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

This article will give you all the information you need on the Japanese word sugoi, including its meaning, use cases, origin, and more!

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What is the definition of sugoi?

Sugoi has a plethora of uses. Coto Academy details twenty different ways the word can be used in the Japanese language. Generally, it means “wow,” which is the closest English translation. The word can have a positive or a negative connotation, similar to “wow,” and is usually used when one is astonished, amazed, or overwhelmed. Sugoi can be used to react to anything that inspires a great emotion, good or bad. Japanese Ammo states that sugoi should only be used when something is really impressive that would make the speaker say “Wow!”

·      Sugoi can be used to describe something that appears nice in look or taste.

·      Sugoi can also be used sarcastically, particularly about how someone smells.

·      Sugoi can be used when one is happy for someone else.

·      Sugoi can be used when someone is awestruck by a performance.

·      Sugoi can be used as an adverb to indicate something good or bad.

·      Sugoi can be used to show excitement when someone is anticipating an event or date.

·      Sugoi can be used as slang, or to impersonate a teenage boy.

·      Sugoi can be used to evaluate how someone says something, i.e. if they have done a good or bad job breaking news to someone.

·      Sugoi can be used to express amazement at something beautiful.

·      Sugoi can be used as an adverb to express when one had a lot of fun, in praise or someone else, or to show relief.

·      Sugoi can be used when one wishes for someone else to express their opinion.

·      Sugoi can be used to describe something or someone creepy. Or when someone is scared.

·      Sugoi can be used to mention when someone looks sad.

·      Sugoi can be used to describe something foreboding.

·      Sugoi can be used to show that something interests someone.

“Sugoi dekai” is a common Japanese phrase that means “So big!” when translated to English. This is similar to the English term “Great!” in which one meaning of “great” can be “large” and the other is “wonderful,” or “fantastic.” This use case has become somewhat of a meme in English, and according to Know Your Meme, became associated with the character Uzaki Hana from Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out, an anime. Anime are Japanese animated TV shows. Uzaki wears a shirt with the phrase “sugoi dekai” on her shirt.

How can sugoi be used in sentences?

Japanese people use sugoi can be used whenever someone is blown away by something, and is fairly interchangeable with the word, “Wow!” It fits into the vocab of Japanese people as often as cool, or great, for Engligh speaking people. For example, the following would be good use cases to substitute “wow” with “sugoi.”

“Wow! I can’t believe how many loops that rollercoaster has! Isn’t it amazing!”

“Wow, those clouds look dark. We should go inside, it looks like there’s a storm brewing.”

“Wow, that guy is giving me the creeps. He’s been following us for three blocks. Let’s go into this store and let him pass us.”

Sugoi, or sugoi desu are very similar to the word “terrific” in English, in that its meaning can change depending on the context. Terrific, according to Grammarphobia, was originally used to describe things that inspire terror; things that were scary or terrifying were “terrific.” However, while the word can still be used that way, it is more often used to mean “great” or “awe-inspiring.” Similar to sugoi, the word can be used in both contexts.

However, sugoi is not entirely interchangeable with a word like “terrific.” In English, one could say the following and it would make perfect sense:

“Would you like to go to the movies?

“Yes! How about Friday night?”

“Terrific! I’ll pick you up at eight.”

However, in Japanese, if the word sugoi was used in place of terrific, it would make no sense. Choosing a time to go to the movies is not impressive, and it does not make someone say, “Wow!” The following would be an appropriate case to use sugoi in place of the word terrific.

“What did you think of the movie?”

“Terrific! I couldn’t believe the special effects they were able to pull off!”

In this case, the person was genuinely impressed and blown away by something. Sugoi could also be used sarcastically, like in the following case of using terrific:

“The repairs on your car are going to run you upwards of five thousand dollars.”

“Terrific. I’ll just sell a kidney.”

Overall, while sugoi is used frequently in Japanese speech, it does not have quite as much freedom as English words like cool, terrific, or awesome, and should only be used for things that would actually make someone say, “Wow.”

Is sugoi a formal or informal word?

Sugoi is mostly used in casual conversation, and would rarely be seen in business or other more formal discussions or negotiations. It is a word one can use with friends or family around their same age in daily conversations. Sugoi is generally considered slang, and would usually not be seen in formal speech, such as when one is addressing an elder or a Japanese teacher.

What does sugoi look like in Japanese?

According to BondLingo, sugoi can look differently in kanji versus kiragana, two of the different writing systems in Japanese. Hiragana and Katakana are phonetic, but Kanji is a system of symbols that can represent entire words or ideas. These have different meanings or pronunciations depending on context, according to Nihongo Master.

The kanji for sugoi is 凄 which is pronounced “sai” or “sai” when read by itself. However, the hiragana character い is added to the end to form “sugoi.”

In hiragana, sugoi is written as すごい, which is the phonetic pronunciation. It is common to see sugoi written in either way.

Overall, sugoi is very similar to the English word “wow” and is used to express excitement or astonishment. The word can have both negative or positive connotations depending on the context, and is an informal word. One would not see sugoi pop up in business negotiations or other formal conversations.

Sources:

  1. https://cotoacademy.com/20-ways-to-use-the-japanese-word-%E3%81%99%E3%81%94%E3%81%84-sugoi/
  2. https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/sugoi-dekai
  3. https://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2013/08/terror-terrific.html#:~:text=It%20was%20first%20recorded%20in,awe%2Dinspiring%3B%20sublime.%E2%80%9D
  4. https://www.japaneseammo.com/you-may-be-using-sugoi-and-kakkoii-wrong/
  5. https://bondlingo.tv/blog/omg-how-to-use-sugoi-in-japanese/#:~:text=the%20next%20section.-,%E5%87%84%20(sai%2C%20sei)%3A%20Meaning%20of%20Sugoi(%E3%81%99%E3%81%94%E3%81%84),i%2Dadjective%20%E2%80%9Csugoi.%E2%80%9D
  6. https://www.nihongomaster.com/blog/what-is-kanji/
  7. http://www.yesjapan.com/YJ6/question/2621/how-do-you-know-when-sugoi-is-positive-or-negative