Word of the Week: すごい

It’s time for Word of the Week again! Last week we looked at a Japanese word or phrase beginning with ‘shi’ (し), and focussed on the phrase 失礼します (しつれいします) (shitsurei shimasu), a handy polite phrase meaning ‘excuse me’, among other things. This week I’m looking for a word or phrase beginning with ‘su’ (す). A big thank you to those who joined in with suggestions this week:

Japan Australia  suggested ‘suki desu’ (好きです), ‘like’; ‘susumemasu’ (勧めます), ‘recommend’; and ‘sugoi’ (すごい), ‘great’; lovelycomplex22 suggested ‘suteki’ (すてき), ‘lovely’; ‘sugoi’; and ‘sukari’ (すっかり), ‘all’ or ‘completely’; and Fran suggested ‘sumimasen’ (すみません), ‘sorry’ or ‘excuse me’.

There were some great ideas this week and in the end, with two votes, I decided to write about…

すごい (凄い)

(sugoi)

‘Sugoi’ is a common Japanese word, usually written in kana alone, generally meaning ‘great’ or ‘amazing’. It’s often used in phrases such as ‘waa! Sugoi ne!’ (わあー。。。すごいね!), meaning ‘Wow! That’s so cool/amazing’.

In an attempt to illustrate ‘sugoi’, I did a Google images search for すごい and this was what came up:

すごい Google images search

すごい Google images search

As you can see, a lot of the images are cool or slightly bizarre things that might make you say ‘wow’.

If you want to be really cool, instead of saying ‘sugoi’ you can say ‘suge’ (スゲー). ‘Suge’ is just an informal, slangy way of saying ‘sugoi’, used more by men but also used by young women. Yoof speak, innit. 😉

Actually, although ‘sugoi’ is mostly used to mean ‘great’, it can also mean ‘terrible’, depending on the context. For example, in the sentence ‘sore wa sugoi desu ne’ (それはすごいですね), it’s impossible to tell if the speaker is saying ‘that’s  great, isn’t it?’ or ‘that’s terrible, isn’t it?’. They could be looking at a beautiful sunset or a terrible car crash. However, if you said ‘sugoi mondai desu ne’ (すごいもんだいですね), that would mean ‘it’s a big problem, isn’t it?’, so you could tell straight away that the meaning was negative.

‘Sugoi’ can also be used to mean ‘very’, you just need to modify the adjective by replacing the ‘i’ with ‘ku’, for example: ‘sugoku samui desu’ (すごくさむいです) means ‘it’s very cold’.

I’ll finish today with my favourite ‘sugoi’ image from my Google search – the wonderfully sugoi Miyazaki-san, made out of all his sugoi characters…

Sugoi Miyazaki

☆★☆

Next week’s post will be about a word or phrase beginning with ‘se’ (せ), so please leave your suggestions below. The word can be a verb, adjective or expression, but no nouns please! For example, ‘seppuku suru’ (せっぷくする) meaning ‘to commit ritual suicide’ would be acceptable, but ‘Sendai’ (仙台), the place, would not. I look forward to reading your ideas! (*^_^)v

Word of the Week 2014

14 thoughts on “Word of the Week: すごい

  1. Hi! My name is Shigeo. I’m a Japanese man. This is the first time to write on your Blog. I’m a beginner of English. So please allow me to use really broken English!
    My suggestion is Sekkaku. I don’t know if you have the same meaning word in English. I suppose Sekkaku is kind of difficult or vague to use for native English speaker. For me it’s also to define and explain how to use this word. So I searched on the internet.

    I think we Japanese use this word when something happening/happened is different from what we expected first.
    So there always contain a disappointment when we use it, or consideration to others not to make them to disappoint.

    I’ll write if some other better word for “Se” came up to me.
    I feel really embarrassed for my English. But it was a fun to write in English.
    Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • こんにちは Shigeoさん!はじめまして。Thank you for reading my blog and leaving a comment! ‘Sekkaku’ is an interesting suggestion – thank you. I don’t think I have ever used this word before. Can you give me an example sentence using ‘sekkaku’ or an example situation?

