“Kawaii” (かわいい, 可愛い) doesn’t only mean “cute” it is also of the cutest Japanese words, in my opinion. But did you know that there are so many other similar Japanese words that mean say “cute“? Let’s take a look at the most common ways to say “cute“, “You are cute“, and “You look cute” in Japanese.
Kawaii (かわいい, 可愛い) is the most common way to say “cute” or “You are cute” in Japanese. Among the younger generation and on SNS the variations “kawayu”, “kawayo”, or just “kawa” have become more popular, though. In formal situations, the politer “Kawaii desu” (かわいいです, 可愛いです) is used to say “cute”.
Read on, if you want to know all of the 9 common words that you can use to say “cute” in Japanese. We will also cover how to say things like “You are cute“, “You are so cute“, “You look cute“, “This is cute“, and “This dog is cute“. Impress your Japanese friends with some natural phrases and slang!
Kawaii (かわいい, 可愛い) means “cute“, “adorable“, “charming“, or “lovable” and is by far the most common and most famous Japanese word for cute. It often has the underlying meaning of being “innocent” or appearing “childish” or “childlike” and can be used for anything that is “little” or “tiny” and cute.
You can use the word “kawaii” (かわいい, 可愛い) as a compliment to say “You are cute” or “You look cute“. In this case, “cute” can mean both that you find someone visually attractive or think that they have a sweet personality. If you want to be more polite you should say “Kawaii desu” (可愛いです).
You are cute!
You look cute!
It’s cute. (polite)
You are cute. (polite)
You look cute. (polite)
Of course, the word can also be used to describe other things you consider cute and/or adorable like puppies, kittens, clothes, hairstyles, and so on. “Kawaii” (かわいい, 可愛い) is often used for things, items, animals, or people that are small and cute at the same time.
One thing to be aware of is that while Japanese women use the word all the time to compliment each other‘s outfits and looks, Japanese men tend to use other words like the more masculine “kakko ii” (かっこいい). However, they frequently use the word “kawaii” for girls and things they consider cute.
2. Kawayu / Kawayusu
Kawayu (かわゆ, 川湯), sometimes also pronounced and written as “kawayui” (かわゆい), is an altered version of the Japanese word “kawaii” and means “cute“, too. It’s a bit of slang but is often used online in forums and on SNS. Since this is a very casual term, it should only be used in informal situations.
Nowadays, more and more young people seem to use “kawayu” when texting with friends. Here is an example, how you could use “kawayu” in a full Japanese sentence to say that someone called Sakura is or looks cute.
Sakura-chan kawayu ne.
Sakura is cute, isn’t she?
In contrast to “kawaii“, I have only seen people use “kawayu” when talking about the cuteness of another person. Furthermore, while I have seen the word being used for both genders, some Japanese men seem to prefer the usage of “kawayusu” (かわゆす, カワユス) which has exactly the same meaning as “kawayu“.
3. Kawayo / Kawayosu
Kawayo (かわよ, かわヨ) is another Japanese slang word for “cute” and is actually a further alternation of the previously discussed word “kawayusu“. Over time, “kawayusu” was changed into the more masculine sounding “kawayosu” (かわよす) and then further changed into the shorter “kawayo“.
In case you feel that かわヨ (kawayo) looks a bit strange or unusual, here is a short explanation.
ヨ (yo) is katakana, while か (ka), わ (wa), and よ (yo) are hiragana. The reason why “yo” is written in katakana (ヨ) instead of hiragana (よ) is that in slang “kawaii” (かわいい) is sometimes pronounced and written as “kawaee” (かわE). So to keep the same “casual look” かわよ (kawayo) changed into かわヨ (kawayo).
Kyuuto (キュート) is an English loanword and the Japanized version of “cute“. It can generally be used in the same situations as “kawaii“. However, since it is not an original Japanese word it will sound less impactful when you use it to say cute in Japanese. So for real compliments “kawaii” is better.
Gekikawa (激かわ) is a casual term that means “super cute” or “extremely cute“. It consists of the word “geki” (激) which translates as “extremely“, “terrifically“, or “super“, and kawa (かわ), which are the first two syllables of “kawaii” which, as you already know, is the word for “cute” or “adorable“.
By the way, “kawa” (かわ) is yet another informal and shortened version of “kawaii” that can be used on its own to say that someone or something is cute. It sounds extremely masculine and is mainly used by young men to say that a girl looks cute.
6. Kakko Kawaii
Kakko kawaii (カッコ可愛い, かっこかわいい) means “cool and cute“, “cool in a cute way“, or “cute in a cool way“. It can be used when you want to describe someone in Japanese who equally combines coolness and cuteness. Females may use it among each other and men will occasionally use it to compliment women.
cool and cute
cool in a cute way
cute in a cool way
7. Mecha Kawa
Mecha kawa (めちゃカワ) is another Japanese phrase that means “so cute” or “extremely cute“. It consists of the word mecha (めちゃ) which translates as “extreme“, “absurd“, or “excessive“, and kawa (かわ), which is the first part of “kawaii” and means “cute” or “adorable“. It’s an extremely informal phrase.
