The Meaning of “Domo” in Japanese (Domo Arigato, Domo Domo)


The Meaning of Domo in Japanese - Domo Arigato どうもありがとう and Doumo Doumo どうも

If you have ever heard the word “Domo” (どうも) in an anime or when traveling in Japan and wondered what it means in Japanese you have come to the right place! For me “Domo” was one of those Japanese words that were really hard to grasp and understand at first because it has so many meanings and translations. Here, just take a look at what “domo” can mean.

“Domo” (どうも) is a casual phrase that can mean “thanks”, “hi”, “hey”, or “sorry” depending on the context and situation. However, it is also used in certain polite expressions to emphasize the following word. “Domo arigato” means “thank you so much” while “Domo sumimasen” means “I’m so sorry”.

Quite confusing, isn’t it? But no worries! Below you will find in-depth explanations that illustrate the meaning of the Japanese worddomo” (どうも). I will answer the question of whether domo is considered formal, informal, or even rude, and teach you the meaning and translation of the phrases “Domo domo!“, “Domo arigato!“, and “Hai, domo!“.

The Meaning of “Domo” in Japanese?

Domo” (どうも), also written as “doumo” or “dōmo” is one of these Japanese words that have way too many meanings. When you look it up in a dictionary you will be bombarded with the following English translations (source).

  • thanks
  • much (thanks), very (sorry), quite (regret)
  • really, mostly, quite
  • somehow
  • no matter how hard one may try
  • greetings, hello, goodbye

The good news is that you don’t have to worry about most of them because “domo” (どうも) is mostly used in 4 different ways.

It is either a casual greeting, an informal and slightly sloppy apology, a casual way to say thank you, or an adverb that emphasizes the following word.

So the most important and some of the most commonly used translations of the Japanese word “domo” (どうも) are:

  • Hi” or “Hey
  • Thanks” or “Thank you
  • Sorry” or “My bad
  • “(thank you) very much“, “(thank you) so much“, “really (sorry)”, “so (sorry)”

Let’s take a closer look at each of the four meanings and their translations!

1. Domo Means “Hi” or “Hey”

Domo” or “Doumo” can be used as a greeting and means “Hi” or “Hey“. As you might tell from the English translations it is a casual way to say hello and should only be used with close friends. Sometimes it is also said twice “Domo domo” but its meaning doesn’t change.

Domo.
どうも。
Hi!
Hey!

Domo, domo.
どうも、どうも.
Hi!
Hey!

Since “domo” (どうも) sounds way more casual than “Konnichiwa” (こんにちは) you can use this informal greeting to say “hi” to your close friends, a close coworker, or a neighbor you have known for ages. But you shouldn’t use the phrase to say hello to your boss, seniors, or strangers.

In my opinion, it is a rather masculine greeting that is more commonly used by men than women. But it is very similar to other casual greetings like for example “Yaa!” (やあ) or the trendy “Yahhoo!” (ヤッホー), which you may already know from my post “26 Ways to Say Hello in Japanese (Common & Fancy Greetings)“.

2. Domo Means “Thanks” or “Thank You”

Domo” (どうも) is also used to say thank you and can be translated as “Thanks!” or “Thank you!“. However, it is actually the abbreviation of the phrase “Domo arigato” (どうもありがとう) and so just saying “domo” can sound a bit insincere or even rude.

Domo.
どうも。
Thanks!
Thank you!

Just like when “domo” is used as a greeting it can also be said twice. Repeating it doesn’t really alter the meaning of the word, its tone, or politeness, but you can think of it or translate it as “Thanks a lot!” or “Many thanks!“.

Domo, domo.
どうも、どうも。
Thanks!
Thanks a lot.
Many thanks.

Since “Domo” as well as “Domo domo” sound very casual I suggest using it only when saying thanks to a close (male) friend or a family member.

It is generally okay to use “domo” instead of “arigatowhen you are the customer. Sometimes you will hear Japanese people use “domoas a response to the clerk who thanks them for buying something while handing them the goods they have purchased. However, if you want to sound polite better use “arigato”.

