Have you ever wondered what the Japanese word “genki” (元気) and the phrases “Ogenki desu ka?” and “Genki desu!” mean?. Then you have come to the right place. In today’s free Japanese lesson I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about the Japanese meaning and English translation of “genki“.
The Japanese word “genki” (元気) means “I’m fine”, “I’m well”, or “I’m in good health”, but it can also be used to say that someone is or is doing something “lively”, “energetic”, or “with enthusiasm”. When used in the phrase “Ogenki desu ka?” it can also be translated as “How are you?” in English.
Below you can find all common meanings of the Japanese word “genki” and I will explain its possible English translations with a couple of useful examples. After that, you can also learn how to ask “How are you” in formal and informal Japanese and I will tell you how to respond to “Genki desu ka?” naturally.
What Does Genki Mean in Japanese?
The Japanese word “genki” (元気) consists of two kanji. The first one 元 (gen) means “origin“, “source“, “basis“, or “foundation“. The second kanji 気 (ki) means “spirit“, “mind“, “motivation“, “energy“, or “mood“. When you put the meaning of both kanji together you literally get “source of energy“.
- 現 (gen) – origin, source, basis, foundation, etc.
- 気 (ki) – spirit, mind, motivation, energy, mood, etc.
This is a very good start to understand what “genki” really means, because in Japanese the word isn’t only used in relation to physical health, but also mental health, enthusiasm, motivation, and cheerfulness. The word encompasses the life energy of every living being and the energy of the universe.
And that’s exactly why it is sometimes so hard for us to translate and understand the word correctly.
In English, the most commonly found translations of the Japanese word “genki” (元気) are “healthy“, “I’m fine“, “I’m well“, or “How are you?“, because the word is commonly used as a greeting. However “genki” can also be an adjective by adding na (な) and mean “lively“, “cheerful“, or “full of energy“.
Depending on the situation it could be translated as any of the following English words:
- energy, vitality, spirit, pep, vigour, enthusiasm, good mood
- to be healthy, to be well, to be fit, to be in good health
- lively, full of spirit, full of energy, energetic, vigorous
- cheerful, happy, to be in a good mood
Let’s look at some concrete examples!
1. Genki Means “I’m Fine”, “I’m Well”, or “Healthy”
First of all, genki (元気) can be used to talk about your physical and/or mental health.
In this situation it is best translated as “I’m fine“, “I’m well“, “I’m doing well“.
I’m doing well!
Since it is not necessary to state the subject and say “I” (私, watashi) when it is clear who you talk about, just the word “genki” is enough in Japanese. When you want to say that another person is “genki” you use the person’s name or address them in another way (like for example he, she, mother, father, etc) and add the particle wa (は).
Hinata wa genki.
Hinata is fine.
Hinata is doing well.
Haha wa genki!
My mother is fine!
My mother is in good health!
Genki (元気) can also be used when you want to talk about a “healthy person”. All you have to do is to add na (な) in between “genki” and the noun and it translates as “healthy“. However, when you want to talk about a “healthy diet” or a “healthy meal” it is better to use “herushii” (ヘルシー) or “kenkou” (健康).
genki na kodomo
a healthy child
genki na hito
a healthy person
2. Genki Means “I’m Full of Energy” or “Lively”
You can also use the Japanese word genki (元気) to say that you have energy or that you are full of enthusiasm today.
In this situation, you can think of “genki” meaning “I’m full of energy”, “I’m so motivated“, or “I’m in high spirits”.
I’m full of energy!
Kyou wa genki!
I’m full of energy today!
When you add the particle ni (に) after “genki” you can say that you “do something with energy“, “do something energetically“, or “do something with great spirit“.
genki ni utau
sing with energy
genki ni shiai ni sanka suru
enter the match with great spirit
Just like before you can also add na (な) and form the adjectives “energetic“, “lively“, or “vigorous“.
genki na kodomo
an energetic kid
genki na shounen
a lively boy
Since it is related and not too difficult I also wanted to mention how you can say “I have no energy“. “ga aru” (がある) usually means “to have“. The opposite is “ga nai” (がない). So “genki ga nai” means “to have no energy“.
