I’m sure that sugoi (すごい, 凄い) is another Japanese word that you have always wanted to know what it means. Like me, you must have heard and/or seen it at least a thousand times in Japanese movies, anime, and manga. On top of that, if you look up how to translate it to English in a dictionary you will get two contradictory translations. So let’s shine a light on the meaning of sugoi (すごい, 凄い) and how to use it in Japanese.
Sugoi (すごい, 凄い) means “Wow!”, “Great!”, “Amazing!”, or “Awesome!” and is used to express excitement, fascination, or amazement in Japanese. Usually, it has a positive meaning, but it can also be said in a sarcastic way. Its adverbial form sugoku (すごく) can either mean “very good” or “very bad”, though.
Now that we have a general idea what sugoi means in English and how it is used in Japanese, let’s take a look at some concrete examples. Below you can also learn when to use the polite version “Sugoi desu ne” and the popular slang versions “sugee” and “sungoi“. I will also cover other questions in detail such as for example how to respond to sugoi and if it is a compliment or not.
What Does Sugoi (すごい, 凄い) Really Mean in Japanese?
The Japanese word “sugoi” can be written in Hiragana as すごい or in Kanji as 凄い. It is a commonly used expression by women and men of all ages and can be encountered everywhere in Japan including daily conversations, anime, manga, and other pop culture. When you look up the word in a dictionary you will find that “sugoi” has four different meanings (source).
- amazing, great, wonderful, terrific
- very, awfully, immensely
- to a great extent, in vast numbers
- terrible, dreadful
Judging from my own experience the first two meanings are the most common ones. Sugoi (すごい) is either used on its own as an exclamation of joy or amazement or in a sentence to say “… is great” or “… is amazing“. In its adverbial form sugoku (すごく) it translates as “very” and “really” and can be used to express that something is “extremely good” or “extremely bad“.
Less often but not uncommonly sugoi is also used to talk about “a great number of …” or “a lot of …“. However, the last meaning and translating sugoi as “terrible” or “dreadful” is only true when it is used as an adverb. None of my friends have ever commented on something using just the word “sugoi” and meant it in a negative way – except when they said it in an ironic or sarcastic way.
In spoken Japanese, anime, and manga you will also come across the following politer and more casual versions of sugoi. Especially the last three are very informal versions that you should only use when you are a guy and when you are talking to close friends. They essentially mean the same, though, “Wow!”, “Amazing!”, etc.
- Sugoi desu – That is amazing (polite)
- Sugoi desu ne – That is amazing, isn’t it? (polite)
- Sugoi na! – Amazing! (sounds stronger/more excited)
- Sugoi ne! – Amazing, isn’t it? (sounds more feminine)
- Sugee (very casual and masculine)
- Suggo (very casual and masculine)
- Sungoi (very casual and masculine)
How to Use Sugoi (すごい, 凄い) and Sugoku (すごく, 凄く) in Japanese
Now that we have discussed what “sugoi” means and how to translate it to English, let’s clarify how to use it as a stand-alone expression and in a full Japanese sentence. I hope the example sentences help you to understand its different meanings and illustrate in which situations “sugoi” can be used.
1. Sugoi Meaning “Wow”, “Amazing”, “Great”, or “Wonderful”
When sugoi (すごい) is used as an exclamation it can be translated as “Wow!“, “Amazing!“, “Great!“, “Wonderful!“, “Terrific!“, “Awesome!” and more. You can say it when someone does something impressive or when you see something really beautiful like the ocean in Okinawa. It can also be used when someone tells you something exciting or when you feel happy for another person (source).
Sugoi! Chiaki-san hontou ni sugoi naa!
Wow! You are really amazing Chiaki!
Mite! Sugoi! Mecha kirei!
Look! Wow! It’s so beautiful!
Yay! I’m looking forward to it!
Goukaku shita no? Sugoi!
You passed (the exam)? Great!
If you want to say that something is great or amazing, you can use the basic sentence pattern “… wa sugoi” (〇〇はすごい) or if you want to be polite “… wa sugoi desu” (〇〇はすごいです). However, in spoken Japanese and when you text your friends it is very common to omit the topic particle wa (は).
Kanojo wa sugoi desu.
She is amazing. (polite)
She is amazing. (casual)
Oo! Sore wa sugoi desu!
Oh! That is wonderful!
Kono keeki sugoi!
This cake is great!
Sometimes it is actually more natural to use ga (が) instead of ha (は). However, the difference between these two particles is extremely complicated, so for now let’s stick to the topic particle ha (は). We will discuss this in another blog post.
2. Sugoi and Sugoku Meaning “Very”, “Really”, or “Awfully”
Sugoi (すごい) also functions as an adverb or intensifier in both good and bad things. There are two adverbial forms depending on the type of word that you want to intensify. If the word following sugoi (すごい, 凄い) is a noun you can use it as it is and it translates as “amazing ….“, “great…“, “wonderful…“, “terrific …” or more negatively as “extreme …“, “terrible …“, “awful …“, or “dreadful …“.
great/wonderful sound (positive)
awful/noisy sound (negative)
great/amazing smell (positive)
extreme/terrible smell (negative)
a real beauty
(literally: She’s a really beautiful woman)
Its other adverbial form is sugoku (すごく, 凄く) which is used when the following word is an adjective or verb. In this case, it can also be used in both positive and negative situations and translates as “very“, “really“, “awfully“, “extremely“, “so“, “too“, “damn“, or “totally“.