3. Domo Means “Sorry” or “My Bad” (extremely casual)

Another common meaning of the Japanese word “domo” (どうも) is “Sorry“, “I’m sorry“, or “My bad“. However, you really need to watch out when using this as an apology since it sounds so sloppy that it will most likely be considered rude.

Domo.
どうも。
Sorry!
My bad!
I’m sorry!

Same as with “Domo arigato” (どうもありがとう) this is actually an abbreviation of the phrase “Domo sumimasen” (どうもすみません). Since you omit the whole latter half and the most important part of the apology it sounds so sloppy and kinda rude.

Sure, if you are a badass anime character go ahead and use “domo” to apologize to the villain, whose plans you have just destroyed. Otherwise…well….don’t use it, okay? Just stick to “Sumimasen!” (すみません), “Domo sumimasen” (どうもすみません), or “Gomen!” (ごめん).

4. Domo Means “Really”, “So”, or “Very Much”

You can also use “Domo” (どうも) as an adverb that emphasizes the following word and it translates as “really“, “so“, “very (much)“. However, it is mostly used like this in two phrases “Domo arigato” (どうもありがとう) which means “Thank you so much” and “Domo sumimasen” (どうもすみません) which means “I’m so sorry“.

Domo arigato!
どうもありがとう!
Thank you so much!

Domo sumimasen!
どうもすみません!
I’m so sorry!

We will talk about both phrases in more detail further down below.

Is “Domo” Formal or Informal?

When “domo” (どうも) is used as a stand-alone expression it is a quite casual word that should only be used in informal situations and when talking to friends. However, “Domo arigato” (どうも有難う) and “Domo sumimasen” (どうもすみません) are more polite expressions that can also be used in formal situations.

Domo
どうも
(informal greeting, apology, etc.)

Domo arigato
どうもありがとう
(formal and polite phrase)

Domo sumimasen
どうもすみません
(formal and polite phrase)

There are a few other phrases that include the word “domo” (どうも) and that are very formal like for example “Domo arigatou gozaimasu” (どうもありがとうございます) and “Doumo arigatou gozaimashita” (どうもありがとうございました). In this case, adding “domo” makes the phrase sound politer and even more formal.

Domo arigato gozaimasu
どうもありがとうございます
(formal and polite phrase)

Domo arigato gozaimashita
どうもありがとうございました
(formal and polite phrase)

Is it Rude to Say “Domo”?

Since “domo” (どうも) is quite casual it can be considered rude when used in formal situations or when used to thank people you are not close with. It especially sounds rude when it is used to say sorry even to friends. The phrases “Domo arigato” and “domo sumimasen” are formal and polite, though.

Domo
どうも
Sorry! (sounds pretty rude)

Domo
どうも
Thanks! (can be a bit rude)

Domo arigato
どうもありがとう
Thank you so much! (not rude)

Domo sumimasen
どうもすみません
I’m so sorry! (not rude)

“Domo” or “Doumo” – Which one is correct?

The Japanese word どうも can be romanized as “domo“, “doumo“, and “dōmo“. While all three versions are correctdoumo” is the closest to the original hiragana since the word is written with the three syllables ど (do), う (u), and も (mo). However, dōmo” reflects the correct pronunciation the best.

  • どうも is ど (do), う (u), and も (mo)
  • in romaji the following spellings are correctdomo“, “doumo“, and “dōmo

One of the main reasons why どうも is written as “domo” or “dōmo” is that the spelling is closer to the actual pronunciation of the word, which is “do-mo” with a longo” and a silent “u”.

However, I personally would recommend you to use and memorize どうも in hiragana or as “doumo“. Especially when you are studying Japanese because like this you won’t get confused about the correct spelling in Japanese.

Which Expression is More Polite “Domo” or “Arigato”?

Domo” (どうも) and “arigato” (ありがとう) both translate as “thank you” or “thanks“, but “arigato” sounds more formal and polite. Since the word “domocan be considered rude it should only be used with close friends. However, “Domo arigato” (どうもありがとう) is a politer phrase that can be used with strangers.

