高嶺の花(たかねのはな, takane no hana) is a Japanese idiomatic expression that literarily means ‘a flower at the top of a tall mountain’. Figuratively, it describes something or someone that are way out of your league and very difficult for you to achieve. In particular, it is often used by men to describe a beautiful girl whom they feel unqualified for or having a date with.
Related Word クラスのマドンナ (“Madonna in a classroom”)
クラスのマドンナ is a classic (slightly old-fashioned) Japanese phrase that literarily means ‘Madonna in one’s classroom’. Here, the word ‘Madonna’, the Virgin Mary, figuratively illustrates a beautiful and popular girl in one’s classroom at school, especially (junior) high school. You can replace クラス (classroom) with another group of people, as in ‘学校(がっこう)のマドンナ (Madonna at one’s school)’, ‘テニス部(ぶ)のマドンナ (Madonna in a tennis club)’, or ‘みんなのマドンナ (Madonna among everyone)’.
Word Structure：高嶺(たかね) and 花(はな)
高嶺 (たかね) consist of two characters ‘高(たか)’ meaning ‘high’ and 嶺(ね) meaning ‘the top of a mountain’, and 花(はな) means ‘flower’. The kanji character ‘嶺’ used in 高嶺 is usually read ‘みね’, and there are two other kanji characters that have the same meaning and reading: ‘峯’ and ‘峰’. There are scarcely any differences between them, and 峰 is probably the most common kanji character in modern Japanese.
Other Advanced Words That Contain ‘嶺’ or ‘峰’
最高峰 literarily means ‘the highest summit at the mountains’, and describes something or someone at an extremely high level.
2. 分水嶺 （ぶんすいれい）
分水嶺 is a highly advanced word that originally means ‘a watershed’, a mountain ridge that sends water into two different rivers on either side. As in ‘watershed’ in English, 分水嶺 is figuratively used to describe a very big turning point.
Because she is 高嶺の花 (a flower at the top of a tall mountain), I cannot confess my love to her at all.
For me, it is 高嶺の花 (a flower at the top of a tall mountain) to buy a house in Tokyo.
Synonyms: 雲の上の存在 (an existence above clouds: someone who you find by far superior to yourself, and respect from the bottom of your heart)
Synonyms in English: out of one’s league
Related Words: 花(はな) flower