Translation debate: how do you say 'Oh my God!' in Japanese?

By Scott Wilson, SoraNews24

Japanese and English are such different languages that translating word-for-word between them usually just results in (hilariously) unintelligible garbage.

Take for example the phrase “Oh my God!” Translating it into French is easy: “Oh mon dieu!” Same thing for German: “Oh mein Gott!” And in Spanish too: “¡Oh, Dios mío!”

But then we have Japanese, where the literal translation would be something like: “Aa, watashi no kamisama.” Not only does that sound strange to native ears, but it also does not even come close to conveying the meaning.

Instead we’d have to use a completely different phrase. Japanese Twitter user @hatz0_0show recently posted their experience when a foreigner asked them to translate “Oh my God!” into Japanese, and it blew up online. Here is what he wrote.

“One time I was asked by a foreign person how to say ‘Oh my God!’ in Japanese. I agonized over it, but someone with me suggested maji ka as a translation. That foreigner then immediately yelled a surprised maji ka?! throwing their hands out to the side, then a contemplative maji ka? while looking upward, and a solemn maji ka… while hanging their head. They mastered all the different variations.”

For those unaware, maji ka is a slangy way of saying “really?!” It’s not something you should say in front of your boss, but it’s fine with friends. And yeah, it seems like a pretty good way to convey the same feeling as “oh my God!” in English, especially considering both phrases can convey everything from elation to horror.

But instead of the debate ending there, other netizens chimed in with their own opinions on the phrase:

“It’s usually translated as nante koto da or literally as, aa wa ga kamisama.”

“I learned it as nante kotta, but I can see this too.”

“I feel like yabai is pretty close to ‘Oh my God’ as well.”

“I’m from Osaka and we’d just say nande ya nen.“

“I thought maji ka just translated to ‘really?’ not ‘Oh my God.'”

“Since you can use it both when you’re troubled or when you’re very happy, I think maji ka is a good translation.”

“What about ‘Oh my gosh’ and ‘Oh my goodness’ though? Are they the same?”

Oh boy, that’s a lot of linguistic languish! Let’s break it down a bit:

Nante koto da — Translates to “what a horrible thing!” Works for the bad kind of “Oh my God” surprise.

Aa wa ga kamisama — Translates to “O my Lord, [what have ye wrought].” Extremely rare and should only be used if you’re acting in a period drama of sorts.

Nante kotta — Same as nante koto da, just contracted.

Yabai — Has a lot of translations, something like “wow” or “whoa.” Words for both the bad and good kind of “Oh my God.”

Nande ya nen — Translates to something like “what/why the heck?” Osaka slang.

Oh my gosh/Oh my goodness — Would probably be something like ara ma, a much softer version that women use.

And let’s not forget just using the English “Oh my God!” in Japanese. (See it here from the anime "Azumanga Daioh" at 0:13).

As you can see, there are plenty of different ways to translate just this one phrase,depending on the context. For those who just want as versatile a phrase as possible, sticking with maji ka is good most of the time, but there’s plenty of other varieties to choose from if you feel like getting spicy.

But whatever you do, don’t get so spicy that you accidentally start translating tacos as “supreme court beef.”

Source: Twitter/@hatz0_0show via My Game News Flash

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

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© SoraNews24

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

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If it is not a good situation, how about 参ったな! (maittana).

1 ( +1 / -0 )


0 ( +0 / -0 )

It is important to remember that there are many ways to say "Oh my God!" in English, depending on the mood, context or situation. Usually it has nothing to do with God anyway. "O. my. Go..................................d....." etc. No need to stick with one Japanese phrase.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

“O- mai ga—“

according to most people on the telly.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Masaka! of course.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Come on... get off the OMG kick... just watch Japanese variety TV because there is worse than OMG. You know what it is.... eehhhhh. Yes the almighty and equally annoying "eehhhhh" Which to me... is how you say OMG in Japanese.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The Germans don’t usually put an “oh” before “mein Gott”, and the Spanish usually say simply “Dios mio”.

The “oh” is a very English ( actually American) thing.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I always thought it was eeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEHHH!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Nante kotta — Same as nante koto da, just contracted.

No so much "What a horrible thing", and More like "What the!?" I'd say this one's the closest.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

How about shijirarenai!

Phrases OMG simply have thousands of meanings, its all about context!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Oh mai godu

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Oh mai godu


0 ( +0 / -0 )

I always thought it was eeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEHHH!

This is what the War Office says it is.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

sudden action: wa--a! or Ee--e!

About something incredible: Ariena---i!

Old fashion expression: Nantekotta!

Osaka dialect: Nandeyan-ne!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

You be cool and say it in English

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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