their moteki 3 times in their whole life, but a myriad of people are highly sceptical about this “theory”.
Mari is cute and kind, and so very popular with men.
I want to be popular with many girls.
Because I’m not popular, I don’t understand a woman’s mind.
脈あり/なし (myaku ari/nashi)
脈あり is a common Japanese idiom that literally means “There is a pulse“ and figuratively “You’re in with a chance of getting into a relationship with your crush”. For instance, it is likely that “a pulse exists” (脈あり) if your crush
- texts you back very quickly
- always looks and smiles at you
On the other hand, there will be “no pulse” (脈なし) if he/she
- always ignores your texts
- sounds indifferent to you (e.g. replies to your long text with “I see”)
I texted Aya and three days later she texted me back saying “Soz I was asleep”. Well, there is clearly “no pulse” (no chance).
ハートの絵文字 (emoji) ❤️ を脈ありのサインだと勘違(かんちが)いする可哀想（かわいそう）な男(おとこ)が多(おお)い
There are a lot of hapless men who misunderstand that the heart emoji ❤️ is the sign of “a pulse”.
告白する (kokuhaku suru) means “to confess one’s feelings to one’s crush”. It is very common for (young) Japanese people to do 告白 before they get into a relationship (* but it depends on people, of course). For instance, according to some online surveys, nearly 50 % of women in Japan want men to do 告白 on the 3rd date (because they think that the 1st or 2nd date are a bit too early). Among young people, 告(こく)る is also used as a casual expression for 告白する.
Note that 告白する means “confess” in general, e.g. 秘密(ひみつ)を告白する means “confess the secret”.
It requires a lot of courage to confess your feelings to someone you like.
片思い/両思い (kata omoi/ryou omoi)
片思い (kata omoi) and 両思い (ryou omoi) mean “one-sided love” (i.e. you are in love with someone but she/he probably isn’t with you) and “two-sided love” (i.e. you and someone are in love with each other), respectively. For instance, a lot of teenagers do 片思い with someone at school for years but cannot muster up the courage to do 告白 or ask them out. Then after graduating from school, some of them are very shocked to know that they and their crush were actually 両思い (in love with each other), and regret not doing 告白 at that time.
片思い is often translated as the English phrase “unrequited love”, but the Japanese phrase is probably more casual/less poetic, and puts more emphasis on the fact that you are in love with someone regardless of their feelings, rather than the fact that your love is unrequited. So it doesn’t sound too negative, and people (esp girls) would say to their friends, “〜に片思いしている”, meaning “I’m having a (probably) one-sided feeling for ~”.
There is also another word “相思相愛 (そうしそうあい, soushi souai)” in 四字熟語 (よじじゅくご, four-kanji word), which also means “in love with each other” and is a synonym of 両思い.
I confessed my feelings to my crush and was surprised to know that, in fact, we had been in love with each other for a long time.
I’m in love with my senpai (but he/she is probably not interested in me) in my high school.
惚気る (norokeru) means “to talk about one’s lovey-dovey, happy relationship in a showy and braggy way”. For instance, a lot of new couples “inadvertently” 惚気る (talk about their lovey-dovey relationship) and give their friends a cringe. These types of talks are called “惚気話(のろけばなし, noroke banashi)”.
The kanji “惚” is also used in a few other love-related words, which are next explained below.
A: My boyfriend just called me and said, “I just wanted to hear your voice”😊
B: Would you stop talking about your lovey-dovey relationship? lol
一目惚れ (hitomi bore)
一目惚れ means “fall in love at first glance/sight”, where 一目 means “one glance” and 惚れ comes from the verb 惚(ほ)れる, meaning “be romantically attracted/fall in love with~”. You can also use this word to describe when you really like something (e.g. clothes) at first sight.
Related to this, there is also an interesting word 惚(ほ)れ直(なお)す, meaning “be attracted to or fall in love with someone again, as much as or more than one used to be in the past”. For instance, you may 惚れ直す if you are very sick and your partner takes care of you very kindly. However, note that this word can sound a little judgemental, and if you say “惚れ直した” to someone who is not intimate with you, it may irritate them very much (like, they might feel like “I don’t give a sh*t about how you feel about me”).
This morning, I fell in love with this girl I don’t know at the station.
I got attached to these clothes at first sight and bought them immediately.
My boyfriend threw a surprise party on my birthday, and I fell in love with him again.
出会(であ)い is a noun form of 出会(であ)う, which means “meet (someone)”, and it usually indicates an opportunity to meet one’s future partner. For instance, a myriad of Japanese people who are single often complain about the lack of 出会い, saying “出会いがない”, meaning “There is no opportunity to meet/find my future partner”. On the other hand, some people are lucky enough to have “運命的(うんめいてき)な出会い”, that is, “fateful meeting”.
Related to this, “出会い系(けい)” means “dating app/website”, but nowadays it sounds a bit outdated and many people prefer saying “マッチングアプリ” (“matching app”) instead. This is largely because 出会い系 sounds dodgier and more inappropriate than マッチングアプリ; the word 出会い系 was coined a very long time ago when those types of apps/websites were very dodgy/not safe.
社会人 (しゃかいじん) になってから、出会いがない。
Since I started working, I don’t have opportunities to meet and find my future partner.