You can also say “Mecha kawaii” (めちゃ可愛い, めちゃかわいい) or “Mecha kucha kawaii” (めちゃくちゃ可愛い, めちゃくちゃかわいい) to say “so cute” or “very cute“, but more about that further down below.
Aikurushii (愛くるしい) can be translated as “lovely“, “cute“, “charming“, or “sweet“. The word is used in Japanese to describe someone who has an adorable, cute, or sweet character. In contrast to other words like “kawaii” or “kyuuto” you can’t use it when you want to say that someone looks cute.
Kawachii (かわちー, かわちい) is the last word in our list that means “cute” in Japanese. It sounds extremely cutesy or childish, though. As a young female, you could use it to tell your crush that he looks cute or when you see something adorable. But only use it when you want to come across like a child.
Cute (sounds extemely childish)
How to Say “You Are Cute” in Japanese
In Japanese, you can just use “Kawaii!“(かわいい, 可愛い) or the politer version “Kawaii desu” (かわいいです, 可愛いです) to tell someone “You are cute“, since “you” is usually omitted. Another option is to use the person’s name and say “(Name) kawaii” (〇〇可愛い) or the more formal “(Name) wa kawaii desu” (〇〇は可愛いです).
You are cute!
You are cute. (polite)
Hina-chan kawaii yo.
You are cute, Hina!
As a man, you could also use “kimi” (君) instead of the name to address a girl and tell her “Kimi wa kawaii” (君は可愛い), which is “You are cute” in Japanese. If you want to say it politer add desu (です) at the end of the sentence.
Kimi wa kawaii.
You are cute.
Kimi wa kawaii desu.
You are cute. (polite)
Women would use “anata” (あなた, 貴方) instead of “kimi”, but I also recommend using “kakko ii” (かっこいい, カッコいい) which means “cool“. So you can say “Anata wa kakko ii” (あなたはカッコいい) or “Anata wa kakko ii desu” (あなたはかっこいいです).
However, please believe me when I tell you that omitting “you” is more natural in Japanese – even though it feels so strange in English.
How to Say “So Cute” in Japanese
We have already learned that “gekikawa” (激かわ) and “mecha kawa” (めちゃカワ) can be used to say “so cute“, “extremely cute“, or “super cute“.
In formal Japanese, “totemo kawaii” (とてもかわいい, とても可愛い) or the even politer “totemo kawaii desu” (とてもかわいいです, とても可愛いです) is used to say that someone looks very cute. In casual situations, “sugoku kawai” (すごくかわいい), “kawaisugiru” (可愛すぎる) or “mecha kawaii” (めちゃかわいい) are commonly used to say “so cute“.
Here is how to say “You are so cute“, “You are very cute“, or “You are really cute” in formal and polite Japanese:
You are very cute
You are really cute
Totemo kawaii desu.
You are very cute (polite)
You are really cute (polite)
And here is how you can say “You are so cute” in informal Japanese. You can use anyone of the following words: sugoku (凄く, すごく), mecha (めちゃ), maji (まじ, マジ), and kawaisugiru (可愛すぎる).
You are so cute.
You are so cute.
You are really cute.
You are too cute!
You are so cute!
There are a few even more casual ways how to say “You are so cute” or “You are really cute” in Japanese:
You are so cute
You are too cute
You are incredibly cute!
How to Say “You Look Cute” in Japanese
The most natural way to tell someone “You look cute” in Japanese is to say “Kawaii yo” (可愛いよ), “Kawaii ne” (可愛いね) or use the politer versions “Kawaii desu yo” (可愛いですよ) and “Kawaii desu ne” (可愛いですね). Yo (よ) is a sentence-ending particle that sounds more masculine, while ne (ね) sounds more feminine.
You look cute! (more masculine)
Kawaii desu yo!
You look cute! (masculine and polite)
You look cute. (more feminine)
Kawaii desu ne.
You look cute. (feminine and polite)
Another phrase you can use is “Kawaiku miemasu” (可愛く見えます) or the softer “Kawaiku miemasu ne” (可愛く見えますね). It literally translates as “You look cute“, but personally I think it sounds a bit stiff and less natural in daily conversation than the phrases I taught you before.
You look cute
Kawaiku miemasu ne
You look cute (softer)
How to Say “This is Cute” in Japanese
In Japanese, “This is cute” is “Kore wa kawaii” (これはかわいい) or politer “Kore wa kawaii desu” (これは可愛いです). You can also make the sentence sound softer by adding ne (ね) or stronger by adding yo (よ) at the end. Instead of “kore” you can also use “kono (neko)” (この〇〇) to say “This (cat) is cute“.
Kore wa kawaii.
This is cute.
Kore wa kawaii desu.
This is cute. (polite)
Kono neko wa kawaii.
This cat is cute.
Kono inu wa kawaii desu.
This dog is cute. (polite)