Umai: Japanese Meaning, English Translation, How to Use


Umai - Japanese Meaning English Translation and How to Use うまい

After watching “Demon Slayer Mugen Train” in Japanese and hearing Rengoku sayumai“, I decided that I have to write a blog post about what the word means in Japanese. Since it is often used as the name of Japanese restaurants overseas you will finally get to know the meaning and English translation of “umai” (うまい, 上手い).

The Japanese word “umai” (うまい, 上手い) can mean “delicious”, “good”, “skilled”, and “clever”. It is most commonly used when eating delicious food to say that it tastes good. However, it can also be used to compliment someone on their skills or a clever idea. It is more casual than “oishii” (美味しい).

Since “umai” (うまい, 上手い) is such a versatile word you can read more about its meanings, translations, and how to use it in Japanese down below. I will give you a bunch of examples so that you can impress your Japanese friends by saying “umai” the next time you are in a Japanese restaurant or in Japan.

The Meaning of “Umai” in Japanese & English

The general meaning of the word “umai” (うまい, 上手い) in Japanese is “good“, but when translating it to English there are a couple of words that can be used, though. Depending on the situation it can mean “good taste” or “delicious“, “good at doing something” or “skilled“, “clever“, and “promising“.

Umai
うまい
delicious
skilled
clever
promising

In Japanese, you can also make a full Japanese sentence just by saying the word “umai” (うまい, 上手い) or using its politer version “umai desu” (うまいです, 上手いです). Therefore, it can also be translated into English as “This is good/great” or “This tastes good/great“.

Umai!
うまい!
This is great!
This tastes great!

Umai desu.
うまいです。
This is great. (polite)
This tastes great. (polite)

Here are all the possible English translations and meaning according to this online dictionary and my own experience.

  • delicious, appetizing, tasty, good (taste)
  • skillful, skilled, good (at doing something)
  • clever, wise, quick-witted
  • fortunate, promising, to go well
  • This is good/great
  • This tastes good/great

Now let’s look into some more examples of how to useumaiin Japanese and in longer sentences.

How to Use “Umai” in Japanese

We have already covered how you can just use the word “umai” (うまい, 上手い) to say that something tastes good or that someone is good at doing something or clever.

You can also explicitly state what was good by saying it before “umai“. In formal situations, you should also add the particle wa (は).

Kono karee, umai!
このカレー、うまい!
This curry is so good!

Kono sushi, umai!
この寿司、うまい!
This sushi is great!

Kono sushi wa umai.
この寿司はうまい。
This is sushi is good.

Kono mise wa umai desu.
この店はうまいです。
This shop is great.

When you want to use “umai” to compliment someone on their skills or to say that someone is good at something you usually use the particle ga (が). In this case, it is also slightly more common to write “umai” in kanji as 上手い.

Nihongo umai ne.
日本語上手いね。
Your Japanese is really good.

ryouri ga umai
料理が上手い
good at cooking

uta ga umai
good at singing

Chiaki-san wa uta ga umai desu.
千秋さんは歌が上手いです。
Chiaki is good at singing.

By the way! When a friend just showed you their awesome skills and let’s say they played guitar in front of you, you can say “Umai!” to praise them. In this situation, I would translate the word as “Great!“, “Bravo!” or “Well done!“. Sometimes you can also hear the more masculineUmai zo” (うまいぞ).

The word “umai” (うまい, 上手い) is a little less frequently used to meanclever” and “to go well“, but I still want to show you a few examples.

Umai kangae da!
うまい考えだ!
That’s a clever idea!

Umai iiwake o shita.
うまい言い訳をした。
I made a clever excuse.

Kitto umaku iku.
きっとうまくいく。
I’m sure it will go well.

Umaku iku to ii ne.
うまくいくといいね。
I hope it will go well.

Since “umai” (うまい, 上手い) is a casual phrase it should only be used in informal situations. Some people might also consider the phrasemanly“, but believe me, I know many women and girls who use “umai” daily!

Why Do Japanese Say “Umai”?

Japanese people sayumai” (うまい, 上手い) in casual situations when something is good or great. It is most commonly used when they see something appetizing, talk about delicious food, or a great restaurant. However, it is also frequently said as a compliment to someone with amazing talent or skills.

  • stating that something looks appetizing
  • saying that a meal or restaurant is good
  • praising someone for their talent or skills
  • complimenting someone on their cleverness

Oishii vs Umai – What’s the Difference?

Oishii” (美味しい) and “umai” (うまい, 上手い) both mean “delicious” or “This tastes great“, but “umai” is the more casual phrase and should only be used when talking to friends. Furthermore, “umai” can be used to say that someone is skilled or clever, but “oishii” is only used to say that food is good.

Oishii
美味しい
delicious, tasty
good food, taste, or restaurant
(formal expression)

Umai
うまい
delicious, tasty
skilled, skillful, clever
good food, taste, or restaurant
good at doing something
(casual expression)

The Meaning Behind Rengoku Saying “Umai” (Demon Slayer)

In the anime “Demon Slayer: Mugen Train” (Kimetsu no Yaiba: Kyoudai no Kizuna) the character Kyojuro Rengoku says “umai” (うまい) which means “delicious” or “tasty” every time he puts one of his favorite food, sweet potatoes, in his mouth.

This scene and Rengoku sayingumai” actually has a deeper meaning than you can imagine. In Japan samurai were taught to enjoy and savor every little bite of their meal because it may be their last. So the funny scene actually shows Rengoku being fully aware and prepared for what is about to come.

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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