51 Must-Know Japanese Adverbs

By Donald Ash | Japanese Expressions

51 Japanese Adverbs You Should Know

Time to go back to grammar school! If I asked you to tell me what an adverb is, what would you say?

If you don't teach English for living, you may draw a blank; it's nothing to be ashamed of.  How often does another native English speaker come up to you and say "Hey! How's it going, man? What's an adverb?" 

I'm willing to bet...almost never.  

But today, since we're looking an extensive list of Japanese adverbs, it helps to know what adverb is first.  

Let's piece together how to use some very common Japanese words & expressions by starting with a common reference point.

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What Is An Adverb?

"An adverb is a word that modifies a verb, adjective, another adverb, determiner, noun phrase, clause, preposition, or sentence. Adverbs typically express manner, place, time, frequency, degree, level of certainty, etc., answering questions such as how?, in what way?, when?, where?, and to what extent?"

In other words: Adverbs add more juicy details to verbs, adjective, other adverbs, etc.

How To Use an English Adverb - A Basic Example

Let's do a quick, simple, example of how to use an English adverb.  I'll start by showing a picture of a clown: 

Japanese Adverbs You Should Know

Perhaps I should've mentioned that it was Pennywise the Clown.  Not to scare any of you who are clown-sensitive, but bear with me.  Pennywise will make our brief example a bit stickier.

What's the first word that comes to mind when you see Pennywise? For me, "Scary" is the first word. So let's start with a simple sentence:

Pennywise the Clown is scary.

Now how can we make this sentence a little juicier? By adding an adverb of course!

Pennywise the Clown is insanely scary.

See the difference?  The word insanely (often words ending in -ly are adverbs) tells us just how frightening Pennywise is.  
Make sense? We'll stop with this example or we run the risk of turning this post into an English lesson.

Now that I've jogged your memory about what adverbs are and how to use them, his is a list of Japanese adverbs you should know!  Keep in mind that some phrases on this list may classify as nouns or even adjectives.  It's one of those fuzzy lines that get blurred when going from Japanese to English (and vice versa).  However, because many of these words have a similar, repetitive sound (mimetic words - 擬態語 | ぎたいご) I thought it made sense to group these together.  

**A Work in Progress**

This list of Japanese adverbs isn't a static page.  Think of this page as a resource that will be updated over time. If I find better example sentences to give, see things that need fixing, or find adverbs to further expand this list, I DEFINITELY will! 

Japanese Adverbs - Physical Characteristics

1. Kasa kasa カサカサ

Dry (Comes from the word kansou, which mean dry.)

Example: そのディスポーサブル手ぶくろをはめているから手はかさかさです。
Sono deisupo-saburute wo hamete iru kara, te ha kasa kasa desu.

My hands are dry from wearing those disposable gloves.

2. Sube sube すべすべ

Smooth, silky (Comes from the word suberi 滑り - which means sliding or slipping.)

Example: そるのあとかおがすべすべする。

Soru no ato, kao ga sube sube suru.

My face is smooth after I shave it.

Japanese Adverbs List

The expression すべすべ (sube sube) is an example of a Japanese adverbial expression for "smooth" (usually referring to skin). In this picture, we have Haruka Ayase, who is famous in Japan for her smooth skin. I also think she's cute 😀

3. Funya funya ふにゃふにゃ

Wrinkly (This expression can also mean flabby.)

Example: お風呂に出た時手はふにゃふにゃになった。
Ofuro ni deta toki te ha hunya hunya ni natta.

When I got out of the tub, my hands were all wrinkly.

4. Tsuru tsuru つるつる

Smooth or Slick
It's hard for me to forget this one, as kindergarten children will rub my freshly shaven, bald head and say it over and over again.

Japanese Adverbs List

Saitama's head is the perfect, Japanese Otaku example of つるつる。

Japanese Adverbs - Emotional Expressions

5. Labu labu ラブラブ

In love (Head Over Heels)
Great example of when to use it: I often hear this one used by itself.  But if we were using this in a sentence, you'd probably follow it with the verb suru - する.

I would hear this when teaching young, Japanese students would see me doing a classroom demonstration with a female teacher or giving a female teacher a high five.  When you see a potentially romantic situation you'd just say "Labu Labu." 