      Thank you so much for writing in English! I really appreciate your contribution, and you are very welcome to leave a comment any time!

      よろしくおねがいします!

      Like

      • Dear Haikugirl,
        Thank you for your quick reply. I SEE. Mostly this word is used as an adverb. OK, I will show you some examples later.
        I read what I posted again, but I realized it doesn’t make sense….actually it sounds stupid, ha ha ha. So I will try to explain the core meaning of the word more precisely, and show you some more words starting by “se”
        like, semeru, sekasu, settoku suru….
        English is too difficult for me!

        こちらこそ、よろしくおねがいします!!

        Like

      • Hi! Haikugirl,
        These are some examples of using “sekkaku (折角/せっかく)” *mostly used as adverb

        せっかく~したのに
        now that I’ve taken the trouble to

        あなたのせいで、せっかくの日曜日が台無しになりました。(あなたの/せいで/せっかくの/にちようびが/だいなしに/なりました)
        You ruined my Sunday.

        雨のせいでせっかくの休日が台無しになる。(あめの/せいで/せっかくの/きゅうじつが/だいなしに/なる)
        rain spoil the long-awaited holiday

        せっかくですが遠慮します(せっかく/ですが/えんりょ/します)[したい気持ちはあるのですが、けっこうです=時間がない、前にしたことがある、本当はきょうみがない、などの、いろんなりゆうで。]
        I would like to but no thanks

        (ひと)からのせっかくの招待を断る。((ひと)からの/せっかくの/しょうたいを/ことわる)
        say no to someone’s kind invitation

        せっかく来てくれたのに留守をしていてごめんね。(せっかく/きてくれたのに/るすを/していて/ごめんね)
        I’m sorry that I wasn’t home when you so kindly dropped by

        せっかくうまくいきかけたのに…。[うまくいっていると安心していたのに、トラブルが起きた。]
        Just when I think things are going well.

        せっかくのご招待ですが、残念ながらお受けできません。(せっかくの/しょうたい/ですが/ざんねんながら/おうけ/できません)
        I’m afraid I won’t be able to accept your kind invitation.

        せっかくのチャンスをふいにする。
        blow the chance

        せっかくの努力もすべて水の泡だった。(せっかくの/どりょくも/すべて/みずの/あわ/だった)
        All my hard work was for naught.

        せっかく外国に来たのに、日本人ばっかりでうんざり。(せっかく/がいこくに/きたのに/にほんじん/ばかりで/うんざり)
        We came all the way to another country, and all we see are Japanese.

        Basically when we use せっかく in a conversation between A and B, either A or B had taken some effort/trouble about something already for another one, and they talk about that something. (or sometimes, someone who is not there had taken the effort/trouble)
        But we use this word in more wide range. These are some meanings in English from online English-Japanese dictionary Weblio.
        http://ejje.weblio.jp/content/%E6%8A%98%E8%A7%92

        せっかく 折角

        1 with considerable trouble [effort];  at great pains
        2 long‐[eagerly‐] awaited 《holidays》 precious; valuable; good
        3 kindly kind 《advice》
        4 specially; expressly

        I suggest せい for the word starting “se” .
        …の[せい] で because of… owing to… 《be》 due to… on account of…
        ex, Your dim sight comes from overwork.

        I’m really sorry that my post is too much! Thank you for reading!

        Like

  2. Nice post. Two comments on this word based on my experience:
    1) Though technically すごく is used when you want to say “very”, often times people just say すごい instead. Search for “すごい早い” to see what I mean.
    2) You pointed out correctly that すごい can mean ‘cool’ but can also mean negative things. The way I think of this word to cover all possibilities is in the English word ‘wow!’ which can capture a large range of meanings.

    Like

  3. “Sugoi” originally expressed feeling horrible, fearful, aweful.
    And now its used as same as “Wow”.
    I think Awesome or Aweful is very close to “Sugoi”
    (Is there any difference between Awesome and Aweful?)

    I hope my terrible English make sense!

    Like

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