The Japanese word yabai (やばい) caused me a lot of confusion because of its many meanings and contradictory English translations. If you look up the word “yabai” in a dictionary to see what it means, you will probably get confused, too. However, after living in Japan for many years I have finally got the hang of it. So let me explain you all meanings and possible translations of the the Japanese word yabai (やばい) in English.
The Japanese word yabai (やばい) has 4 meanings. It can mean “amazing” or “omfg” when talking about someone or describing something awesome, “awful” or “oh no” when something bad happens, “crazy” or “funny” both in a good or a bad way, and last but not least “dangerous” which is its original meaning.
The different translations and seemingly contradictory meanings are exactly what makes the Japanese word “yabai” so difficult to understand for non-native speakers. If you are still confused you can find a detailed explanation of its meaning and how to use yabai in Japanese down below. We also look at the even slangier versions “yabe” and “yaba” that you can hear a lot in daily conversations before covering some common questions such as whether you should write yabai in hiragana or katakana.
The 4 Meanings & Common English Translations of Yabai (やばい)
Since yabai (やばい) has different meanings depending on when it is used and how it is said, there is not just one English translation that is suitable and correct, but dozens. Below you can find some of the most commonly used translations that I have encountered in dictionaries, anime, manga, and daily conversations with my friends in Japan.
- amazing, cool, impressive, awesome, wow, OMFG
- awful, terrible, crap, oh no, oh my god
- crazy, insane, strange, weird, funny
- dangerous, risky, suspicious
If you know some Japanese yabai (やばい) will immediately remind you of sugoi (すごい) which has the same contradictory meanings “amazing” and “terrible” in Japanese. Both are common words, but “yabai” is more slangy than “sugoi” and in contrast to “sugoi”, all four meanings of yabai (やばい) are as frequently used. So the correct English translation really depends on the situation and intonation.
1. Yabai Meaning “Amazing”, “Cool”, “Wow”, and OMFG
Yabai (やばい) is often used as an exclamation when you see something great or when you want to describe that something or someone is awesome. It can be translated as “amazing“, “cool“, “oh my god“, “omfg“, “wow“, “awesome“, etc. When “fangirling” over your favorite anime character or singer you can also say “yabai”.
Yabai! Mecha oishii!
Wow! This is so good!
Oh my god! It’s so cute!
Sasuke-kun kakkoo ii! Yabai!
Sasuke is so cool! OMFG!
Kono anime yabai!
This anime is amazing!
Kimi no tomodachi yabai ne!
Your friend is awesome!
In this situation yabai (やばい) is usually said with a lot of enthusiasm and/or amazement. It can be used to describe or praise really anything you find awesome including people, places, things, food, (anime) character, someone’s talent, abilities, skills, etc.
2. Yabai Meaning “Awful”, “Terrible”, “Oh no”, and OMG
However, yabai (やばい) can also be used as an exclamation when you panic or something bad happens and to express that something or someone is unpleasant. It this situation it can be translated as “awful“, “terrible“, “awful“, “oops“, “crap“, “oh no“, “oh my god“, and “oh my goodness“.
Yabai! Yabai! Yabai! Shukudai wasurechatta!
Oh no! Oh no! Oh no! I forgot my homework!
Kotoshi kafunshou yabai!
My hay fever is terrible this year!
Yabai! Hashiranai to ma ni awanai!
Oh crap! If I don’t run I won’t make it in time!
Atsusa yabai ne!
It’s terribly hot, isn’t it!
(It’s too hot, isn’t it)
Ame wa yabai naa…
The rain is terrible…
(What’s up with this heavy rain…)
When yabai (やばい) is used to describe something bad it is usually said with outrage, indignation, shock, or disgust. It should be pretty clear from the situation and the intonation that the person is in trouble or uses the word to describe something or someone unpleasant.
3. Yabai Meaning “Crazy”, “Insane”, “Strange”, and “Funny”
Another very common way to use yabai (やばい) is when you want to talk about something “crazy”, “insane“, “weird“, “funny“, or “strange“. Similar to “crazy” in English it can be used in both a positive and a negative way – usually depending on how you say it. The slang word “sick” is another really fitting translation in this case.
Kono neko maji yabai (warai).
This cat is so funny *lol*! (positive)
Kono neko maji yabai…
This cat is so weird… (negative)
Yabai yatsu desu ne…
Yeah, he is a strange guy… (negative)
Katta! Yabai jan!
I won! Isn’t that crazy? (positive)
Tomodachi chotto yabai ne…
Your friend is a bit crazy, huh? (negative)
4. Yabai Meaning “Dangerous”, “Risky”, and “Suspicious”
The original meaning of the Japanese word yabai (やばい) is “dangerous“, “risky“, “suspicious“, etc. Since it is also sometimes used to alert or warn someone you can also think of it meaning “Look out” or “Watch out“. Some people say that the word originated from the phrase “Iya! Abunai” which means “No! It’s dangerous!“
Suzume bachi yabai!
Hornets are dangerous
Yabai! Kuma da!
Watch out! A bear!
Kono monsutaa maji yabai yatsu da.
This monster is really dangerous.
Kouen ni yabai hito ga iru…
There is a suspicious person in the park…
When you look at the example sentences above you will notice that in some cases you could also translate yabai as “crazy” or “oh my god” instead of “dangerous“. The best and most fitting translation really depends on the situation.
How to Use Yabai in Japanese – Common Phrases
Now that we have discussed all of its meanings and translations, let’s take a look at how to use yabai (やばい) in Japanese. While the word is certainly more commonly used by the younger generation, it is not strange or rare to hear older people use it, too. Since it is a very informal or rather slang word it is usually not used in formal situations. However, you can use it when talking to your family or friends.
Yabai yo – Means “Amazing!!!”, “Crazy!!!” or “Oh my god!!!”