I hear it more from children, or adult Japanese women pretending to be young children, than anything.

6. Ira ira イライラ

Frustrating or irritating (Comes from the word iratsuku イラつく which means to get irritated.)

Example: ガルフレンドとイライラした
Garufrendo to iraira shita

I'm irritated with my girlfriend.

7. Peko peko ペコペコ


Example: おんなかがぺこぺこです!
Onnaka ga peko peko desu!

I'm starving!

8. Waku waku わくわく


Example: そのしあいはわくわくした!
Sono K-1 shiai ha wakuwaku shita!

That was an exciting K-1 tournament.

9. Hara hara ハラハラ

To fee anxious, nervous, or thrilled

Japanese Adverbs - Onomatopoeic Expressions

10. Doki doki ドキドキ


Example: 電車できれいな女の人はとなりに座ったと時ドキドキした。
Densha de kireina onna no hito ha tonari ni suwatta toki dokidoki shita.

My heart start beating fast when the beautiful woman sat next to me on the train.

11. Hamu hamu ハムハム

Nibble, Munch (the sound of nibbling or munching)

12. Goku goku ごくごく

Drinking (Gulping)

Example: 難しいうんどうするのあと水をごくごく飲みたい。
Muzukashii undo suru no ato mizu wo goku goku nomitai

After doing hard exercise I want to chug some water.

13. Goshi goshi ゴシゴシ

Scrub (Sound of scrubbing)

Example: キラーは床の上のちをごしごし洗った。
Kira ha yuka no ue no chi wo goshi goshi aratta.

The killer scrubbed the blood from the kitchen floor.

14. Kun Kun クンクン


Example: いぬは子どものおしりをくんくんかいだ。
Inu ha kodomo no oshiri wo kun kun kaida。Add 

The dog sniffed the child's butt.

15. Mogu mogu もぐもぐ

Chewing (food)

Example: ロックリーはレストランでナルトとラメンをもぐもぐと食べました。
Rokku Ri- ha restoran de Naruto to ramen wo mogu mogu to tabemashita.

Rock Lee ate ramen with Naruto at a restaurant.

51 Japanese Adverbs You Should Know

16. Gari gari がりがり

Crunching, Chewing/Crushing Something Hard

17. Kari kari カリカリ

Crisp, Crunch (think potato chips)

18. Zuru zuru ずるずる

Dragging a heavy object

Example: くうこうのゆかでスツケースをずるずると持った。
Kukou no yuka de sutsukesu wo zuruzuru to motta。

I dragged my suitcase along the airport floor.

Know these Japanese adverbs already? Test yourself! Click here!

Japanese Adverbs - Expressions for Texture

19. Mochi mochi ずるずる

Springy, doughy, elastic

20. Neba neba ネバネバ


Example: くうこうのゆかでスツケースをずるずると持った。
Kukou no yuka de sutsukesu wo zuruzuru to motta。

I dragged my suitcase along the airport floor.

21. Nuru nuru ぬるぬる

Slimy or Slippery

Example: この居たチョッコはおいしいけどねばねばだ。
Kono itachoko ha oishi kedo neba neba da.

This chocolate bar is tasty but sticky.

22. Saku saku サクサク

Crunchy, flaky

Example: バッターフィンガーは一番おいしいさくさくの居たチョッコ。
Butterfinger ha ichiban oishii sakusaku no itachoco.

Buttterfingers are the best tasting, crunchy chocolate bar.

51 Japanese Adverbs

Japanese Adverbs - Magnitude, Variety, & Time

23. Motto motto もっともっと

More and More

Example: もっともっと欲しい。
Motto Motto hoshii

To want more and more

24. Iro iro もっともっと

All Sorts of, Variety of

Example: ジェリーベリーはいろいろなおいしい味があるよ。
Jelly Belly wa iroirona oishi aji ga aru yo.

Jelly belly have many delicious flavors.

51 Japanese Adverbs

25. Dan dan だんだん


Example: ここにだんだん暑くなってふくは全部ぬいで。
Koko ni dandan atsukunatte fuku ha zenbu nuide.

It's getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes.

