What Does “Ano” Mean in Japanese? All Meanings & Variations


What Does Ano Mean in Japanese

In daily conversations and anime, you will often come across the Japanese word Ano (あの) or its variations ano sa and ano ne. It is such a common word that knowing its meaning will come in handy in many situations. So let’s take a look at what Ano means and when it is used.

Ano (あの) has two distinct meanings in Japanese. It means “uhm” when grasping for words or when showing hesitation about what you are going to say, and it means “that (thing/person/…)” when talking about something that is either far away from or known by both the speaker and the listener.

In order to show you how you can use Ano in a Japanese sentence, you will find a couple of examples in the detailed explanation below. Of course, we are also going to discuss the meanings of Ano sa and Ano ne as well as the difference between Ano and Eto.

What Does “Ano” Mean in Japanese?

Now that we know the definition and meanings of the Japanese word Ano let’s have a look at some example sentences so that you can learn how to make your own.

1. Meaning: That (thing/person/….) Over There

When あの (ano) is immediately followed by another word it usually means “that … over there. It is similar to the words Kono (this …, close to the speaker) and Sono (that…, close to the listener), but you use it when you talk about something that is far away from both the speaker and the listener. The distance can be either spatial or temporal.

  • Ano mise de kaimashita.
    I bought it at that shop over there.
    あの店で買いました。
    あの みせ で かいました。
  • Nee mite! Ano hito kakko yokunai?
    Hey look! That person over there, doesn’t he look cool?
    ねぇ見て!あの人かっこよくない?
    ねぇ みて!あの ひと かっこよくない?
  • Ano toki ni dare ni mo iwanakatta.
    Back then, I didn’t tell anyone.
    (Back) at that time I didn’t tell anyone.
    あの時に誰にも言わなかった。
    あの とき に だれ に も いわなかった。

In all of the examples above the things that are talked about are far away from the people that are talking with each other. The shop and the person might be on the other side of the street for example. Also, the event or the time they are talking about lies (far away) in the past.

If you want you can also just translate the sentences as “that ….” instead of “that … over there”. However, the meaning is always “that…over there” or “that … away from both the speaker and the listener”.

あの (ano) can also be used when talking about something that is known by you and the person you are talking to or when you are referring to something that has been mentioned or stated earlier.

  • Sou ne! Ano resutoran oishikatta yo ne.
    True! That restaurant was really good.
    そうね!あのレストラン美味しかったよね。
    そうね!あの レストラン おいしかった よ ね。
    (In written Japanese: resutoran wa oishii)
  • Aa! Ano kawaii ko desu ne?
    Ah! That cute girl, isn’t it?
    ああ!あの可愛い子ですね。
    ああ!あの かわいい こ です ね。
  • Tashika ni! Ano hi tanoshikatta yo.
    Right! That day was so much fun!
    確かに!あの日楽しかったよ。
    たしかに!あの ひ たのしかった よ。

So depending on the situation the sentences could either been translated as “That restaurant over there was really good” or “That restaurant we went to the other day was really good” or “That restaurant you just mentioned was really good”.

Or in the case of the girl, less literal translations depending on the situation could be “That cute girl over there, isn’t it?” “That cute girl we saw the other day, isn’t it?” and “That cute girl you were talking about before, isn’t it?”.

Ano vs. Are

Last but not least, if you just want to say “that” instead of “that (thing/person/…)” you have to use あれ (are) instead of あの (ano).

  • Are wa watashi no hon desu.
    That (over there) is my book.
    あれは私の本です。
    あれ は わたし の ほん です。
  • Ano hon wa watashi no desu.
    That book (over there) is mine.
    あの本は私のです。
    あの ほん は わたし の です。

2. Meaning: Uhm, Well, Let Me See, …

When あの (ano) is followed by a short pause or when its pronunciation is prolonged あのう (anou~) it usually means “uhm”, “well”, “let me see”, “errrr” or combinations such as “well let me see” or “uhm, well…”.

It is used as a filler word when you need some time to gather your thoughts or when you need to buy some time to come up with a good explanation.

  • Ano… eeto… nan dakke…
    Uhm… let me see… what is the word again…
    あの…えーと…何だっけ?
    あの…えーと…なん だっけ?
  • Ano… eiga no namae wa… ano… nan dattakke?
    Well… the name of the movie was… errr… what was it again?
    あの… 映画の名前は… あのう… 何だったっけ?
    あの… えいが の なまえ は… あのう… なん だったっけ?
  • Kore wa …anou… watashi no ja nakute. Kore wa …anou… Takeshi no!
    This …uhm… this is actually not mine. It is …uhm… Takeshi’s!
    これは …あのう… 私のじゃなくて。これは …あのう… たけしの!
    これは …あのう… わたし の じゃなくて。これ は …あのう… たけし の!