I was so angry
Recently, more and more Japanese people, especially the younger ones, have started using “sugoi” even for adjectives. So instead of the grammatically correct “sugoku kirei” (すごく綺麗) and “sugoku kawaii” (すごく可愛い), you will frequently hear “sugoi kirei” (すごい可愛い) and “sugoi kawaii” (すごい可愛い). Another example is the catchphrase “Sugoi Dekai” from the anime “Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out” which means “So huge”.
3. Sugoi Meaning “to a Great Extent” or “Vast (in Numbers)”
I have also heard sugoi (すごい) been used when talking about “a large number of something” or “a lot of …“. For example, once when I mentioned that I will go to Nara my coworker said “Oo Nara! Sugoi shika!” (おお奈良！すごい鹿！) meaning “Oh Nara! There are so many deers!” not that “deers are amazing”.
Nare de sugoi shika ga iru.
In Nara there are a lot of deers.
Raibu ni sugoi kazu no hito ga kita.
A great number of people came to the concert.
Sugoi jikan ga kakatta ne.
It took a lot of time, didn’t it?
4. Sugoi Used in a Sarcastic Way
While the word sugoi and especially the stand-alone expression is usually used for good things and in positive situations, it can also be used ironically or in a sarcastic way. Just like the English words “great” or “wow” for example. Normally they express euphory or excitement, however, when said in a sarcastic undertone they actually mean the opposite.
(said with excitement)
(said in a sarcastic way)
Kono nioi sugoi!
What a great smell!
(said with excitement)
Kono nioi sugoi…
What a…great smell…
(said in a sarcastic way)
If you need more examples of how to use sugoi (すごい, 凄い) and its adverbial form sugoku (すごく, 凄く) in a sentence, scroll down and check out the list at the end of this post. I have also included the translations of the colloquial or slang forms “Sugee“, “Suggo“, and example sentences with the politer version “Sugoi desu“.
How Do You Respond to Sugoi?
A humble way to respond to sugoi is to say “Sou kana” (そうかな), which means “Is that so?” or “Shinjirarenai” (信じられない) which means “I can’t believe it”. However, when you are proud of yourself you can say “Yatta ne” (やったね) which means “I did it” or “Maa ne” (まあね) which translates as “Not too bad huh”.
Here are a few other phrases you can use to respond to sugoi in a proper and polite way. Especially the phrase “Sonna koto arimasen” (そんなことありません) is commonly used to respond to compliments. It is more frequently used than “Thanks” (Arigatou, ありがとう) or “Thank you” (Arigatou gozaimasu, ありがとうございます).
Not at all
Sonna koto arimasen.
That’s not true.
Sonna koto nai kedo ureshii. Arigatou!
Not at all, but I’m happy to hear that. Thanks!
I’m glad (I did it)
Do Japanese People Really Say Sugoi?
Sugoi (すごい, 凄い) is a word that is commonly used by Japanese people regardless of their gender and age. It is used all over Japan and can be heard when people talk casually in restaurants as well as in more formal conversations among coworkers. Sugee and Sugo are variations that are also often used.
Is Sugoi a Compliment?
In most cases, sugoi (すごい) is a compliment and it is used to praise someone for what they did, what they can do, how well they can do something, or to compliment them on their looks or style. However, sometimes sugoi is also used in a sarcastic way like its English counterpart “great”, for example.
(said with enthusiasm)
(said without enthusiasm or in a sarcastic way)
Is Sugoi Good or Bad?
When sugoi (すごい) is used as an exclamation and not said in a sarcastic way it is generally used in a positive way and has a good meaning. However, its adverbial forms “sugoi (noun)” and “sugoku…” can also be used in bad situations and translate as “awfully”, “terrible …” or “(too) extreme …”.
Here are a few examples illustrating how sugoi can either have a good or a bad meaning.
extremely hot (or too hot)
extremely cold (or too cold)
Sugoi kutsu da!
Amazing shoes! (positive)
Sugoi kutsu da…
Terrible shoes… (negative)
Is Sugoi Polite?
Sugoi can be turned into a polite expression and used in formal situations by adding desu. While it is ok to use “Sugoi desu” (すごいです) to praise your coworkers or strangers, other words such as subarashii (素晴らしい), rippa (立派), or migoto (見事) sound more formal and are more appropriate in most cases.
That is great. (polite)
That is wonderful. (more formal)
That is magnificent. (more formal)
Examples of How to use Sugoi and Sugoku in a Sentence
Amazing!, Wow!, Great!, Awesome!, etc.
Awesome!!! (sounds more excited)
Great, isn’t it? (feminine, sounds softer)
Awesome!! (stronger, rather masculine)
|Sugoi yo ne|
Awesome, huh? (rather masculine)
That is wonderful. (polite)
|Sugoi desu ne|
That is wonderful, isn’t it? (polite)
That is great! (casual)
|Sugoi da ne|
That is great, isn’t it! (casual)
Sick! (slang, masculine)
Lit! (slang, masculine)
Lit!!! (slang, masculine)
|Kono geemu sugee!|
This game is lit!
Dope! (slang, masculine)
Dope! (slang, masculine)
|Sugoku kirei / Sugoi kirei|
|Sugoku kirei desu ne|
It is really beautiful, isn’t it?
|Sugoku kawaii / Sugoi kawaii|
|Kanojo sugoku kawaii desu ne|
She is reallz cute, isn’t she?
|Raibu sugoku yokatta|
The concert was so good
Amazing, isn’t it?
Isn’t that amazing?
Isn’t that amazing?
|Anata wa hontou ni sugoi|
You are really amazing
|Kyou wa sugoi ame deshita|
There was heavy rain today.
It was raining terribly today.
|Kono inu wa sugoi|
This dog is amazing!
|Sugoi ichinichi deshita|
It was an amazing day!
|Kono anime sugokatta!|
This anime was amazing!