The Meaning of “Arigato” in Japanese (vs Arigato Gozaimasu)

The Meaning of Arigato in Japanese - Arigato vs Arigatou vs Arigato Gozaimasu ありがとう ありがとうございます 有難う

Today I’m going to tell you all you need to know about the meaning of the two Japanese expressions “arigato” (ありがとう) and “arigato gozaimasu” (ありがとうございます). Compared to other basic Japanese phrases the English translations of “arigato” and “arigato gozaimasu” are straightforward and easy to understand, so here is what they mean.

“Arigato” (ありがとう) means “thank you” or “thanks” and is the most common way to thank close friends and family members in Japanese. The more formal and polite way to say “thank you” in Japanese is “arigato gozaimasu” (ありがとうございます). You can also start with the word “Domo” to say “Thank you very much”.

Below I will tell you the deeper and fascinating meaning behind the word “arigato” that becomes evident when you take a closer look at its kanji 有難う. We will also talk more about how rude, formal, and polite each phrase is, before covering one of the most commonly asked questions: Which is the correct spellingarigato” or “arigatou“?

What Does “Arigato” Mean in Japanese?

The Japanese word “arigato” (ありがとう) means “thank you” or “thanks“. It is the most basic and one of the most commonly used expressions to saythank youin Japanese. Personally, I prefer to think of it and translate it as “thanks” instead of “thank you” since it is the slightly more casual version.

Thank you!

Judging from my own experience living here in Japan for several years I found that “arigato” is usually written in kana as ありがとう. However, when you see it written in kanji as 有難う or 有り難う you get to understand the actual deeper meaning behind the word.

  • “arigato” is written in kana as ありがとう
  • “arigato” is written in kanji as 有難う or 有り難う

有難う consists of the Chinese character 有 which translates as “have“, “exist“, or “happen” and the character 難 which means “difficult” or “trouble“. So when you put both meanings together you get “have difficulties“, “have trouble“, “difficulties exist“, or “trouble happens“.

  • 有 – have, exist, happen
  • 難 – difficult, trouble, accident

In my opinion, the underlying meaning behind the kanji is that you are feeling grateful and want to say thank you to somebody because you experienced some hardships or you went through a lot of trouble. Or, if you want to take it even one step further, you should feel grateful and say thank you despite the difficulties you are experiencing or the troubles you have.

A very deep message don’t you think so?

Instead of using the expression “arigato” on its own and just saying “thanks” to somebody, you can also use it to make full sentences in the form of “thank you for…” or “thanks for…“.

Iroiro arigato!
Thanks for everything

Kinou wa arigato.
Thanks for yesterday.

Kite kurete arigato!
Thanks for coming!

Tetsudatte kurete arigato!
Thank you for helping me!

What Does “Arigato Gozaimasu” Mean in Japanese?

Arigato gozaimasu” (ありがとうございます) means “Thank you!“. It is a polite and formal way to thank somebody in Japanese and should be used with strangers, older people, and higher-ups. It is also common to use the more formal “Domo arigato gozaimasu” (どうもありがとうございます) which means “Thank you very much“.

Arigato gozaimasu!
Thank you! (formal)

Domo arigato gozaimasu!
Thank you very much! (even more formal)

Since “arigato gozaimasu” is the formal expression you see it more frequently written in kanji as 有難うございます or 有り難うございます than “arigato”. But still, most of the Japanese people I know tend to write it in hiragana as ありがとうございます.

  • “arigato gozaimasu” is written in kana as ありがとうございます
  • “arigato gozaimasu” is written in kanji as 有難うございます or 有り難うございます

The word “gozaimasu” can also be written in kanji as 御座います, but while I have (very rarely) seen the expression written as ありがとう御座います, I have never seen it written entirely in kanji as 有難う御座います. One of my Japanese friends even described it as “it looks wrong”, haha.

Of course, you can also use the formal phrase “arigato gozaimasu” to say “thank you for…“. Here are a few examples.

Go-renraku arigatou gozaimasu.
Thank you for calling.

Go-shoutai arigatou gozaimasu.
Thank you for your invitation.

Tetsudatte itadaite arigatou gozaimasu.
Thank you for helping me (formal)

Is it Rude to Say “Arigato”?

“Arigato” (ありがとう) is the casual expression to thank someone in Japanese. It is not rude when you use it with your friends, family members, or other people you know very well. However, it might be considered not formal enough or slightly rude when used to say thank you to strangers or your boss.

Is “Arigato Gozaimasu” Formal?

Arigato gozaimasu” (ありがとうございます) is a formal and polite expression that is used to say thank you to someone in Japanese. It is the most appropriate expression when talking to strangers, older people, or your boss. If you want to sound even more formal use “Domo arigatou gozaimasu” (どうもありがとございます).

Is “Domo Arigato” Polite?

Domo arigato” (どうもありがとう) means “Thanks a lot!” or “Thank you very much!“. It sounds more grateful and politer thanarigato“, but it is less polite than the formal phrase “arigatou gozaimasu“. The politest phrase to say thank you in Japanese is “Domo arigatou gozaimasu!” (どうもありがとうございます).

Here are all four phrases “arigato“, “domo arigato“, “arigato gozaimasu“, and “domo arigato gozaimasu” with the translations that in my opinion explain their politeness level the best. They are sorted from least polite to politest.


Domo arigato!
Thanks a lot!

Arigato gozaimasu.
Thank you!

Domo arigato gozaimasu.
Thank you so much!

What is the Reply to “Arigato”?

The standard reply to “arigato” (ありがとう) is “dou itashimashite” (どう致しまして) which means “you’re welcome“. However, it is a very stiff and formal expression. When replying to friends the casual “ieie” (いえいえ) or “ii yo ii yo” (いいよいいよ) are better responses. They translate as “not at all” or “no problem“.

Dou itashimashite.
You’re welcome! (formal)

Not at all (casual)

Ii yo ii yo!
No problem! (casual)

There are a lot of other ways how you can reply toarigato” like for example “tondemonai desu” or the very useful “kochira kosa“. If you want to know all of them check out my blog post: “How Do You Respond to “Arigato”? 9 Proper & Natural Replies“.

Which is Correct “Arigato” or “Arigatou”?

The Japanese word ありがとう can be written as “arigato“, “arigatou“, or “arigatō“. All three romanized spellings are correct. However, in hiragana “arigato” (ありがとう) is written with five syllables a, ri, ga, to, and u. So if you are studying Japanese it is best to either use “arigatou“, or “arigatō“.

  • ありがとう is あ (a), り (ri), が (ga), と (to), and う (u)
  • in romaji the following spellings are correct “arigato”, “arigatou”, and “arigatō”

The main reason why ありがとう is commonly written asarigato” instead of “arigatou” is that the spelling is closer to the actual pronunciation of the word, which is “a-ri-ga-too”. Since the “u” at the end is silent.

However, if you are studying Japanese it can cause a lot of confusion about the right spelling when writing the word in hiragana. That’s why I personally recommend to use and memorize ありがとう in hiragana or as “arigatou“.

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Alex (No war please!)

おはよう. I'm Alex. I have started studying Japanese when I was still a high school student and I have been living and working in Japan since 2015. I'm still learning new Japanese phrases and words every day and I thought that publishing them online will be useful for you, too. Hopefully, my study notes and free Japanese lessons will help you to reach the Japanese level you want to have! If you want to practice your Japanese for free follow me on Twitter and/or Instagram.

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