Domo
どうも
Thanks! (very casual)

Arigato
ありがとう
Thanks! (kinda casual)

Domo arigato
どうもありがとう
Thank you so much! (more polite)

Domo arigato gozaimasu
どうもありがとうございます
Thank you so much! (even more polite)

I have just published another article a few days ago where you can read more about the meaning of “arigato” and “arigato gozaimasu” in Japanese. Don’t miss it if you want to know the secret Japanese meaning ofarigato” which is hidden in its kanji 有難う.

How Do You Reply to “Domo Arigato”?

In a more casual situationIe ie” (いえいえ) is the best reply todomo arigato” (どうもありがとう). It means “Not at all“, “No problem“, or “Don’t mention it“. However, in a more formal situation or when talking to a stranger “Dou itashimashite” (どう致しまして) or “Tondemonai desu” (とんでみないです) are better responses.

Ie ie
いえいえ
Not at all (casual)

Dou itashimashite
どう致しまして
You’re welcome (very formal)

Tondemonai desu
とんでもないです
Don’t mention it (formal)

I have written a whole blog post to answer the question of how to respond to “arigato”. It includes 9 proper and natural replies you can use in formal and informal situations, so check it out if you want to up your Japanese and impress your friends in Japan!

How to Use “Domo” in Japanese – Common Phrases

Now let’s take a look at some common phrases and ways how to use the word “domo” (どうも) in Japanese. You will find some of the phrases I have already mentioned above but I’m going to include more details and other possible English translations.

“Doumo Doumo” or “Domo domo” – どうもどうも

Domo domo” or “doumo doumo” (どうもどうも) can either be used as a casual greeting and mean “hi” or “hey” or it can be used to say thank you and translates as “Thanks“, “Thanks a lot” or “Many thanks“. When used as the latter it’s actually the abbreviation of the polite phrase “Domo arigato” (どうもありがとう).

Doumo doumo!
どうもどうも
Hi!
Hey!
Thanks!
Many thanks!
Thanks a lot!

“Domo Arigato” or “Doumo Arigatou” – どうもありがとう

Domo arigato” (どうもありがとう), or “doumo arigatou” means “Thanks a lot” or “Thank you so much“. The first word “domo” (どうも) means “very” or “so” and translates as “so much” here, while “arigato” (ありがとう) means “thanks” or “thank you”. The phrase “Domo arigato gozaimasu” (どうもありがとうございます) is even politer.

Domo arigato!
どうもありがとう!
Thanks a lot! (polite)
Thank you so much! (polite)

Domo arigato gozaimasu!
どうもありがとうございます
Thank you so much! (politer)

Domo arigato gozaimashita!
どうもありがとうございました
Thank you so much (for what you did)! (formal)

“Domo Sumimasen” or “Doumo Sumimasen” – どうもすみません

Domo sumimasen” (どうもすみません) is a polite apology that translates as “I’m really sorry“, “I’m very sorry” or “I’m so sorry“. The first word “domo” (どうも) translates as “really“, “sorry“, or “very” in this context and “sumimasen” (すみません) means “sorry”. The phrase is formal enough to use with strangers

Domo sumimasen!
どうもすみません!
I’m really sorry!
I’m very sorry!
I’m so sorry!

“Hai Domo” or “Hai Doumo” – はい、どうも

Hai domo” (はい、どうも) can either be a casual way to say “thank you” or it can be used as a casual greeting and mean “hi“, “hey“. It can also be translated as “Come in!” or “Hey, come in!” when you are welcoming your friend at the door or want to let him know that the door is open.

Hai, domo!
はい、どうも!
Hi!
Hey!
Come in!
Hey, come in!

While “domo” (どうも) is a rather masculine greeting that is mainly used by men, “hai domo” (はい、どうも) sounds more feminine and rather cute. So it is more commonly used by women and girls.

Alex (RockinJapanese)

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 have any questions feel free to contact me anytime! Alex

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