Beginning Vocabulary: Adjectives

This is a list of useful adjectives for beginners, plus some notes on usage and other interesting tidbits. It is not meant to be exhaustive.

In Japanese, as in English, there are a large number of synonyms and near synonyms. This page sticks to very general words that are nearly always safe to use in the same way as the given English equivalents.

Recommended Background:

  • Japanese Adjectives – introduction to all four classes of adjectives and how to use them, conjugating to negative form


For na- and no-adjectives, a na or no will be included in parentheses, and attributives will be marked explicitly as such. You can safely assume that anything else is an i-adjective.

In translations, a comma (,) separates English words with the roughly the same meaning, while a semicolon (;) separates multiple, distinct meanings.


Hiragana Romaji Meaning
おおきい ookii big, large
ちいさい chiisai small
*いい・よい *ii/yoi good
わるい warui bad
すごい sugoi great, amazing
あたらしい atarashii new
ふるい furui old
ちかい chikai near
とおい tooi far
**はやい **hayai fast; early
おそい osoi slow; late
***たかい ***takai high; expensive
ひくい hikui low
やすい yasui cheap, inexpensive

*Ii and yoi mean exactly the same thing, but ii is usually used for the root form while only yoi can be conjugated, so the negative form of ii is always yokunai.

**One Japanese adjective often covers the meanings of two words that we would consider completely separate in English, while in other cases Japanese may distinguish nuances that English does not. Hayai and osoi are a perfect example of a pair of Japanese adjectives that completely combine two concepts that English distinguishes (time and speed) into one.

***Takai also covers two English adjectives, "high" and "expensive", but has a separate opposite for each of these meanings: hikui for "low" and yasui for "cheap".


Hiragana Romaji Meaning
きれい(な) kirei (na) pretty; clean
*きたない *kitanai dirty
うるさい urusai loud, noisy
しずか(な) shizuka (na) quiet
**おいしい **oishii delicious, tasty
まずい mazui bad tasting

*Some i-adjectives end in nai even in their root form. This does not mean that they are already negated.

**In English we normally refer to food as being "good" or "bad", with "delicious" being somewhat stronger in meaning, but in Japanese oishii and mazui are the most common words used.


Colors are covered on a separate page.

People, Feelings

Hiragana Romaji Meaning
わかい wakai young
*toshi wo totteiru old (people only)
しんせつ(な) shinsetsu (na) kind
**ふしんせつ(な) **fushinsetsu (na) unkind
うれしい ureshii happy
かなしい kanashii sad

*The opposite of wakai is not an adjective but a verb phrase. People are not referred to as being "old" in Japanese, but as "having taken years". Use the plain form as a modifier and the polite form as a predicate in formal speech.

**The "fu" in fushinsetsu is equivalent to the English prefix "un-". There are several other negative prefixes in Japanese, just as there are in English (in-, ab-, anti-), and it's not always possible to predict which ones can be used with which words.


Hiragana Romaji Meaning
たのしい tanoshii fun, exciting
つまらない tsumaranai boring
やさしい yasashii easy (endeavors); nice, kind (people)
むずかしい muzukashii hard, difficult
べんり(な) benri (na) convenient, useful
ふべん(な) fuben (na) inconvenient

See Also

Basic Japanese Vocabulary

Colors in Japanese

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