“Ara ara” is a Japanese phrase that is often used in anime. However, if you look up its meaning online you will often find a lot of misleading information. So I have decided to write this detailed post to explain the exact meaning of the phrase as well as the difference between what “Ara ara” means in real life and what it means in anime.
Ara ara (あらあら) means “My my”, “Oh dear”, or “Oh me, oh my” in English and is mainly used by older females. Depending on the situation and the tone of voice it conveys mild surprise, compassion, affection, or disapproval. In anime, however, it is usually used in a suggestive way towards younger men.
As you can see what ara ara means in anime is quite different than what it means in real life. Since understanding all of its nuances can also be quite difficult, you will find plenty of example sentences down below. After the detailed explanation of its meanings, we will also take a look at variations that are you will only hear in anime and two similar words.
What Does “Ara Ara” Mean in Japanese?
あら (ara) is a Japanese word or exclamation that is typically only used by females and that translates as “oh” or “ah” (source). It can be used in a variety of situations and can have different meanings depending on the tone of voice, but most commonly it is used to show mild surprise or astonishment.
|Ara, moushiwake gozaimasen.|
Oh, I’m terribly sorry. / Oh, thank you so much.
|Ara, mou konna jikan?|
Oh, it is already that late?
|Ara! Sou desu ka.|
Oh! Is that so?
あら！そう です か。
The first sentence, for example, could have been used in a situation where you accidentally took somebody else’s umbrella. Or maybe a waiter just told a guest that they left their umbrella behind while returning it to them.
In the other two examples, あら (ara) expresses surprise about how much time has passed without noticing and astonishment or surprise about what the other person just said.
1. Ara Ara Meaning Mild Surprise or Astonishment
In the same way, あら あら (ara ara) can be used to show surprise or astonishment. Literally translated it would be “oh oh” but the meaning of the phrase is “Oh my“, “My my“, “Oh dear“, “Well well“, or “Oh me, oh my” (source). You can even translate it as “Oh, look at you“, “Oh, look at what we have here“, “Oh, what’s going on here?“.
|Ara ara. Ookiku natta ne.|
My my! You sure have grown!
Oh, look at you! You sure have grown!
|Ara ara, atto iu ma datta.|
My my, how time flies!
|Ara ara, doko ni icchatta n deshou?|
Oh dear, where did he/she/it go?
If you compare both phrases I would say that あら (ara) sounds more surprised and it also sounds a bit abrupt. The slightly longer あら あら (ara ara), on the other hand, makes you sound softer and also less surprised or shocked.
There is another popular phrase that is better suited for men and often used in the anime Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. Just as the interjection ara ara, Jotaro Kujo’s catchphrase yare yare daze has a few different meanings and is used in different situations, however, one of them is expressing surprise and/or astonishment.
2. Ara Ara Meaning Compassion or Affection
You can also use あら あら (ara ara) as a gentle and polite interjection to show affection for someone or compassion to someone’s misfortune. For example, a mother might say it when her child is about to start crying because his or her ice cream fell down on the floor.
Or a granny might comment on her grandchildren in an affectionate undertone. Maybe it is the first time that she has seen them in a while and they have grown a lot.
|Ara ara, atarashii no kau kara nakanaide ne.|
Oh dear, I’ll buy you a new one so don’t cry, okay?
|Ara ara! Nao-chan ja nai ka. Ookiku natta ne.|
Oh my, if it isn’t you, Nao-chan! You have grown a lot!
|Ara ara, mite! Okaa-chan wa acchi desu.|
Well well, look! Your mother is over there.
Ssh ssh, look! Your mother is over there.
As you can see with the last example the phrase can also be used in a soothing or comforting way when talking to children. Maybe the child was about to start crying because he or she couldn’t find his mother but the mother was actually standing right there. However, I would only use it if it is something trivial.
3. Ara Ara Meaning Disapproval or Annoyance
When あら (ara) or あらあら (ara ara) is said in a more serious tone it can also show disapproval, mild annoyance, cynicism, or skepticism. If used in this way you can also think of it and translate it as “Tsk tsk“, “Huh“, “Good grief” or “Hey, what’s going on here?“.
|Ara ara, asoko o goran.|
Good grief, look at what’s going on over there.
|Ara? Sou desu ka?|
Huh (really)? Is that so?
Hey, what’s going on here?
What’s all the ruckus about?
The last one is probably the scariest of all of them. Honestly, I have never heard a Japanese person use it in such a way in real life. But in anime, you occasionally will see a female character, who is usually very gentle, say it with a smile on her face but a stern look or even a flare in her eyes.
What Does “Ara Ara” Mean in Anime?
Ara ara (あら あら) is commonly translated as “My my” or “Oh me, oh my” in anime. It is a phrase that is used by gentle, adult-like, or motherly female characters to express surprise, affection, or disapproval. However, if used with younger males it is usually meant in a flirty or even suggestive way.
4. Ara Ara Used in a Flirty or Suggestive Way in Anime
Since あら あら (ara ara) is often used when a woman talks to her children or other youngsters in a caring way or with an affectionate undertone, the interjection really highlights the anime character’s motherly and gentle nature.
So, in my opinion, more than anything else the phrase is used in anime to show and signify the motherly, mature, and female nature of the anime character. If there is a real meaning behind the phrase, it is most often to show surprise or astonishment and less often the other meanings we have discussed before.
However, there are also a few anime where あら あら (ara ara) is solely used in a flirty, suggesting, or seductive way. Usually when an older female anime character shows interest in a younger or shy man.
As far as I know, this only applies to anime. But well I also have to admit that my personal experience is pretty limited (aka non-existent) since I am not male, of course…
Even in that situation, the expression doesn’t change its general meaning, though. It still shows mild surprise, astonishment, or (motherly) affection. If I would have to translate the phrase less literal and in a more suggesting way I would probably say it means “Oh, look at this cutie here” or “Oh, wow. Look at you, you cute lil man“.
Other Versions: Ara ara ara ara or Ara arararara
This is an exaggeration and I can guarantee you that you will only hear or see this in anime or manga. You can translate the phrases as “oh my, oh my, oh my“, “oh my god, oh my god, wooow“, “oh my, oh my, look at this, wow“. So instead of mild surprise, the anime character shows that she is very surprised or excited about what she sees.
|Ara ara ara ara ara ara ara….|
Oh my, oh my, oh my, oh…
Oh my, oh my, oh my, look at you/this…
My personal recommendation is better don’t use these versions in an actual conversation. However, just recently I have actually heard two men use another variation “Arara”, so this might be the only exaggerated version that you will hear in real life.
In written Japanese you will also sometimes see あらあら (ara ara) being written in slightly different ways: あらら (arara), あれあれ (are are), あれれ (arere), ありゃありゃ (arya arya).
Don’t Confuse: Ara Ara in Kanji & Araarashii
There are two other very similar Japanese words which are 粗粗 (ara ara) written in Kanji and 荒々しい (araarashii). The first one I have honestly never heard or seen before means “roughly“, the other one means “rough“, “wild“, “rude”, “harsh”, or “violent“.
粗粗 (ara ara) is not a common word, so you probably won’t come across it very often, especially in anime. And even 荒々しい (araarashii) you probably won’t hear very often. So this ist just so that you know about them. The words are usually written in Kanji.