ガチ恋 is a very deep slang word that means “to fall in love with someone whom you’re not supposed to have serious feelings for”, e.g. idols, Youtubers/Vtubers, anime characters, employees at host/hostess clubs, or other sorts of “entertainers”.
The person (or anime character) I stan is so handsome and I can’t help falling in love with him.
Other Love-Related Words & Phrases
Words including 恋
- 恋愛 (れんあい) and 恋 (こい): love, romance
(* 恋 sounds younger/sweeter than 恋愛)
- 初恋 (はつこい): first love/crush
- 失恋 (しつれん): be dumped by one’s crush/partner
- 〜と恋(こい)に落(お)ちる: fall in love with ~
- 恋(こい)バナ: a talk about one’s love/crush; a slang term used by young girls; バナ is short for 話(はなし)
Words for Action
- ~と付(つ)き合(あ)う: have a relationship with ~
- ~と別(わか)れる: break up with ~
- ~とデートする: have a date with ~
- ~を(デートに)誘(さそ)う: ask ~ out (for a date)
- 〜に振(ふ)られる: be dumped by ~
- ~に告白(こくはく)する: confess one’s feelings to ~
- ~と同棲（どうせい）する: live together with ~
- ~と婚約(こんやく)する: promise to marry ~
- ~と結婚 (けっこん)する: marry ~
- ~と離婚（りこん）する: divorce ~
- ~を口説(くど)く: chat up ~
- ~をナンパする: hit on/pick up ~
- マンネリ化(か)する: be in a rut
- 一夜(いちや)限(かぎ)りの関係(かんけい)/ワンナイトラブ: one-night stand
- ~と浮気 (うわき)する, 不倫 (ふりん)する: cheating on one’s partner (不倫 is particularly used when you cheat on your husband/wife and have a serious relationship with someone else)
- 電撃婚(でんげきこん): literally means “electric-shock marriage” and figuratively describes a marriage (of someone famous) that is a bolt out of the blue for many people, since almost nobody has known the relationship
- スピード婚(こん): to get married after a short dating period (e.g. 2 months)
- ラブラブ: lovey-dovey (See also: English Rhyming Words That Also Rhyme in Japanese)
- 尻(しり)に敷(し)く: (a wife) dominates her husband; literally, “put (your husband)” under your butt
Words for People
- 彼氏 (かれし)/彼女 (かのじょ): boy/girlfriend
- 元(もと)カレ/カノ : ex boy/girlfriend(s); カレ and カノ stand for 彼氏 and 彼女
- 妻 (つま)/奥(おく)さん: wife
- 夫 (おっと)/旦那 (だんな): husband
- 夫婦 (ふうふ): husband and wife
- 新婚(しんこん)カップル/夫婦: newlywed
- 好(すき)きな人(ひと): one’s crush/someone you like
- 気(き)になっている人: someone you’re interested in
- いい感(かん)じの人: someone you’ve been having a good relationship with recently
- タイプの人/好(この)みの人: a man/woman of your type
- 運命(うんめい)の人: soul mate
- ストライクゾーン: “strike zone”: a figure of speech for “one’s type” (See also: 11 Japanese Idioms and Metaphors about Baseball (Yakyū))
- 高嶺(たかね)の花(はな): literally “a flower at the top of a mountain” and figuratively “men/women out of your league”. See Idiom 高嶺の花 (takane no hana) Meaning “Out of Your League”
Japanese Sayings About Love
Literally means “Love is blind” and figuratively “People do not see the faults of their crush”.
Literally means “You’re the loser if you are the one who has fallen in love with someone” and figuratively “If you fall in love with someone, usually you are the one who makes lots of effort and compromises.”
Literally means “Even a dog does not eat a quarrel between husband and wife.” and figuratively “A quarrel between husband and wife is usually very boring/frivolous”.
If you lose money, you often lose your (shallow) relationship with your partner, “friends”, and relatives who aim to scrounge off you.
See also: Japanese Money-Related Idioms and Slang Words
月が綺麗ですね literally means “The moon is beautiful, isn’t it?”, but could also mean “I love you”. See the previous post below to know why.
“The moon is beautiful, isn’t it?” Could Mean “I love You” in Japanese
Words Related to Couple Events
バレンタインデー (Valentine’s Day)
Many girls give chocolates to guys on 14th Feb in Japan. There are three types of chocolates as follows:
- 本命 (ほんめい)チョコ: “serious chocolate”, i.e. Chocolates that girls give to their crush
- 義理 (ぎり)チョコ: “non-serious/obligation chocolate”, i.e. Chocolates that girls give to their male friends/colleagues
- 友(とも)チョコ: “friend chocolate”, i.e. Chocolates that girls give to their female friends
Clear (and Obvious) Differences 義理 and 本命 are:
- 義理チョコ: small and/or sold at コンビニ (convenience stores)
- 本命チョコ: large and homemade, often with a love letter
* In anime/manga, it’s common for female characters to mistakenly give their 義理チョコ to their crush and 本命チョコ to someone else, and start panicking.
In Japan, Christmas are important days for couples as well as for families, and nice hotels/restaurants/theme parks are very busy during that time.
- クリパ: short for クリスマスパーティー (Xmas party)
- クリぼっち : People who are ぼっち on Christmas day); ぼっち means “People who are alone/isolated”
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