The Real Meaning of “Konnichiwa” (It’s Not Just “Hello”)


The Real Meaning of Konnichiwa in Japanese - It's Not Just Hello こんにちは

I am sure you have heard the word “Konnichiwa” (こんにちは, 今日は) plenty of times even outside of Japan. But what does the Japanese greeting actually mean? This post will answer all of your questions, but first, let’s start with the basic meaning and translation of “Konnichiwa“.

“Konnichiwa” (こんにちは, 今日は) is a Japanese greeting that means “hello”, “good afternoon”, or “good day”. It is a rather formal phrase that is typically used from around 10:00 or 11:00 o’clock in the morning until 5:00 or 6:00 o’clock in the evening. However, it is rarely used to say hello to friends.

If you want to know the real meaning of “Konnichiwa” (こんにちは, 今日は) and the greetings full original version, read on. We will also cover in more detail when and how to useKonnichiwa” and the best Japanese replies.

The Real Meaning of “Konnichiwa” in Japanese

The Japanese greeting “Konnichiwa” or “Konnichi wa” is usually written in Hiragana as こんにちは and means “Hello“, “Good day“, or “Good afternoon“. Just as the English counterparts, “konnichiwa” is used during the day and in the afternoon to say hello in Japanese.

Konnichiwa
こんにちは
Hello
Good day
Good afternoon

It is one of the 3 basic Japanese greetings together with “Ohayo” (おはよう) or the politer “Ohayo gozaimasu” (おはようございます) and Konbanwa (こんばんは) Sometimes “Oyasumi” (おやすみ) is also considered one of the basic greetings. However, it is actually used to say goodbye in Japanese.

While “Konnichiwa” is generally written in kana alone the greeting can also be written in kanji as 今日は.

Konnichiwa
こんにちは (kana only, common)
今日は (kanji, exceptional)

This brings us closer to the real original meaning of the Japanese greeting because 今日は can be read in two ways: “Konnichiwa” and “Kyou wa“. “Kyou” (今日) means “today” and “wa” (は) is a particle that marks the topic of the sentence. Together “Kyou wa” can be the start of a full sentence that translates as “Today…” or “Today is…“.

今日は
Konnichiwa!
Hello!
Good afternoon!

今日は
Kyou wa…
Today…
Today is…

In the past Japanese people said hello to each other using the full sentence “Konnichi wa gokigen ikaga desu ka?” (今日はご機嫌いかがですか) which is a very polite way to ask “How are you today?” or “How are you feeling today?“. Over time, the full sentence was shortened to today’s “Konnichiwa” (こんにちは).

Konnichi wa gokigen ikaga desu ka?
今日はご機嫌いかがですか?
How are you today?
How are you feeling today?

However, nowadays “Konnichiwa” (こんにちは) isn’t used as often as you might think! If you want to know more natural ways of how to say hello in Japanese check out my linked blog post. You can learn 26 greetings – casual, formal, and fancy ones!

Does Konnichiwa Mean “Hello” or “Good Afternoon”?

Konnichiwa” (こんにちは) can mean bothhello” and “good afternoon” and it can also be translated as “good day“. The greeting is as commonly used ashello” in English, but its formality is closer to “good afternoon“. While “hello” can also be used in casual situations, “Konnichiwa” sounds too formal.

Konnichiwa
こんにちは
Hello!
Good afternoon!
Good day!

When and How to Use “Konnichiwa”

Konnichiwa” (こんにちは) is a formal greeting that is typically used during the day from 10:00 or 11:00 am until sunset which is around 5:00 or 6:00 pm depending on the season. The rules are not set in stone, though, and some Japanese might use it earlier in the morning or later in the evening, too.

Konnichiwa can be used from 10:00 am until sunset (5:00 or 6:00 pm).

Is it Rude to Say Konnichiwa?

Konnichiwa” (こんにちは) is a polite greeting that can be used in formal situations to say hello to people with higher status or that are older. It is also the best greeting when meeting someone for the first time. However, it is too formal and might be considered rude when used with close friends.

Konnichiwa can be considered rude when used with close friends.

What do You Reply to Konnichiwa?

When someone greets you with “Konnichiwa” the basic and most appropriate formal reply is “Konnichiwa” (こんにちは) since in Japanese it is common to respond with exactly the same phrase. After that, you can ask a follow-up question like for example “Ogenki desu ka?” (お元気ですか) which means “How are you?”.

Greeting:
Konnichiwa
こんにちは
Hello

Best Formal Reply:
Konnichiwa
こんにちは
Hello

More Casual Response:
A, (name)!
あ、〇〇!
Oh hey, (name)!

I have written a whole blog post about how to respond to “Konnichiwa” in Japanese. It is one of the posts I have written, so honestly, it is not the best. But it has a lot of useful examples of how to reply to Konnichiwa” and how you can continue the conversation.

Alternative Greetings – How to Say Hello in Japanese

Depending on the situation and the context, it might be better and more appropriate to use another Japanese greeting instead of “Konnichiwa” (こんにちは). In the morning you can use “Ohayo” (おはよう) or the politer “Ohayo gozaimasu” (おはようございます) as an alternative, while in the evening you can use “Konbanwa” (こんばんは).

Konnichiwa
こんにちは
Hello
Good afternoon

Ohayo (gozaimasu)
おはよう(ございます)
Good morning

Konbanwa
こんばんは
Good evening

In informal situations, it is better to use a more casual greeting like for example “A, (name)” (あ、〇〇) or “O, (name)” (お、〇〇). I know that this feels a bit strange, but believe me, they are very natural ways to greet your friends. “Yahhoo!“, “Yaa!“, and “Yoo!” are also commonly used among friends.

A, (name)
あ、〇〇
Hey, (name)!

Yahhoo!
ヤッホー
Hey!

Yaa!
やあ!
Hi!

Yoo!
よー!
Yo!

Whenever you are unsure which greeting you should or can use, I personally recommend you to stick to the formal and basicKonnichiwa” (こんにちは) to say hello in Japanese. It might be a bit off and not the most natural greeting at certain times, but usually, it won’t be wrong or impolite.

And once you have made a few friends in Japan they will teach you the right casual phrases and the more informal greetings in no time anyway. So just follow what they are doing and you will be alright! No need to panic!

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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