Kyou wa genki ga nai…
I have no energy today…
3. Genki Means “I’m Happy” or “Cheerful”
In Japanese Genki (元気) can also mean “to be happy“, “to be cheerful“, or “to be in a good mood“. So the sentence “Kyou wa genki desu ne” could either be translated as “You are very well today, aren’t you?“, “You’re full of energy today, aren’t you?” or “You’re really happy today, aren’t you?“.
Sugee genki da yo!
I’m so happy!
When you add na (な) you once again turn the word into an adjective that can be translated as “cheerful ….” or “happy …“.
genki na koe
a cheerful voice
genki na kao
a happy face
genki na roujin
a happy old man
And also same as before by adding the particle ni (に) after “genki” you can express that you “do something cheerfully” or “do something happily“.
genki ni utau
genki ni asonda
4. Genki Can Be Used to Ask “How Are You?”
Another very important meaning of genki (元気) I want to cover is the translation “How are you?“. Usually, the question particle ka (か) and no (の) are added at the end to turn a sentence into a question. However, in casual situations, they are often omitted and you can ask by raising your voice. It’s actually exactly what we do in English.
How are you?
Sakura-san wa genki?
“Ogenki desu ka?” is the formal and more polite phrase to ask someone how they are doing. You are going to find the details about this expression further down below.
Genki Desu – “I’m Fine” in Formal Japanese
“Genki desu” (元気です) is the formal and more polite way to say “I’m fine“, “I’m well“, or “I’m doing well” in Japanese. The last word desu (です) is added at the end of a sentence to make it sound more polite. You should use this phrase whenever you are talking to strangers, seniors, or higher-ups.
I’m fine (casual)
I’m fine (formal)
Chichi mo genki desu.
My father is fine, too (formal)
Ogenki Desu ka? – “How Are You?” in Japanese
“Ogenki desu ka?” (お元気ですか) is the formal and polite way to ask “How are you?” in Japanese. Both the honorific prefix o (お) and the copula desu (です) make the phrase more polite, while the question particle ka (か) is added at the end to ask a question in standard or formal Japanese.
“Genki desu ka?” (元気ですか) is another expression that can be used. It has exactly the same meaning and translates as “How are you?”, but it is slightly less polite than “Ogenki desu ka?” (お元気ですか).
How are you? (casual)
Genki desu ka?
How are you? (more formal)
Ogenki desu ka?
How are you? (most formal)
How Do You Respond to “Genki Desu ka?”
The best way to respond to the question “Genki desu ka?” (元気ですか) is by answering with “Genki desu” (元気です) which means “I’m fine” or “I’m well”. With friends, you can use the more casual replies “Genki da” (元気だ) or “Genki da yo” (元気だよ). It is also polite to ask the other person back with “And you?”.
Here are the most basic and recommended responses to “Ogenki desu ka?” and “Genki desu ka?“.
I’m fine! (polite)
I’m fine (casual)
Genki da yo!
I’m fine! (more casual)
If you want to give a positive but more nuanced reply you can use any of the responses down below:
- Hontou ni genki desu yo!
I’m feeling really great!
- Totemo genki desu.
I’m really well!
- Itsumo no you ni genki desu.
I’m fine as usual.
- Kyou mo genki desu.
I’m fine today too.
- Maamaa genki desu
I’m doing okay.
In case you are not feeling well you can use one of the following replies. However, always keep in mind that Japanese people are often not very open about their feelings and that they usually avoid direct phrases such as “I’m not feeling well“.
- Kyou wa chotto…
I’m not so well today…
Not so good…
Not so good…
- Amari genki ja nai
I’m not so well
It is also common to ask back how the other person is doing. In Japanese, you can do ask “And you?” or “How about you?” by saying the person’s name and/or honorific title and adding the particle wa (は).
Genki da! Sakura-chan wa?
I’m fine! And you (Sakura)?
Genki desu. Sensei wa?
I’m fine. And you (teacher)?
If you are close friends and you know the other person very well you could also use “Anata wa?” (あなたは) or “Kimi wa?” (君は). Women usually use the first when asking men, while men use the latter one when asking women. However, only use those phrases when you are on a first-name basis.
Genki desu. Anata wa?
I’m fine. And you?
Genki desu. Kimi wa?
I’m fine. And you?