After getting into the anime “My Hero Academia” I noticed that a lot of fans wanted to know what “deku” means in Japanese, so I have decided to write this detailed blog post. Deku (木偶, デク) is a real word, however, its original two meanings and the new changed meaning of Midoriya Izuku’s name are very different. Here’s what “deku” means in Japanese and in the anime My Hero Academia.
Deku (木偶) is a Japanese word that means “wooden figure” or “puppet” but also “blockhead”, “fool”, or “good-for-nothing”. It is used as an insult to refer to a useless person. In the anime “My Hero Academia”, Bakugou used the name to mock Midoriya, but Uraraka changed its meaning to “I can do it”.
Read on if you want to know more about the original Japanese meaning of the word deku (木偶) and the reason why Katsuki Bakugou aka Kacchan gave Midoriya Izuku the nickname deku (デク). You are also going to find out how Uraraka changed the meaning of the name and why she thinks the name gives off a feeling of “I can do it”.
What Does the Japanese Word “Deku” Mean in English?
The Japanese word deku (木偶) translates as “wooden figure“, “wooden doll“, or “puppet“. It refers to traditional Japanese puppets or marionettes made out of wood. While not true for all of the dolls a lot of them do not have arms or legs. They are just a stick or block of wood that can’t move or do anything else on their own.
- wooden figure
- wooden doll
This is where the second meaning of deku (木偶) comes from. Nowadays, when you use the word it is often used as an insult or to mock someone meaning “blockhead“, “good-for-nothing“, “fool“, or also just “useless person“. It is a reference to the wooden dolls who are not capable of doing anything without their puppeteers pulling their strings.
- useless person
In contrast to other offensive Japanese words as for example baka (馬鹿, バカ), deku (木偶) is used to mock another person’s (lack of) abilities instead of mocking their (lack of) intelligence. However, as usual with derogatory terms in Japanese, it is better not to use them unless you know what you are doing.
What Does the Name “Deku” in Hero Academia (MHA) Mean?
In “My Hero Academia” (MHA) Katsuki Bakugou (Kacchan) gave Izuku Midoriya the nickname “Deku” to mock him for being a “good for nothing” or “useless person” because he was born without a quirk. However, later thanks to Ochako Uraraka’s encouraging words Deku’s name started to mean “I can do it”.
Why Does Bakugou (Kacchan) Call Midoriya Izuku “Deku”?
In Japanese Midoriya Izuku’s name is written as 緑谷 (Midoriya) 出久 (Izuku). However, in one episode Bakugou (Kacchan) tells Izuku that his first name 出久 can also be read as “Deku” which means “useless person” in Japanese. Kacchan starts calling Izuku “Deku” to mock him for being born without a quirk.
Japanese Kanji often have multiple meanings and readings and so there are usually a couple of ways how you can pronounce them especially in names. Izuku’s name starts with the kanji 出 and is read as “izu”. However, 出 can also be read as “de” as for example in the following words: deru (出る), dekakeru (出かける), or dekiru (出来る).
Back in their childhood when they were both still young Kacchan (Katsuki Bakugou) notices this alternative reading of Midoriya’s first name and starts using it as an insult. He gives Izuku the nickname “Deku” in order to mock and bully him for not having any superpower and for being born without a quirk.
- 出久 can be read as 出 (izu) and 久 (ku)
- 出久 can also be read as 出 (de) and 久 (ku)
How Did Ochaka Urakara Change the Meaning of Deku’s Name?
Ochaka Urakara, who was saved by Deku (Izuku Midoriya) during the practical part of the UA entrance exam encourages and inspires him to accept his nickname because to her the name “Deku” gives off a feeling of “I can do it“. This made Izuku so happy that he even decides to make “Deku” his hero name.
In one episode Izuku Midoriya literally says when picking his hero name:
“Yeah. I didn’t like this name until now, but someone changed the meaning of it, and that had a huge impact on me. It made me really happy.”Deku – Izuku Midoriya
And in a flashback you can see how he tells Kacchan (Katsuki Bakugou):
“My “Deku” isn’t always going to mean “useless”. My “Deku” means that “You can do it!”.Deku – Izuku Midoriya
The reason why Ochaka Urakara thinks that “Deku” means “I can do it” is that there is a very similar sounding Japanese word dekiru (出来る) which means “to be able to do it“, “to be up to the task“, and also “to be ready” and “to be good at“.
What Does Midoriya’s Name Originally Mean?
Midoriya Izuku’s last name is written as 緑谷 in Japanese which can be translated as “green valley“. 緑 (midori) is the kanji for “green” and 谷 (ya) is the kanji for “valley“. His first name Izuku 出久 consists of the kanji 出 (izu or de) meaning “come out” and 久 (ku) meaning “long time” or “old story”.
- Midoriya (緑谷) means “green valley”
- Izuku (出久) means “long time to come out”
This is just speculation but in my opinion, his first name refers to the long time it took him to get his quirk and to come out as a hero.
What Does Katsuki Bakugou’s Nickname Kacchan Mean?
Katsuki Bakugou’s nickname Kacchan is the short cute form of his first name “Katsuki” which is “Ka” in combination with the familiar honorific “chan“. The double “cc” in “Kacchan” is sometimes used because it makes the nickname sound even cuter and also less like “Kaachan” which means “mother”.
If you want to know more about the honorific suffix chan (ちゃん) and how to use it after a name you can check out my blog post “What Does Chan Mean in Japanese? When, Why & How to Use it“.
The Japanese word katsu (勝つ) actually means “to win” or “to gain victory” and the kanji 勝 means “victory“, “win“, or “excel“. So there might be some relation to the meaning of “winning“, “being a winner“, or “(wanting to) be number one“, too.