The Meaning of Sugoi (すごい) and How to Use it in Japanese


The Meaning of Sugoi すごい 凄い in English and How to Use it in Japanese inclueding sugee and suggo

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 versionSugoi 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 asterrible” 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!
すごい!千秋さん本当にすごいなあ!
Wow! You are really amazing Chiaki!

Mite! Sugoi! Mecha kirei!
見て!すごい!めちゃ綺麗!
Look! Wow! It’s so beautiful!

Sugoi! Tanoshimi!
すごい!楽しみ!
Yay! I’m looking forward to it!

Goukaku shita no? Sugoi!
合格したの?すごい!
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.
彼女はすごいです。
She is amazing. (polite)

Kanojo sugoi.
彼女すごい。
She is amazing. (casual)

Oo! Sore wa sugoi desu!
おお!それはすごいです!
Oh! That is wonderful!

Kono keeki sugoi!
ここケーキすごい!
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 …“.

Sugoi eiga
すごい映画
amazing movie

Sugoi oto
すごい音
great/wonderful sound (positive)
awful/noisy sound (negative)

Sugoi nioi
すごい匂い
great/amazing smell (positive)
extreme/terrible smell (negative)

Sugoi bijin
すごい美人
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“.

Sugoku kirei
すごく綺麗
really beautiful

Sugoku kawaii
すごく可愛い
so/damn cute

Sugoku ureshii
すごく嬉しい
extremely happy

Sugoku tsukareta
すごく疲れた
totally exhausted

Sugoku okotta
すごく怒った
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 hearsugoi 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.
奈良ですごい鹿がいる。
In Nara there are a lot of deers.

Raibu ni sugoi kazu no hito ga kita.
ライブにすごい数の人が来た。
A great number of people came to the concert.

Sugoi jikan ga kakatta ne.
すごい時間がかかったね。
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 wordsgreat” or “wow” for example. Normally they express euphory or excitement, however, when said in a sarcastic undertone they actually mean the opposite.

Sugoi!
すごい!
Wow!
(said with excitement)

Sugoi…
すごい…
Wow…
(said in a sarcastic way)

Kono nioi sugoi!
この匂いすごい!
What a great smell!
(said with excitement)

Kono nioi sugoi…
この匂いすごい…
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).

Ieie
いえいえ
Not at all

Sonna koto arimasen.
そんなことありません
That’s not true.

Sonna koto nai kedo ureshii. Arigatou!
そんなことないけど嬉しい。ありがとう!
Not at all, but I’m happy to hear that. Thanks!

Ureshii ne!
嬉しいね!
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.

Eee! Sugoi!
ええ!すごい!
Wow! Amazing!
(said with enthusiasm)

Aa…sugoi…
あぁ…すごい…
Yeah…great…
(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.

Sugoku kirei
すごく綺麗
extremely beautiful

Sugoku kowai
すごく怖い
extremely scary

Sugoku atsui
すごく暑い
extremely hot (or too hot)

Sugoku samui
すごく寒い
extremely cold (or too cold)

Sugoi kutsu da!
すごい靴だ!
Amazing shoes! (positive)

Sugoi kutsu da…
すごい靴だ
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.

Sugoi!
すごい!
Great! (casual)

Sugoi desu.
すごいです。
That is great. (polite)

Subarashii desu.
素晴らしいです。
That is wonderful. (more formal)

Rippa desu.
立派です。
That is magnificent. (more formal)

Examples of How to use Sugoi and Sugoku in a Sentence

Sugoi
Amazing!, Wow!, Great!, Awesome!, etc.
すごい
凄い
Sugoi na
Awesome!!! (sounds more excited)
すごいな
すごいなぁ
Sugoi ne
Great, isn’t it? (feminine, sounds softer)
すごいね
凄いね
Sugoi yo
Awesome!! (stronger, rather masculine)
すごいよ
凄いよ
Sugoi yo ne
Awesome, huh? (rather masculine)
すごいよね
凄いよね
Sugoi desu
That is wonderful. (polite)
凄いです。
すごいです。
Sugoi desu ne
That is wonderful, isn’t it? (polite)
凄いですね。
すごいですね。
Sugoi da
That is great! (casual)
すごいだ
凄いだ
Sugoi da ne
That is great, isn’t it! (casual)
すごいだね
凄いだね
Sugoo
Sick! (slang, masculine)
すごー
すごっ
Sugee
Lit! (slang, masculine)
すげー
すげぇ
Sugee na
Lit!!! (slang, masculine)
すげーな
すげぇな
Kono geemu sugee!
This game is lit!
このゲームすげえ!
このゲームすげぇ!
Suggoi
Dope! (slang, masculine)
すっごい
Sungoi
Dope! (slang, masculine)
すんごい
Sugoku kirei / Sugoi kirei
so/really beautiful
すごく綺麗
すごい綺麗
Sugoku kirei desu ne
It is really beautiful, isn’t it?
凄く綺麗ですね。
すごく綺麗ですね。
Sugoku kawaii / Sugoi kawaii
so/damn cute
すごく可愛い
すごい可愛い
Kanojo sugoku kawaii desu ne
She is reallz cute, isn’t she?
彼女凄く可愛いですね。
彼女すごく可愛いですね。
Raibu sugoku yokatta
The concert was so good
ライブすごく良かった
ライブ凄くよかった
Sugokunai?
Amazing, isn’t it?
Isn’t that amazing?
すごくない?
Sugoi jan!
Isn’t that amazing?
すごいじゃん
Anata wa hontou ni sugoi
You are really amazing
あなたは本当に凄い
あなたは本当にすごい
Kyou wa sugoi ame deshita
There was heavy rain today.
It was raining terribly today.
今日は凄い雨でした。
今日はすごい雨でした。
Kono inu wa sugoi
This dog is amazing!
この犬はすごい。
この犬は凄い。
Sugoi ichinichi deshita
It was an amazing day!
すごい一日でした。
凄い一日でした。
Kono anime sugokatta!
This anime was amazing!
このアニメすごかった!
このアニメ凄かった!
How to use Sugoi and Sugoku – List of Example Sentences

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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