26. Don don どんどん

Rapidly, Quickly, Steadily

Example: ネオはマトリクスをどんどん分てた。
Neo ha Matrix wo don don wakateta。

Neo began to quickly understand the Matrix

27. Mada mada まだまだ

To still have more to go.  More to come.

Example: フェラーリを買っている?いいえお金がまだまだたりない。
Ferrari wo katte iru? Iie okane ga mada mada tarinai.

Are you buying a Ferrari? No, no, I still don't have enough money yet.

28. Masu masu ますます

Increasingly. More and More.

Example: ガソリンはますますあがる。ハイブリッドを買うかな?
Gasorin no bukka ha masu masu agaru.  Hybrido wo kau kana?

Gas prices are rising more and more.  Maybe I should buy a hybrid?

29. Soro soro そろそろ

Soon. Steadily.

Example: そろそろ終わりかな?そろそろ終わりかな?終わり。
Soro soro owari kana? Soro soro owari kana. Owari.

I wonder if it will end soon? (from the Algorithm March)

30. Meccha meccha めっちゃめっちゃ


I think this word is used more by younger people as I don't hear many adults using it.

31. Gun gun ぐんぐん


32. Giri giri ギリギリ

Just barely

Example: ぎりぎりで仕事に間に合った。
Giri giri de shigoto ni maniatta。

I barely made it to work on time.

33. Zun zun  ずんずん

Rapidly, Quickly

34. Noro noro のろのろ

Slowly, Sluggishly

Kono furui pasokon ha noronoro hashiteiru。

This old computer is running very slowly.

35. Dara dara だらだら

Endlessly, Lengthily, Leisurely, Slowly

Example: デートはだらだらつづいた
De-to ha daradara to tsuduita。

The date dragged on.

Japanese Adverbs & Japanese Adjective Expressions

36. Atsu atsu あつあつ

Piping Hot

37. Doro doro  ドロドロ

Muddled, Muddy, Syrupy

38. Kin kin きんきん

Shrill sound (adverb); Ice cold (な- adjective)

39. Gucha gucha ぐちゃぐちゃ

Sloppy, Dirty

Japanese Adverbs - Japanese Cooking-Related Expressions

40. Futsu futsu ふつふつ

To bubble over or bubble out (as in a pot boiling over)

This one can also refer to someone's temper "boling over"futsu futsu okoru = burning/bubbling rage

41. Gutsu gutsu ぐつぐつ

Simmering, Boiling Gently

42. Waza waza わざわざ

Expressly, Specially

Example: わざわざありがとう。
Waza waza arigatou。

I sincerely want to thank you

Test Your Japanese Adverb Skills!

Want to put your Japanese adverb skills to the test?
Try this brief quiz and see how you do!

Japanese Adverbs - Action/Movement

43. Yura yura ゆらゆら

Swaying, Swinging, Wavering

Example: 風で木はゆらゆらしている.
Kaze de ki wa yura yura shite iru。

The trees were swaying in the wind.

44. Butsu butsu ぶつぶつ

Mutter, Grumble, Complain

Example: 生徒たちはいつも宿題が多すぎとぶつぶつ言った。
Seito tachi ha istumo shukudai ga oosugi to butsubutsu itta。

The students are always complaining about too much homework.

45. Icha icha イチャイチャ

Flirting, Making Out

51 Japanese Adverbs You Should Know

Other Japanese Adverbs

46. Muzu muzu ムズムズ

Impatient, To Be Eager, To feel itchy (noun)

Example: 彼は納豆を良く食べていたから歯磨きをむずむずしたかった。
Kare ha natto wo yoku tabeteita kara hamigaki wo muzumuzu shitakatta.

Because he was eating a lot of natto, he quickly wanted to brush his teeth.

47. Tama tama たまたま

Casually, Unexpectedly, By Chance

Example: 六本木でたまたまトーミリージョヌズに会った。
Roppongi de tamatma Tommy Lee Jones ni atta。

I happened to run into Tommy Lee Jones in Roppongi.
-true story by the way 😀 

48. Niko niko ニコニコ

Smilingly, With A Friendly Grin

Example: 彼女はにこにこしながら背中へナイフをつきさした。
Kanojo ha nikoniko shinagara senaka he naifu wo tsukisashita。

She smiled as she stabbed me in the back with a knife.

