What does Umai mean in Japanese?

What does Umai mean in Japanese?

If you're planning to visit Japan soon and want to sound like a local, you should learn the meaning of the word "Umai". Simply translated as "delicious", there are actually a few nuances to this word. In this article we'll explore where it comes from, and teach you how to use it in Japanese conversation!


What Is The Meaning Of Umai In Japanese?




If you are a fan of anime (Demon Slayer, to be precise), you might have heard the word "Umai" used by the one and only flame Hashira Rengoku and Luffy from one piece many times. Well, luckily, you can finally learn what it means. Umai (うまい, 上手い) is a Japanese word that can be translated to , clever, good, favorable, or skilled whereas Umai (うまい, 旨い) means delicious. Basically, it is a positive phrase that compliments something. It is used when eating to compliment a tasty food; it can also be used as a compliment for someone to praise their skills or commend them for a brilliant idea. It is much more informal than the term "oishii" 美味しい, so you can't say it in formal settings. 

There are different kanji characters for "umai" to indicate the context in which it is used. For example, the hiragana script is written as うまい, but when it is used to praise a skill, it is written as 上手い, and when it is used to express how tasty a meal is, it can be represented with 旨いor 美味いwhich is similar to the kanji used for "oishii." 


Are Umai And Oishii The Same?


Luffy Eating Umai


Before using either "Umai" or "Oishii," you must ascertain the discussed topic. For example, if the topic being discussed is food, both words could mean "tasty" or "delicious," and you can even write them the same way (美味い and 美味しい, respectively). However, one difference between them is how polite it sounds when it is used. "Umai" is more casual and can be used while talking to friends only; however, "oishii" is much more formal and can be used with strangers as a polite way of complimenting the tastiness of the food. Another difference is that while "umai" is diverse and can be used for other instances, "oishii" is only used for the tastiness of the food.

In numerous Japanese textbooks or courses, "oishii" is the word that is mostly used as opposed to "Umai" because it is much more formal. On the other hand, "Umai" is much more vulgar, and it is a kind of slang most commonly used by males compared to women.


Umai as in Umaibo




Yes, the popular snack Umaibo (うまい棒) that we always feature in our snack boxes takes is name from the word umai as described above!

The Japanese snack known as umaibo, or "delicious stick," is a cylindrical piece of puffed maize. Riska produces it, and Yaokin sells it. Umaibo comes in a variety of tastes, including savory ones like salad, mentaiko, takoyaki, and cheese, as well as sweet ones like cocoa, caramel, and chocolate. To maintain interest and establish trends, new and unusual flavors are frequently introduced and rotated out as limited-time offerings. The logo features a cat with a round head and no ears, much like Doraemon.

Umaibo is an updated version of the corn-puff snack known as "Umaimai Bar." The product, which was first introduced in July 1979 and was often offered in confectionery stores, was first targeted at kids and teenagers on a tight budget. It became popular beyond just candy stores, and was soon sold everywhere, including the omnipresent Japanese convenience stores (konbini) and supermarkets.


What Is Umma?


If "umai" is a casual way of saying food is tasty, "umma" is a more trivial and offhand way of saying (the food is) so good. While saying "umma" (うっま), the pitch is higher to show emotion and to imply that the taste of the food is so delicious that it has surpassed the usual" umai." Luffy has had several "umma" moments when Sanji served him delicious meat. The closest equivalent in English would be the "mmmmm!" that people say when savoring a really delicious meal.

The word "umma" is pronounced differently than the word "umai." While pronouncing "umma," there is a stop where you place more emphasis on the next sound between the "U" and "Ma" sounds; that is why double "m" is written. If you pronounce it too casually, it might sound like "uma," which is the word for horse.

Do you want to really get into character and say "umma" when eating Japanese delicacies? Since you are already on the site, check out our Zenpop snack packs to order amazing snacks from Japan.




Why Do Anime Characters Always Say "Umma"?


While watching a Japanese TV series, movie, or anime, you might have heard some characters say the "Umma." One such example is Rengoku from the anime "Demon Slayer: Mugen Train." He was known for always saying the word "Umai" anytime he took a bite out of his Bento served on the train.


Rengoku Umma


There was a deep meaning to his actions. In Japan, samurai were trained to relish and enjoy every food they could eat because it might be their last meal. Therefore, the scene in which Rengoku says "Umai" is in line with the Japanese tradition, and it could also be further translated to say that he is aware and prepared for what is coming, and therefore he treats every meal he is eating like it would be his last meal. Unfortunately, this notion was proven right. 


Examples Of How To Use Umai


Now you know not to laugh when you hear "umai" being used in a situation that does not involve food. Check out how to use "Umai" in Japanese. The sentence will first be written in Japanese hiragana, katakana, and kanji script, followed by the romaji version and then the English translation.

Kono Kōhī wa umai!
This coffee is delicious. (in this context, umai means delicious, 旨い will be used as kanji in this situation)

yoko wa piano ga umai
Yoko is good at playing the piano. (it is used to represent the word skillful here, so the kanji 上手い will be used to replace the hiragana)

Kono mise wa umai desu
This shop is great. (in this context, the shop is being praised, 上手い will be used)

Umai kangae da!
That's a clever idea! (here, it is used in admiration of the idea, 上手い will be used)

Sono resutoran no keki wa umai rashii yo
I hear that restaurant's cake is good. (here, the restaurant is not being praised, the cake from the restaurant is being called delicious, so 旨い will be used as the kanji character)

Additionally, the word "Umai" can also be used to compliment your friend's skills. For instance, if they are good at soccer, you can say "umai" to express how much they rock at it. It translates to "well done" in English. Subsequently, you can also choose to use the more masculine "Umai zo."


Now it's time to try out your very own Umaibo from our ZenPop boxes, delivered straight to your home. They are perfect for you to practice using the expression umai at every bite!


This article was originally written by our freelance writer Umm-Kulthum Abdulkareem, and edited by us.