As you can see it really doesn’t matter which of the translations you choose or if you use あの (ano) or あのう (anou). This is all up to you and your personal preference.

However, you can also use ano when you are trying to get someone’s attention, when you want to show that you have some reservations about what you are going to say or what’s coming next, or when you just don’t know how to respond to someone’s question or remark.

  • Ano, sumimasen.
    Uhm, excuse me?
    あの、すみません。
  • Anou ashita wa chotto…
    I’m sorry but tomorrow is not convenient for me…
    あのう明日はちょっと…
    あのう あした は ちょっと…
  • Q: Dou sureba ii no ka?
    What should I do now?
    どう すれば いい の か?
    A: Anou... dou kana…
    Well… I’m not sure…
    あのう…どうかな…

The Difference Between Ano and Eto

Eto usually written as えっと (etto) or えーと (eeto) is another filler word that also means “uhm”, “well”, or “let me see”. It can be used when you are grasping for words or when a word or name is on the tip of your tongue.

So in that sense, it is very similar to あの (ano). However, it can only be used as a filler word and it sounds more casual. That’s why in more formal situations it is better to use ano.

You can also find it written in the following ways ええと (eeto), えーっと (eetto), or ええっと (eetto). All variations mean the same, though.

The Meaning of “Ano sa” and “Ano ne” in Japanese

About as often as ano you can hear the Japanese words あのさ (ano sa) and あのね (ano ne) in daily conversations and anime. So what do they mean and what’s the difference between “Ano sa”, “Ano ne” and “Ano”?

あのさ (ano sa) and あのね (ano ne) are two variations of あの (ano) that can be translated as “You know what”, “Guess what”, “Hey”, or “Listen”. They are usually used at the beginning of a sentence to get someone’s attention or when you have some surprising, exciting, or shocking news to tell.

Same as we did with ano before, let’s take a look at some example sentences and translations for Ano sa and Ano ne to learn in which situations we can use either of them.

Ano sa

In the past, the more forceful sounding あのさ (ano sa) was mostly used by men. However, nowadays you will hear many women use this phrase, too. Especially high-school girls tend to overuse ano sa when they are talking with their friends on the bus or on the train. Literally, every sentence starts like this and every other word is sa.
( /ω\*)

  • Ano saa! Takumi-senpai sa! Kanojo to wakareta sa!
    Guess what? Takumi-senpai! He broke up with his girlfriend!
    あのさ!拓海先輩さ!彼女と別れたさ!
    あのさ!たくみ せんぱい さ!かのじょ と わかれた さ!
  • Ano sa ano sa, Sakura-chan! Kachi da yo!
    Sakura-chan! Listen, listen! We won!
    あのさあのさ、さくらちゃん。勝ちだよ!
    あのさあのさ、さくらちゃん。かち だ よ!

Some other variations you may find are あのさー (ano saa), あのさーぁ (ano saaa), あのさぁ (ano saa), and あのさ。。。(ano sa…).

Ane ne

あのね (ano ne) sounds a little bit softer and more feminine than あの (ano) and way softer than あのさ (ano sa). Therefore it is mostly used by women and children. I honestly can’t recall if I have heard any of my male friends use this phrase before, but I don’t think so. I think I have only heard women use it in daily conversations.

  • Ano ne! Kinou, Takadanobaba ni Chiaki-san o mita.
    Guess what! Yesterday, I saw Chiaki-san in Takadanobaba.
    あのね!昨日、高田馬場に千秋さんを見た。
    あのね!きのう、たかだのばば に ちあき さん を みた。
  • Ano ne, o-nii-san, ii koto omoi tsuita no
    Hey, brother, I just had a great idea.
    あのね、お兄さん、いいこと思いついたの
    あのね、 おにいさん、 いい こと おもい ついた の

You may also see it written as あのねー (ano nee), あのねぇ (ano nee), or あのねえ (ano nee).

The Difference Between Ano, Ano Sa, and Ano Ne

Ano is a more formal phrase that can be used in both formal and informal conversations, while Ano Sa and Ano Ne are casual phrases that should only be used in casual conversations.

If you have very surprising, exciting, shocking, or interesting news to tell to your friends use Ano Sa or Ano Ne. You can use either of the phrases, however, Ano Sa, will make you sound more forceful and/or masculine, while Ano Ne will make you sound a little bit softer and feminine.

Also, don’t forget that only Ano can mean “that (thing/person/….) over there“.

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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