The Meaning of Nani: What It Is and How To Use It

This article will provide all the relevant information you need on the word nani, including its translation and definition, origin, example usage, and more!

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What does the word nani mean?

According to Thought Co., nani (何 (なに)) is a Japanese word that means “what.” Depending on context, one may also use nan (なん). Nani is the more formal or polite term for what, while nan is more casual and informal. This word is often used in questions, like “what time is it?” or “what do you recommend?” but can also be used on its own to create a simple “what?” Its singular use is similar to the phrase “I beg your pardon?” or “excuse me?” according to Urban Dictionary.

Ulukau Hawaiian Dictionary also states that the word nani is commonly used in the Hawaiian language. Here, it means beauty, glory, or splendor. It can also be used as an adjective to mean beautiful or pretty, or a verb meaning to make beautiful, decorate, or honor. The word nani is also used to mean a beautiful flower or a good thing. Nani is also one of many Hawaiian baby names. The name nani means beauty or glory, according to Behind The Name

NANI is also an acronym. This abbreviation can stand for numerous different things, which are listed below from Acronym Finder and Abbreviations

  • National Advertising Network, Inc.
  • National Amusement Network, Inc.
  • National Alliance of Nonprofits for Insurance
  • Nephrology Associates of North Illinois
  • National Academy of Nannies, Inc.
  • Nigeria Association Network Ireland

Where is the word and name Nani seen in popular culture?

The word nani makes a few different appearances in popular culture. The first is from a character named Kenshiro in the popular anime and manga series Hokuto no Ken, or Fist of the North Star. According to Medium, Kenshiro is an expert on a style of martial arts called Hokuto Shinken, in which he attacks his opponent’s pressure points and they explode a few seconds later.

However, at first it does not appear that Kenshiro has done any damage, so his opponents taunt him for his weak punches. Then Kenshiro utters his famous line, “Omae wa mou shindeiru,” which means “you are already dead.” Then, the opponents reply with “Nani?!” and then explode. This has become a popular internet meme.

Nani Pelekai is a main character in Disney’s 2002 feature film Lilo & Stitch. According to Fandom, she is the main character Lilo’s older sister and legal guardian after the death of their parents in a car crash. The story is set in Hawaii and Nani is a native HAwaiian, which is where she gets her name. 

Nani is only nineteen and responsible for supporting both herself and Lilo. She is very stressed about providing for her family, particularly when social worker Cobra Bubbles threatens to take Lilo away if Nani is unable to hold down a full-time job. Nani is kind and mature, but has a short temper and gets stressed out easily. The character Nani is voiced by Tia Carrere and appears in numerous Lilo & Stitch feature films, television shows, video games, and theme park attractions.

Transfer Market also states that Nani is the nickname of a Portuguese footballer named Luís Carlos Almeida da Cunha. He currently plays for Orlando City SC, but previously played for the famous Manchester United. His main position is left winger.

What are synonyms in English for the word nani?

In Japanese, the word nani means “what.” There are numerous different synonyms from Oxford Languages one can use in English to mean “what” as an interjection on its own. If it was to be used in a sentence, the person would simply use the word “what.”

  • Huh?
  • Excuse me?
  • I beg your pardon?
  • Pardon me?
  • Say again?
  • Come again?
  • Sorry?

In Hawaiian, the word nani means beautiful. Below are numerous English synonyms for the word beautiful from Thesaurus.

  • Pretty
  • Attractive
  • Alluring
  • Appealing
  • Charming
  • Cute
  • Delightful
  • Elegant
  • Exquisite
  • Fine
  • Good-looking
  • Gorgeous
  • Handsome
  • Lovely
  • Pleasing
  • Splendid
  • Stunning
  • Beauteous
  • Comely
  • Enticing
  • Divine
  • Fair
  • Radiant
  • Ravishing
  • Sightly
  • Sublime
  • Taking

How can the word nani be used in a sentence?

Usually, one would not use the word nani with English-speakers. They may not know what the word means, particularly if they are unfamiliar with the term in either Japanese or Hawaiian. This word is especially confusing since it has different meanings in different languages. Therefore, it is usually best to stick with an English translation if one is speaking to someone who does not speak Japanese or Hawaiian. However, if two people are both familiar with the word nani, they can use the word.

In the first example, Kaia and Kailani are two sisters whose parents are Hawaiian and speak Hawaiian at home. They are out shopping at a mall, trying on clothing. Kaia exits the dressing room.

Kaia: What do you think?

Kailiani: Nani loa! (So pretty!) I love it! You should totally get it.

Kaia: I’m definitely going to. It’ll be perfect for the first day of school.

In the next example, Tony and Johnny watch anime together and are familiar with the Japanese definition of nani. They play a video game together after school.

Tony: Watch this. If I press this button sequence, it takes out their whole team and gives us time to strike.

Johnny: Nani?! That’s awesome!

Here, Tony and Nani are both familiar with the Japanese meaning of the word nani, so Tony is not confused when Johnny uses it.

Overall, the word nani means “what” in Japanese. It is also a Hawaiian name that means beauty or glory, as well as a common Hawaiian word. The word nani is most popularly seen as a name or in different anime series.