51 Japanese Adverbs

49. Waza waza わざわざ

Expressly, Specially

Example: わざわざありがとう。
Waza waza arigatou。

I sincerely want to thank you

50. Uzo uzo うぞうぞ

Irrepressibly Aroused (Esp. Sexually)

Threw this one in to see who was gonna read until the very end.  Hehehe...ENJOY!

51 Japanese Adverbs You Should Know

51. Pera pera ペラペラ

Fluently (Speaking a Foreign Language)

Example: 日本語がぺらぺらだよ。
Nihongo ga pera pera da yo。

I'm fluent in Japanese.

Even More Japanese Adverbs

Betsu betsu べつべつ

Separately, Individually

You hear this at restaurants. When it's time to pay the check, if you don't want to pay one big check, you can say 「べつべつ」to pay individually. This really helps when your friends drink but you don't.  I know it sounds like penny pinching, but after you go out a few times with people who drink a lot, see what happens to your tab!

Kira kira キラキラ

Glittering, Sparkling, Twinkling

Mecha kucha メチャクチャ 

Disorder, Mess | Unreasonable

Guru guru ぐるぐる

Round and Round


Although it takes time to figure out exactly when and how to use these during conversation, just being familiar with them can make a huge difference in what you can glean from conversations.  

Using these expressions can also provide subtle clues into Japanese grammar patterns.

Ask Yourself These Questions

Is the adverbial expression followed by "する?" Something else? Do I use it at the beginning of a sentence? At the end?

Although it takes time to figure out exactly when and how to use these during conversation (I'm still learning),
just being familiar with them can make a huge difference in what you can glean from conversations.  

Test Your Japanese Adverb Skills!

You made it do the end of this list! Hooray! Now it's time to test your skills.
Click that red button and see how you do...


About the Author

Donald Ash is an Atlanta, Georgia-born, American expat who has been living in a Japanese time warp for the last eleven years. While in that time warp, he discovered that he absolutely loves writing, blogging, and sharing. Donald is the creator of thejapanguy.com blog. Wanna know more about this guy? Check out his "What's Your Story" page.

  • Kobuta says:

    I think Nr. 36 Atsu atsu should be VERY Hot and not VERY Hold 😀
    But thanks for this list. It will help a lot during my 1 year in japan 😀

  • Fran Ferran says:

    I always thought pera pera meant ‘so-so’. It just sounds that way to me so thanks thanks for enlightening me..:-)

  • Cesca says:

    This is one of the things I’ve noticed and really like about the
    Japanese language! (namely the way they use repetition in phrases) I think my favorite is じろじろ like in じろじろ見ないで (don’t stare at me)

    • thejapanguy says:

      『じろじろ見ないで』is a HUGE! One of my personal favorites 😉
      I’m really glad you commented otherwise I may have forgotten all about it.
      Thanks, Cesca.

      • Cesca says:

        haha glad I was able to bring it back in your memory! There are certainly a lot of these phrases to keep track of.

  • Jacob says:

    If you like “deja vu” words, or 擬態語(gitaigo) in Japanese, then you will love 五味太郎/Gomi Tarou’s book “日本語擬態語辞典 (Nihongo Gitaigo Jiten)” If you search for it in English it is “An Illustrated Dictionary of Japanese Onomatopoeic Expressions.” The book has over 100 words with a picture, definition, and example for each one.

  • Jan Gerritsen says:

    I guess that in the romaji of # 3 the word (te)bukuro is missing? Sono deisupo-saburu tebukuro wo hamete iru kara, te ha kasa kasa desu.

  • 滋英鼓舞 says:

    きらきら which is like sparkle, sparkle. It basically means that something is shiny like glass, crystal, a person’s smile, ect…

  • Nicole says:

    I loved the example for 27…. This one is probably obvious but ‘betsu betsu’ ベツベツ,
    べつべつ = separate. Use it at a restaurant to ask to pay separately. I love how in Japan, restaurant staff will happily split the bill no matter how many ways, it’s so nice compared to Australia and probably many other countries 🙂

  • J.T. Dawgzone says:

    What’s the difference between saying “nemu nemu” and “nemui”? Is the former more informal or childish?

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