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

Do you know the definition of arigato? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the Japanese word arigato, including its definition, usage, etymology, and more!

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What does the word arigato mean?

According to Japanese Pod 101, the phrase arigato is the polite form of thank you in Japanese. This word is often used in the formal phrase “domo arigato,” the Japanese equivalent to “thank you so much,” but can also be used on its own as a casual thanks. People also use the word domo on its own as an even more casual form of thanks. The kanji of arigato (sometimes spelled arigatou) is 有り難う, and the common hiragana spelling is ありがとう, according to Voyapon. The kanji characters of arigato literally mean “to have difficult.” Therefore, this word literally translates to “it is difficult to have it, so I am thankful.” Alternate ways to say thank you in various levels of formality are domo (or doumo), arigato gozaimasu, and domo arigato gozaimasu. It is very important to learn how to say please and thank you, along with other basic words and phrases, if you are going to be traveling abroad. This will show others that you are polite and friendly, even if you might be a beginner at the language. There are many different ways to say thank you and to show appreciation in Japanese, ranging from formal ways and polite ways to a casual, less polite version. Use domo arigato if you want a polite way of saying thank you.

Many different languages have their own way of saying thank you, like how the Japanese use domo arigato and we use thanks. You may notice that some of these words look and sound similar to each other. These are called cognates, which are words and phrases that look, sound and mean the same thing across different languages. These are often formed when two words or languages have the same root or language of origin such as Latin or Greek. This list of translations is provided by Word Sense

  • Ossetian: бузныг‎
  • Afrikaans: dankie‎, baie dankie‎
  • Dhivehi: ޝުކުރިއްޔާ‎
  • Tongan: mālō‎
  • Yoruba: e se‎
  • Swedish: tack‎
  • Cornish: meur ras‎
  • Yiddish: אַ דאַנק‎, אַ דאַנק דיר‎
  • Persian: ممنونم‎ (mamnúnam) (Iran, formal), متشکرم‎, مرسی‎ (mérsi) (informal), تشکر‎ (tašákur) (Afghanistan), سپاسگزارم‎ (sepasgozaram), سپاس‎ (sepâs)
  • Võro: aiteh‎
  • Hebrew: תּוֹדָה‎ (todá)
  • Tok Pisin: tenkyu‎
  • Omaha-Ponca: wiblaho‎
  • Basque: eskerrik asko‎, mila esker‎
  • Gilbertese: ko rabwa‎, kam rabwa‎ (to several people)
  • Marathi: धन्यवाद‎
  • Zulu: ngiyabonga‎
  • Greek: ευχαριστώ‎
  • Belarusian: дзя́кую‎, дзя́куй‎
  • Ngarrindjeri: anu nginti‎
  • Kildin Sami: пассьпе‎ (pass’pe)
  • Oriya: ଧନ୍ୟବାଦ୍‎ (dhanyabād)
  • German: danke‎, danke schön‎, vielen Dank‎
  • Khmer: អរគុណ‎ (ɑɑ kun)
  • Navajo: ahéheeʼ‎
  • Ngazidja Comorian: marahaɓa‎, asanta‎
  • Kannada: ಧನ್ಯವಾದ‎
  • Yakut: баһыыба‎
  • Hiligaynon: salamat‎
  • Portuguese: obrigado‎ (said by male), obrigada‎ (said by female), bem haja‎, muito obrigado‎
  • Slovene: hvála‎
  • Thai: ขอบคุณ‎ (kɔ̀ɔp kun)
  • Occitan: mercé‎
  • Nepali: धन्यवाद‎
  • Rwanda-Rundi: urakoze‎
  • Ojibwe: miigwech‎, chi-miigwech‎, gichi-miigwech‎
  • South Azerbaijani: تشکر ادرم‎ (tesekkur edirem)
  • Eastern Mari: тау‎
  • Western Panjabi: شُکریا‎ (šukriya)
  • Cebuano: salamat‎
  • Mandarin: 謝謝‎, 谢谢‎ (xièxie), 多謝‎, 多谢‎ (duōxiè), 三Q‎ (sān-Q) (slang), 感謝您‎ (formal), 感谢您‎ (gǎnxiè nín)
  • Chechen: баркал‎
  • Quechua: agradiseyki‎
  • Romansch: engraziel fetg‎
  • Haitian Creole: mèsi‎
  • Tswana: ke a leboga‎
  • Slovak: ďakujem‎ (I thank you), ďakujeme‎ (we thank you)
  • Tagalog: salamat‎
  • Lakota: philámayaye‎ (I thank you singular), philámayayapi‎ (I thank you all)
  • Somali: mahadsanid‎
  • Igbo: dalu‎
  • Dutch: dank je‎, (formal) dank u‎, bedankt‎
  • Faroese: takk‎, takk fyri‎, tøkk‎
  • Karachay-Balkar: сау бол‎
  • Inari Sami: takkâ‎, kijtto‎
  • Veps: kitän‎
  • Skolt Sami: späʹsseb‎
  • Ido: danko‎, me dankas‎
  • Cyrillic: тəшəккүр‎, сағ ол‎, тəшəккүр едирəм‎, чох разыjам‎
  • Hausa: na gode‎
  • Twi: me da wo ase‎
  • Breton: trugarez‎
  • Serbo-Croatian:
  • Lithuanian: ačiū‎
  • Tahitian: māuruuru‎
  • Malayalam: നന്‌റി‎
  • Oromo: maharaba‎
  • Balinese: suksma‎
  • Cyrillic: хвала‎
  • Macedonian: благо́дарам‎, (colloquial) фа́ла‎
  • Lao: ຂອບໃຈ‎
  • Swahili: asante‎, shukrani‎
  • Manx: gura mie ayd‎
  • Nahuatl: tlazohcamati‎
  • Samoan: fa’afetai‎
  • Assamese: ধনাবাদ‎ (dhanybaada)
  • Min Dong: 謝謝‎, 谢谢‎ (siâ-siâ)
  • Maltese: grazzi‎
  • Moksha: сюконян пек‎
  • Arabic: شُكْراً‎
  • Sinhalese: ඉස්තුති‎, ස්තුති‎
  • Uzbek: rahmat‎
  • Kyrgyz: рахмат‎, ыракмат‎
  • Maori: kia ora‎
  • Abkhaz: иҭабуп‎
  • Spanish: gracias‎, muchas gracias‎
  • Bavarian: danksche‎
  • Malagasy: misaotra‎
  • Inupiak: quyanaq‎
  • Tibetan: ཐུགས་རྗེ་ཆེ‎
  • Northern Sami: giitu‎
  • Ukrainian: дя́кую‎, спаси́бi‎
  • Javanese: hatur nuwun‎, nuwun sewu‎ (many thanks, million thanks)
  • Latin: benignē dīcis‎, tibi gratiās agō‎, (informal) gratiās‎ (fem. pl.), gratiās agō‎
  • Aromanian: haristo‎
  • Udihe: асаса‎ (asasa)
  • Sundanese: nuhun‎, hatur nuhun‎
  • French: merci‎, je vous remercie‎, merci bien‎ (formally)
  • Zazaki: teşekur kenam‎
  • Bengali: ধন্যবাদ‎ (dhonnobad)
  • Danish: tak‎
  • Jingpho: chyeju kaba sai yaw‎
  • Cyrillic: мулцумеск‎, мерси‎
  • Greenlandic: qujanaq‎
  • Choctaw: yakokí‎
  • Aramaic: ܬܘܕܝ‎ (tawdi)
  • Hindi: धन्यवाद‎, शुक्रिया‎, थैंक्यू‎ (colloquial), थैंक्स‎
  • Ume Sami: gijtuov‎
  • Albanian: faleminderit‎, ju falem nderit‎
  • Isan: ขอบใจ‎ (kɔ̀ɔp jai)
  • Tatar: рәхмәт‎
  • Norwegian: takk‎
  • Vietnamese: cám ơn‎ (感恩‎) (plus one of: ông‎, bà, cô, anh, chị‎, em, quí vị‎ – depending on subject of gratitude), cảm ơn‎, đa tạ‎
  • Mansi: пумасипа‎ (pumasipa)
  • Lower Sorbian: źěkujom se‎
  • Urdu: دھنیہ واد‎ (dhanya-vād), شکریہ‎ (śukriyā), نوازش‎ (nevāziś)
  • Italian: grazie‎
  • Pashto: مہربانی‎ (mehrbani)
  • Kazakh: рахмет‎, рақмет‎
  • Turkmen: sag boluň‎, spasiba‎
  • Southern Sami: gæjhtoe‎, gudtsien‎ (about food)
  • Burmese: ကျေးဇူးတင်ပါတယ်‎
  • Sanskrit: अनुगृहीतोऽस्मि‎, धन्यवादः‎
  • Cherokee: ᎠᎾᎵᎮᎵᎬ‎
  • Sorbian:
  • Indonesian: terimakasih‎, terima kasih‎, makasih‎ (informal)
  • Welsh: diolch‎
  • Roman: hvala‎
  • Bhojpuri: धन्यवाद‎ (dhanyavad)
  • Telugu: ధన్యవాదాలు‎
  • Yup’ik: quyana‎
  • Svan: ივასუ ხარი‎
  • Chuvash: тав‎
  • Mongolian: баярлалаа‎, гялайлаа‎
  • Fijian: vinaka‎