A variation of yabai you can often hear in anime and daily life is yabai yo (やばいよ). It actually means exactly the same as yabai, but the sentence ending particle yo (よ) adds emphasis and makes the expression sound stronger and more forceful. You can think of it as an or several exclamation marks.
Oh my god!!!!
Yaba – “Sick”, “Dope” or “Damn” (Slang Version of Yabai)
Yaba (やば, やばっ) is the shortened version of yabai (やばい) that is commonly used in spoken Japanese and especially among man. It has the same meanings as yabai, “amazing”, “terrible”, “crazy”, “oh no”, etc, but the English slang words “sick“, “sic“, “dope“, and “damn” better convey its informality.
Yaba! Kanojo kawaii…
Damn! She looks hot…
Yabee – “Sick”, “Dope” or “Damn” (Slang Version of Yabai)
Yabee (やべー) and yabe (やべっ) are two other shortened versions of yabai (やばい) that are commonly used in daily conversations among men but sometimes also younger woman. They also mean “cool”, “awful”, “crazy”, “oh no”, etc, and are similar to the English slang words “sick“, “sic“, “dope“, and “damn“.
Kore oishii! Yabee!
This is so good! OMG!
E? Sora no kuruma? Maji? Yabe!
Ha? This is Sora’s car? Really? Sick!
Yabai Desu ne – “Amazing, isn’t it?” or “Terrible/Crazy, isn’t it?”
When you add desu ne (ですね) after yabai (やばい) you can make the expression sound softer and more feminine. It translates as “That’s amazing, isn’t it?“, “That’s crazy, isn’t it“, or “That’s terrible, huh?“. While the phrase sounds politer, don’t forget that it is still a very informal expression.
Kare kokuhaku shita. Yabai desu ne.
He confessed (to me). Isn’t that amazing?
(or: Isn’t that crazy?)
Yabakatta – “Was Amazing/Terrible/…” (Past Tense of Yabai)
Yabakatta (やばかった) is the past tense form of yabai (やばい). Whenever something good, bad, funny, weird, or critical happened in the past you can use this word or exclamation to express that “something was amazing/terrible/crazy/dangerous“. In slang it translates as “That was sick” or “That was dope!“.
Yesterday was amazing!
(or: Yesterday was crazy/terrible!)
For even more example sentences please check out my list at the end of this blog post!
Is Yabai Considered Rude or a Bad Word?
Yabai (やばい) is a Japanese slang word that can be considered rude or bad when it is used in formal situations like, for example, in front of your boss, seniors, older people, or strangers. However, when talking to your friends or family it is a commonly used word that isn’t considered rude or bad.
Just think of yabai (やばい) as the Japanese counterpart of the English slang word “sick“, “sic“, or “dope“. They are not “bad words” and your friends won’t consider you rude when you use any of those words in front of them. However, when you dare to use them in front of your boss or a policeman it will probably get you in a lot of trouble. The same goes for yabai in Japanese.
Is Yabai Written in Hiragana or Katakana?
The Japanese word “yabai” can be written in hiragana, katakana, or a mix of both. やばい is the hiragana only form while ヤバイ is the katakana only form that is similar to writing a word in all caps or italic. ヤバい is another popular form of writing “yabai” using katakana for “yaba” and hiragana for “i”.
やばい – yabai
written in Hiragana
ヤバイ – yabai
written in Katakana
ヤバい – yabai
written in Katakana & Hiragana
Is it Yabai or Yabe or Yaba? What’s the Difference?
Yabee (やべー), yabe (やべっ), and yaba (やば, やばっ) are all different versions of the Japanese word yabai (やばい). The difference is that yabee, yabe, and yaba are slangier versions most commonly used in spoken Japanese and that they sound more casual and rather masculine in comparison to yabai.
Women can use the different variations, too. However you should only use them when you want to sound tomboyish or rather masculine. Definitely don’t use them when you want to come across as “kawaii”. Sometimes you will hear young female students use them when they talk to their close female friends, but rarely when they talk to guys.
Examples of How to Use Yabai in a Sentence
|Yabai! Saifu wasurechatta|
Oh no! I forgot my wallet
やばい！ さいふ わすれちゃった！
|Chiaki-san hontou ni yabai desu|
Chiaki is really amazing.
ちあき さん ほんとう に やばい です
|Yabai desu ne!|
It’s crazy/amazing/terrible, isn’t it?
|Shuuden nogoshita! Yabee!|
I missed the last train! Crap!
しゅうでん のがした やべー
|Sono meiku yaba!|
That make-up is sick!
|Kono bando yabakunai?|
Isn’t this band amazing?
|Kinou no paatii yabakatta…|
Yesterday’s party was amazing
Yesterday’s party was awful
Yesterday’s party was a mess
Yesterday’s party was crazy
きのう の パーティー やばかった …
|Kyou kafunshou maji yabai|
My hay fever is killing me today
きょう かふんしょう まじ やばい
|Maji (de) yabai|
It’s really crazy!
It’s really awful!
It’s so sic!
|Kono osushiya-san yabai|
This sushi restaurant is so good!
この おすしやさん やばい
|Mecha kucha yabai!|
It’s really awesome!
It’s really bad!
It’s really crazy!
|Sono keikaku wa yabai zo!|
That plan is crazy!
That plan is dangerous!
その けいかく は ヤバイ ぞ
|Kyou no tenki yabai ne|
Today’s weather is amazing!
Today’s weather is horrible!
Today’s weather is crazy!
きょう の てんき ヤバイ ね
It looks awesome…
It looks terrible…
It looks insane…
|Yabee! Chikoku suru!|
Oh noez! I’m going to be late!
Oh crap! I’m going to be late
やべー！ ちこく する！
I’m so freaking tired…