In today’s blog post, I will tell you all about the meaning and translation of the two Japanese expressions “Oyasumi” (おやすみ) and “Oyasuminasai” (おやすみなさい). Luckily, it is very simple to explain what they mean in English and how to use them in Japanese. So before we get into the details here is a summary of what “Oyasumi” means.
The general meaning of the Japanese expression “Oyasumi” (おやすみ) is “Goodnight”. It is used as a “goodbye” to friends before going to bed or when someone is leaving to go home late at night. “Oyasuminasai” (おやすみなさい) has exactly the same meaning but is the more formal version of “Oyasumi”.
Below I will cover in detail the differences between “Oyasumi” and “Oyasuminasai” and explain to you when you should use which phrase. You will also learn how to naturally reply to “Oyasumi (nasai)” whenever your friend or host mother wishes you “Goodnight” in Japanese.
What Does “Oyasumi” (おやすみ) Mean in Japanese?
The Japanese word “Oyasumi” can either be written in kana alone as おやすみ or in kanji as お休み. When written in hiragana it usually is an abbreviation and more causal version of “Oyasuminasai“, the Japanese expression for “Goodnight“. However, when written in kanji it usually means “holiday” or “rest“.
The middle part of the word “oyasumi” comes from yasumi (休み) which translates as “rest“, “recess”, “respite”, “vacation“, “holiday“, or “absence” (source). There is also the verb yasumu (休む) that means “to be absent“, “to take a day off“, “to rest“, “to have a break“, “to go to bed“, or “to lie down to sleep” (source).
The o (お) before “yasumi” is a prefix that adds politeness and makes the following word or words sound more respectful. You might already know it from the phrase “o-tanjoubi omedetou” which is used to wish someone a happy birthday in Japanese.
Oyasumi – Means “Good Night”, “Sleep Tight”, “Sweet Dreams”
You can use oyasumi (おやすみ) when a friend or family member is going to bed to wish them goodnight. In this case, it can also be translated as “Sleep tight” or “Sweet dreams“. When using the phrase please keep in mind that “oyasumi” is the more casual phrase and therefore you should only say it to people you are close with.
Good night, Sora
Well, good night!
Sorosoro neru, oyasumi.
I’m about to sleep, good night.
“Oyasumi” is also used as a common goodbye when leaving to go home late at night. Sometimes my friends use it when they go home after I invited them over for dinner at my house. You will also hear hosts of late-night radio talk shows use this phrase to say goodbye to their listeners.
Kyou arigatou! Oyasumi!
Thank you for today. Good night!
Choushusha no minasan, oyasumi.
Good night, listeners.
If you want to know more about this usage of “oyasumi” you can check out my blog post about how to say goodbye in Japanese: “26 ways to say goodbye in Japanese (Casually & Formally)“.
Oyasumi – Meaning “Holiday”, “Day off”, “Rest”, “Absence”
Generally, when “oyasumi” is written in kanji as お休み the word means “holiday“, “day off“, “absence“, “sleep” or “rest“. It can be used to talk about your holidays or a day off. My private student also uses the word to tell me that she will absent today or when she wants to cancel today’s lesson.
Ashita wa oyasumi desu.
I have a day off tomorrow.
Oyasumi o torimashita.
I took a holiday.
Gakkou o shibaraku oyasumi shimasu.
I will be absent from school for a while.
Yoku oyasumi ni narimashita ka?
Did you sleep well?
Sukoshi oyasumi kudasai.
Please take a little rest.
What Does “Oyasuminasai” Mean in Japanese?
“Oyasuminasai“, which can also be written as, “Oyasumi nasai” is a polite expression that means “Good night“. The phrase is used to either wish someone a goodnight’s sleep or to say goodbye to them late at night. It is politer than “oyasumi” and should be used when you have to be more respectful.
Good night! (polite)
Choushusha no minasan, oyasumi nasai.
Good night, listeners. (polite)
Well then, good night.
Sometimes you will also see the phrase written in kanji as お休みなさい (Oyasuminasai). However, the kana only version is more commonly used in my opinion.
What is the Difference Between Oyasumi and Oyasuminasai?
“Oyasumi” and “Oyasuminasai” both mean “Goodnight” and are also used to say “goodbye” to someone late at night. The difference is that oyasumi (おやすみ) is the casual abbreviation used in informal situations, while oyasuminasai (おやすみなさい) is the politer version that is used in more formal situations.
You should use “oyasumi” when you say goodnight or goodbye to your friends, close classmates, your parents, or other family members. “Oyasuminasai“, on the other hand, should be used to say goodnight to older people, your teacher, a superior, a guest, or your grandparents if you want to be respectful.
How do You Reply to Oyasumi & Oyasuminasai?
When someone with higher status or someone older than you says goodnight to you in Japanese you should reply politely with the formal expression “Oyasuminasai” (おやすみなさい). However, to a friend or someone close to you can just say the same phrase back or use the more casual “oyasumi” (おやすみ).
Good night (casual)
Good night (polite)
In case you are unsure which expression you should use it is always better to stick with the politer one which is “Oyasuminasai” (おやすみなさい). The only exceptions to this rule of thumb are close friends. When responding to close friends the casual and more friendly “Oyasumi” is way more appropriate.
How to Say Goodnight in Japanese?
“Oyasumi” and “Oyasuminasai” are the most commonly used phrases to say goodnight in Japanese. Another expression you can often hear is “Yoi yume o” (良い夢を) which translates best as “Sweet dreams“. It is also common to combine both phrases and to say “Oyasumi. Yoi yume o.” (おやすみ。良い夢を).
- Oyasumi (おやすみ) – Good night (casual)
- Oyasuminasai (おやすみなさい) – Good night (polite)
- Yoi yume o (良い夢を) – Sweet Dreams
- Yukkuri nete ne (ゆっくり眠てね) – Sleep tight
Can Oyasumi be a Japanese Name?
The Japanese word “Oyasumi” is not a Japanese name, but an expression that translates as “Good night”, “Sleep tight”, or “Sweet dreams”. As a nickname, it might be acceptable but still bizarre. However, you might come across the Japanese female name “Yasumi” which can be used to name a baby girl.