The Meaning of “Dame” in Japanese (Dame Desu, Dame Dayo)

The Meaning of Dame in Japanese - Dame Desu Dame Da Dame Dayo Dame Dame

In today’s blog post I will clarify the meaning of the Japanese worddame” (ダメ, 駄目) and the related phrases “dame desu“, “dame da“, “dame dayo“, and “dame dame“. Since the word can be used in different situations and ways its meaning varies quite a bit. However, here is my quick answer to whatdamemeans in Japanese.

The Japanese word “dame” (ダメ, 駄目) means “no good”, “hopeless”, “cannot”, or “not allowed”. It is used to express that something or someone is inadequate, not good enough, or has become useless. The word is also used to tell someone that they cannot, shouldn’t, or are not allowed to do something.

As you can see “dame” has tons of different meanings in Japanese so below I’m going to explain each of them in concrete examples. After the detailed explanation, we will also look at the polite versiondame desu” (ダメです) and the more casual phrasesdame da(ダメだ) and “dame dayo(ダメだよ) which you have probably heard a lot of times when watching anime.

The Meaning & Translations of the Japanese Word “Dame”

The Japanese word “dame” can be written in Katakana as ダメ or in Kanji as 駄目. Sometimes, but less commonly, you will also see it written in Hiragana as だめ. Its general meaning is “no good“, but depending on the situation and how it is used it can also be translated to English in the following ways:

  • no good, not serving its purpose, useless, broken
  • hopeless, wasted, in vain, purposeless, pointless
  • cannot, must not, should not, not allowed, no
  • must do, need to, have to do

Let’s take a detailed look at each English translation and let me illustrate how you can use the Japanese word “dame” (ダメ, 駄目) in different situations with a bunch of example sentences.

1. No Good, Not Serving its Purpose, Useless, Broken

You can use the word dame (ダメ, 駄目) to express that something or someone is “no good” because he or she does not live up to a certain standard or something doesn’t work as expected. In this situation, “dame” can also be translated as “useless” or “broken“.

Atarashii sensei wa dame.
The new teacher is no good.

Sono gitarisuto wa dame.
That guitarist is useless.

Sono pen wa dame.
That pen is no good.

Kono guitaa wa dame.
This guitar is broken.

Instead of using “dame” at the end of a sentence, it can also be combined with the particle na (な) and placed before a noun to talk about a “useless (person)” or a “useless (thing)“. Another good translation, in this case, is “good for nothing“.

dame na yatsu
a useless guy

Watashi wa dame na megami desu.
I’m a useless goodess.

dame na mono
a useless thing

Dame na tokei o kacchatta.
I bought a useless watch.

2. Hopeless, Wasted, In Vain, Purposeless, Pointless

Dame” (ダメ, 駄目) can also be used to express that you are in a hopeless situation and that you feel like no matter how hard you try it is pointless or just in vain. Maybe you are applying for a job but you have no success, or you try to repair something but you can’t get it to work.

There are a bunch of accurate translations that you can use in this situation as for example “pointless“, “in vain“, “hopeless“, “It’s hopeless“, “It’s pointless“, “There is no point“, “It is no use“, etc.

Dame da. Shigoto ga mitsukaranai.
It’s hopeless. I can’t find a job.

Mou dame da. Tsukareta.
There’s no point (in continuing). I’m too tired.

Kono ie wa mou shuuzen shitemo dame da.
It’s pointless. This house is beyond repair.

Ima ittemitemo dame.
Even if I try to go now it’ll just be in vain.

Hopefully, the example sentences make clear that “dame” shows resignation or that you have already given up.

3. Cannot, Must Not, Should Not, Not Allowed, No

Another common use-case of the Japanese word “dame” (駄目, ダメ) is to tell someone that they “cannot“, “must not“, “should not” or are “not allowed” to do something. It can be used when talking about rules or general advice. In anime, bossy characters will often use this phrase to tell other people what not to do.

Inu ga ninniku o taberu no wa dame.
Dogs are not allowed to eat garlic.

Naruto, dame da!
Naruto, you shouldn’t do this!

Kono eiga micha dame!
Don’t watch this movie!

Nigecha dame da!
I cannot run away!

Especially when “dame” is used as a reply to a question it can also be translated as just “No!” or “No, you can’t“.

Kore tabete ii?
Can I eat this?


Koko ni sundemo ii desu ka?
Can I live here?

Zettai dame!
No, you definitely can’t!

