In today’s vocabulary lesson I’m going to show you the 9 most common ways to say “water” in Japanese. Depending on whether you want to talk about drinking water, hot water, cold water, sparkling water, or water as one of the classical elements there are different Japanese words that you should use.
Mizu (水) and the politer omizu (お水) are the basic ways to say “water” in Japanese. They are commonly used when ordering water in restaurants or when talking about drinking water. When referring to water as one of the classical elements, however, the same kanji but the word sui (水) is used instead.
Read on if you want to know about all 9 words for water that are commonly used in Japanese. After a quick overview of all words, I’m going to tell you in detail the kanji, translations, and meanings of each of them and in which situations you should use them.
How to Say Water in Japanese
- mizu – 水
- omizu – お水
- oyu – お湯
- ohiya – お冷
- hiyashita omizu – 冷やしたお水
- tansansui – 炭酸水
- mineraru wootaa – ミネラルウォーター
- sui – 水
- yu – 湯
1. Mizu – Basic Word and Kanji for “Water” in Japanese
Mizu (水, みず) is the basic word and kanji for “water” in Japanese. It translates as “water“, especially cool and/or freshwater, or “drinking water“. Use this word whenever you want to talk about water that you can drink, feel like drinking water, or when asking your friends for some water.
The word can also be used to talk about fluids and liquids in general, but usually refers to a liquid or water that is not hot.
2. Omizu – Formal Word When Ordering “Water”
Omizu (お水, おみず), or o-mizu, is the politer Japanese word for “water“. The prefix o (お) is commonly used to add politeness or a feeling of respect to a word. This is the word most commonly used when asking for water in Japanese and should be used in restaurants, cafes, and other formal situations.
drinking water (polite)
glass of (water)
3. Oyu – When Asking for “Hot Water” in Japanese
Oyu (お湯, おゆ), is another common way to say water in Japanese, but in contrast to “mizu”, it means “hot (drinking) water” or “hot bath“. The word can be used when asking for or ordering “hot water” in a restaurant in Japanese, but also when talking about a comfortably hot bath or hot springs.
Please note that the word only refers to lukewarm or water that is comfortably warm, not boiling water. Nettou (熱湯) is the word Japanese people use to say “boiling water“.
hot drinking water
4. Ohiya – “Cold Drinking Water” Served in Restaurants
Ohiya (お冷, おひや), or o-hiya, translates as “cold water” or “cold drinking water“. It is especially used for a “glass of cold drinking water” that is commonly served for free at sushi restaurants and other (upscale or chic) restaurants in Japan. However, the word is more commonly used by the staff.
While the word can be used to order cold or iced water, especially in the Kansai area, it might come across as old-fashioned, funny, or even strange, since it is specific jargon that was exclusively used inside sushi restaurants in the past.
cold drinking water
(glass of) cold drinking water
5. Hiyashita Omizu – Used When Ordering “Iced Water”
Hiyashita omizu (冷やしたお水, ひやしたおみず) is the more common word used in everyday speech to ask for “cold water” or “iced water in Japanese. The first word hiyashita (冷やした) means “cooled“, “chilled“, or “refrigerated“, while the second word omizu (お水) is the polite way to say water in Japanese.
6. Tansansui – Japanese Word for “Sparkling Water”
The Japanese word for “sparkling water“, “carbonated water“, “fizzy water“, or “water with gas” is tansansui (炭酸水, たんさんすい). Tansan (炭酸) stands for “carbonic acid” and “sui” is another pronunciation or way to read the kanji for water, which is 水.
Since carbonated water is not commonly served in Japanese restaurants you have to explicitly ask the staff for it.
water with gas
7. Mineraru Wootaa – Japanese Word for “Bottled Water”
Mineraru Wootaa (ミネラルウォーター), or mineraru wōtā, is another way to say carbonated water or sparkling water in Japanese and translates as “mineral water” or “bottled water“. When you specifically want to have or order a bottle of (mineral) water for lunch or dinner you should use this word.
But again, serving mineral water or carbonated water is not that common in Japan.
8. Sui – Basic Word for the Element “Water”
Sui (水, すい) is another common way to read the Japanese kanji for water and the word that should be used when referring to “water” as one of the four classical elements of nature, including fire, earth, and air. It is often used for magic, like the water release or water style techniques in Naruto.
water (fifth of the five elements)
9. Yu – Meaning “Hot Water” or “Bathing Water”
Last but not least, we have the Japanese word yu (湯, ゆ), which can be translated as “hot water“, “hot bath“, “hot spring“, “bathing water“, or “hot bathing water“. It is the more casual form of the previously introduced oyu (お湯, おゆ).
Judging from my own experience here in Japan, the word yu (湯, ゆ) is most commonly used when referring to “hot baths” or “bathing water”, while the politer oyu (お湯, おゆ) is used when talking about or asking for “hot drinking water” at a restaurant.
hot bathing water