What is the origin of the word arigato?

According to Dictionary,  despite popular speculation that the word arigato is from the Portuguese word obrigado, meaning thank you, arigato has been used in Japan far prior to contact with Portugal. The word arigato comes from the Japanese words arigatashi (“to be”) and katai (“difficult”). This word literally means “being alive is hard.” Arigato began to be used to express gratitude despite life’s challenges and eventually morphed into “thank you.” This word became popular in the United Stated in the 1980s with the hit song “Mr. Roboto” from Dennig DeYoung on Styx’s 1983 concept album Kilroy Was Here. The famous lyrics of the song go, “domo arigato, Mr. Roboto.” Due to this sons’s popularity, the phrase is no longer only used in Tokyo or Osaka, but around the globe as a thankyou!

Overall, the word arigato is the Japanese word for thank you. This word became used in the United States in the 1980s, and has remained popular ever since. Using arigato alone is a slang word or common form of domo arigatou, one of the formal ways to express thanks. This is often used by foreigners. The short version and simplest way to express thanks is domo, which would be the common form used among close friends. 

Sources:

  1. https://www.wordsense.eu/arigato/
  2. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/arigato#:~:text=Despite%20popular%20speculation%20that%20arigato,%E2%80%9Cbeing%20alive%20is%20hard.%E2%80%9D
  3. https://www.japanesepod101.com/lesson/absolute-beginner-questions-answered-by-hiroko-8-arigato-or-domo/
  4. https://voyapon.com/thank-japanese-arigatou/