4. Must do, Need to, Have to Do

When used in a negative sentence “dame” (駄目, ダメ) can also be used to say that someone “must do“, “need to do“, or “has to do” something. It literally translates as “if you don’t (do x), it’s no good” or “it won’t do unless you (do x)“.

Kono arubamu kikanakereba dame da.
You have to listen to this album!

Zenbu tabenakya dame da!
You have to eat everything!

Ikanakya dame!
You have to go!

Please note that these are extremely casual sentence patterns, so only use them when talking to your friends or people you know very well.

The Meaning of “Dame Desu” in Japanese (polite phrase)

Dame desu” (ダメです, 駄目です) is a Japanese phrase that meansIt’s no good“, “It’s pointless“, “You cannot do this” or “You’re not allowed to do this“. It generally has the same meaning and can be used in the same situations as the word “dame” (ダメ, 駄目), but adding desu (です) makes it more polite.

It’s no good (casual)

Dame desu。
It’s no good (polite)

The Meaning of “Dame Da” in Japanese (casual phrase)

The Japanese phrase “Dame da” (ダメだ, 駄目だ) meansIt’s no good!“, “It’s pointless!”, “You cannot do this!” or “You’re not allowed to do this!“. It generally has the same meaning as the word “dame” (ダメ, 駄目), but adding the casual copula da (だ) adds force and makes the sentence sound more declarative.

It’s no good (casual)

Dame da!
It’s no good! (more casual and stronger)

Dame desu。
It’s no good (polite)

The Meaning of “Dame Dayo” in Japanese (casual phrase)

Dame dayo” (ダメだよ, 駄目だよ) is a colloquial Japanese expression that meansIt’s no good!”, “It’s pointless!“, “You cannot do this!” or “You’re not allowed to do this!”. In comparison to “Dame” and “Dame da” it is even more casual and stronger. That’s why it should only be used in informal situations.

Yo” (よ) is a sentence-ending particle that adds force and makes the sentence sound slightly more masculine. However, women use it a lot, too! I usually recommend thinking of yo (よ) as an exclamation mark, while dayo (だよ) is like adding two or more exclamation marks.

It’s no good (casual)

Dame da!
It’s no good! (casual and strong)

Dame dayo!
It’s no good!!!! (more casual and stronger)

Dame desu。
It’s no good (polite)

The Meaning of “Dame Dame” in Japanese

Dame dame” (ダメダメ) means “no no” or “tisk tisk“. It is a Japanese expression that is used when someone does something bad or something they shouldn’t do. It is also part of the signature phrase “Dame yo, dame dame” of the comic duo Nippon Elekitei Rengo which translates as “No you mustn’t, no no“.

Dame dame!
No no!
No, you can’t (do this)!

Dame yo, dame dame!
No you mustn’t, no no!

Examples of how to Use “Dame” in a Japanese Sentence

Zettai ni dame da.
Absolutely not!
Overy my dead body!
ぜったい に ダメ だ!
Doushite dame nano?
Why not?
Why can’t it?
Yappari dame desu…
It’s no good after all
Kono resutoran wa dame da.
This restaurant won’t do.
この レストラン は ダメ だ。
Kimi ga inai to dame na no
I can’t live without you
きみ が いない と ダメ なの。
Iya dame desu!
No, you cannot!
いや ダメ です。
Kore ha dame desu.
This is no good.
これ は ダメ です。
Dame ningen
a useless member of society
ダメ にんげん
Dame na otona da!
An useless adult!
ダメ な おとな だ!
Dame ka?
It doesn’t work?
Dame datta!
It didn’t work!
Sonna koto shicha dame da!
You cannot do that!
Kutsu wa tsui ni dame ni natta.
My shoes have finally worn out.
くつ に ついに ダメ に なった。
Koko taberu no wa dame desu!
You cannot eat here!
ここ たべる のは ダメ です!
Tamago ga dame ni natta.
The eggs have become bad.
たまご が ダメ に なった。
Katei seikatsu o dame ni shiteiru
Ruining one’s family life
かていせいかつ を ダメ に している。
dame ni naru
to fail, to come to naught
ダメ に なる
dame ni suru
to spoil, to waste, to ruin
ダメ に する
Kare ni susumetemo dame datta.
I tried to persuade him but in vain.
かれ に すすめても ダメ だった。
Kami o dame ni shita.
I wasted the paper.
かみ を ダメ に した。
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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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