Word of the Week: けっこう

It’s time for Word of the Week again! Last week we looked at a Japanese word or phrase beginning with ‘ku’ (く), and focussed on the phrase 口どけ (kuchidoke), which means ‘melt in the mouth’. This week I’m looking for a word or phrase beginning with ‘ke’ (け). A big thank you to those who joined in with suggestions this week:

lovelycomplex22 suggested ‘kechi’ (けち), ‘stingy’, ‘penny-pinching’; zoomingjapan suggested ‘kekkou’ (けっこう), a word with a lot of meanings and uses, such as ‘splendid’, ‘fine’, ‘reasonably’ and also ‘no thanks’; locksleyu suggested ‘kenage’ (健気 / けなげ), ‘brave’ ‘admirable’, ‘gallant’; and Japan Australia suggested ‘keshiki ga ii’ (景色がいい), ‘great view’; and ‘ketahazure (桁外れ), ‘incredible’, ‘extraordinary’.

These were all great ideas, and in the end I decided to write about…

けっこう

(kekkou)

‘Kekkou’ (けっこう) is a word which is very commonly used in Japan but, I have to confess, I hardly ever use it myself. I think the main reason I’ve not used it much is because I’ve always been a little bit confused about what it means and when to use it. So, let’s get to the bottom of things today!

When you look ‘kekkou’ up in the dictionary you are presented with an array of definitions:

  • splendid; nice; wonderful; delicious; sweet; (Na-adjective) sufficient; fine (in the sense of “I’m fine”); (by implication) no thank you;
  • well enough; OK; tolerable;
  • (Adverb) reasonably; fairly; tolerably;

(Jisho.org)

As you can see, ‘kekkou’ can be used as an adjective and adverb, and can even mean ‘no thank you’.

The ‘no thank you’ meaning is probably the most common. Although there are a number of different ways to say ‘no thank you’ and turn down an offer, one of the more polite ways it to say ‘kekkou desu’ (けっこうです).

For example, if someone offers to top up your sake cup but you’ve had enough alcohol, you can simply cover the top of the cup and say “kekkou desu” and the other person will understand that you are politely saying ‘no thank you (I’ve had enough)’.

pouring sake

(Image source)

Another way to use ‘kekkou’ is when you want to say that something is ‘wonderful’ or ‘just right’. For example, if a salesperson shows you something in a shop and it’s just what you were looking for, you could say ‘kekkou desu’ (or ‘ii desu’ / いいです). It’s exactly the same phrase, but you would show your meaning in the way you say it. Face-to-face this shouldn’t be too hard – nodding means ‘yes’ and shaking your head means ‘no’ in Japan too. However, if you were answering a question over the phone you would need to be careful! Adding a はい (hai / yes) or いいえ (iie / no) before ‘kekkou’ should clear things up.

One other common way that ‘kekkou’ is used is to mean ‘quite’ or ‘reasonably’. For example, if someone asks you how the movie you’ve just seen was, you could reply ‘kekkou omoshiroi’ (けっこうおもしろい), meaning ‘quite interesting’. Again, you have to be quite careful with this usage as it could also mean ‘wonderfully interesting’ – the only way to tell is in the voice and face of the speaker.

So, confused about ‘kekkou’? I hope not! I’m certainly going to try to use it more from now on! Listen to ‘kekkou’ here.

☆★☆

Next week’s post will be about a word or phrase beginning with ‘ko’ (こ), so please leave your suggestions below. The word can be a verb, adjective or expression, but no nouns please! For example, ‘kowai’ (こわい) meaning ‘scary’ would be acceptable, but ‘Korilakkuma’ (コリラックマ), Rilakkuma’s younger bear friend, would not. I look forward to reading your ideas! (*^_^)v

Word of the Week 2014

6 thoughts on “Word of the Week: けっこう

  1. kekkou sure is a good one and very useful. I find myself using it quite a lot in Japan. A few suggestions for next week are:

    Konnichi wa (こんにちは) Hello
    Koi suru (恋する) To be in love with

    Like

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