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Learn 9 Idioms Using the Word “あたま” in Japanese


Learn 9 Idioms Using the Word “あたま” in Japanese

Welcome back to our first “Video & Article” series with tutor Miki. In this article and video we will take a look at nine different idioms that use the Japanese word for “head” (頭) in Japanese. Idioms make your spoken Japanese sound very natural, and having a few up your sleeve will allow you to surprise your Japanese friends and co-workers!

Table of Contents
[1) (あたま)()れる]
[2) (あたま)()がる]
[3) (あたま)()がらない]
[4) (あたま)()く]
[5) (あたま)()やす]
[6) (あたま)(まる)める]
[7) (あたま)にくる]
[8) (あたま)()()がる]
[9) (あたま)(かか)える]

[1) (あたま)()れる]

The first idiom we will learn is “(あたま)()れる”. “切れる” is the potential form of “切る” and means “to be able to cut”. So, what does it mean if “a head is able to cut”? A similar English expression would be to call someone “sharp”, as in intelligent. “(あたま)()れる” also has a nuance of someone being street-smart or clever. For example, if you say “あの新人(しんじん)(あたま)()れる”, it means “That new guy at work is street-smart”.

This is how you can use this idiom in a conversation:

A: 新入社員(しんにゅうしゃいん)のプロジェクト、(むずか)しい状況(じょうきょう)だったけどうまくいったらしいね。
A: I’ve heard that the new employee’s project went really well though the situation was not easy.

B: そうそう、あの新人(しんじん)(あたま)()れるからね。
B: Yeah, because that new employee is really clever.

[2) (あたま)()がる]

The next idiom is “(あたま)()がる”. This literally means that your head is being lowered. This idiom is used when you want to convey that you have a great admiration, gratefulness, and respect for someone’s courtesy. Even today Japanese people bow and lower their heads to pay their respect and to express gratitude. “素晴(すば)らしい心遣(こころづか)いに(あたま)()がる”, meaning that a person’s thoughtfulness is admirable, is a common expression using this idiom.

Let’s see how this is used in dialogue:

A: キミのアシスタントが(すべ)手配(てはい)()ませてくれたよ。
A: Your assistant has finished all of the arrangements for me.

B: そうですか。彼女(かのじょ)心遣(こころづか)いには(あたま)()がるよ。
B: Oh yeah? I can’t thank her enough for her thoughtfulness.

[3) (あたま)()がらない]

(あたま)()がらない” is another way of saying that you respect the person or the person’s behavior so much so that you cannot look her/him in the eye.
Alternatively, this idiom can also convey that you are aware you did something wrong or have already accepted your defeat against someone:

I’m no match for my wife.

[4) (あたま)()く]

(あたま)()く” literally translates to “to put something on your head”. What this idiom actually means when a Japanese person uses it is to tell someone “to keep something in mind”. So when you want someone to remember something important, you can say:

Please keep this in mind.

However, this idiom is only used as an imperative, so you cannot say “(わたし)(あたま)()いておいた” (I kept this in mind), or (あたま)においておいたんだけどなぁ (But I thought I thought I remembered this).

Here is an example of a teacher talking to his students:

Teacher: This will come up in the test, so make sure to remember it.

[5) (あたま)()やす]

(あたま)()やす” actually exists as a similar expression in English. It means “to cool down one’s head”. Here is how you can use it in a conversation:

A: あれ?(かれ)どこ()ったの?
A: Oh, where did he go?

B: 保存(ほぞん)していたデータが全部(ぜんぶ)()えて、そうとうショックだったみたい。散歩(さんぽ)をして(あたま)()やす、って()ていったよ。
B: He was really upset about losing all the files in his laptop. He said he was going for a walk to cool down his head and left.

[6) (あたま)(まる)める]

(あたま)(まる)める” means “to shave one’s head” and is an expression that is very unique to Japanese culture. In order to show regret for doing something, people in Japan may sometimes shave their head as an apology. This is said to originate from Buddhist monks shaving their heads.
In modern Japanese society, the act of shaving one’s head is used as a metaphor for one’s regret and to show remorse, so people do not actually want to shave off their hair when they say “(あたま)(まる)める”. When someone tells you to (あたま)(まる)めて()い, you also do not have to shave off your hair, but it means that you should probably think about what you have done and show some remorse.

Here is what this idiom could look like in a conversation:

A: ruby>君(きみ)昨夜(さくや)()いすぎて取引(とりひき)がうまくいかなかったそうだな。
A: I’ve heard that you were too drunk to make a deal last night.

B: はい、すみません。(あたま)(まる)めてきます。
B: Yes you’re right. I’m so sorry.

[7) (あたま)にくる]

(あたま)にくる” means that something is getting to your head – in other words, this means that someone is mad or angry:

A: (ぼく)のパソコンがプレゼン(ちゅう)にアップデートを(はじ)めた。
A: My laptop started updating itself while I was in the middle of giving my presentation.

B: それは(あたま)にくるね。
B: That would make anyone angry.

[8) (あたま)()()がる]

Another idiom to express frustration using “頭” is “(あたま)()()がる” – the blood is going into your head. The image is clear: You are so angry that your head goes all red!
You may have noticed that the word “head” in Japanese idioms is often associated with anger or frustration. “(あたま)()()がる” could be used like this in a sentence:

My boss is so angry he can’t think clearly right now.

[9) (あたま)(かか)える]

The last idiom, “(あたま)(かか)える”, literally translates to “carrying one’s head in one’s arms”. This idiom means that you feel very troubled, so much so that you have to bury your head in your arms to think very hard about how to get out of your trouble.

We’ve covered quite a few idioms today. (おお)すぎて(あたま)(かか)えてないですか?

That is all for today’s lesson. If you have any questions you can always clear them up by booking a lesson with one of our native Japanese tutors. See you next time!

単語たんごリスト(Vocabulary list)
慣用句(かんようく) Idiom
(あたま) Head
(あたま)()れる To be clever, to be street-smart
状況(じょうきょう) Situation, circumstances
新人(しんじん) Newcomer, new team-member
(あたま)()がる To admire greatly, to take one’s hat off to
手配(てはい) Arrangements
()ませる To finish
心遣(こころづか) Consideration, thoughtfulness
(あたま)()がらない To be no match for someone/something
(あたま)() (Used in imperative, as in: “頭に置いて” or “頭に置ておいて”) To keep in mind
(あたま)()やす To cool down one’s anger
保存(ほぞん)する To save
(あたま)(まる)める To shave one’s head in apology, to be remorseful
() To get drunk
取引(とりひき) Dealings, business
(あたま)にくる To get mad, to be very offended, to get pissed off
(あたま)()(のぼ) To get angry, to lose one’s cool
上司(じょうし) Boss
冷静(れいせい) Calm, cool, composed
(あたま)(かか)える To be troubled, to be at one’s wits ends

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