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!
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The first idiom we will learn is “頭が切れる”. “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. “頭が切れる” also has a nuance of someone being street-smart or clever. For example, if you say “あの新人は頭が切れる”, it means “That new guy at work is street-smart”.
This is how you can use this idiom in a conversation:
A: I’ve heard that the new employee’s project went really well though the situation was not easy.
B: Yeah, because that new employee is really clever.
The next idiom is “頭が下がる”. 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. “素晴らしい心遣いに頭が下がる”, 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: Your assistant has finished all of the arrangements for me.
B: Oh yeah? I can’t thank her enough for her thoughtfulness.
“頭が上がらない” 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.
“頭に置く” 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 “私は頭に置いておいた” (I kept this in mind), or 頭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.
“頭を冷やす” 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: Oh, where did he go?
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.
“頭を丸める” 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 “頭を丸める”. When someone tells you to 頭丸めて来い, 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: I’ve heard that you were too drunk to make a deal last night.
B: Yes you’re right. I’m so sorry.
“頭にくる” means that something is getting to your head – in other words, this means that someone is mad or angry:
A: My laptop started updating itself while I was in the middle of giving my presentation.
B: That would make anyone angry.
Another idiom to express frustration using “頭” is “頭に血が上がる” – 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. “頭に血が上がる” could be used like this in a sentence:
My boss is so angry he can’t think clearly right now.
The last idiom, “頭を抱える”, 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. 多すぎて頭を抱えてないですか？
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!
|頭が切れる||To be clever, to be street-smart|
|新人||Newcomer, new team-member|
|頭が下がる||To admire greatly, to take one’s hat off to|
|頭が上がらない||To be no match for someone/something|
|頭に置く||(Used in imperative, as in: “頭に置いて” or “頭に置ておいて”)||To keep in mind|
|頭を冷やす||To cool down one’s anger|
|頭を丸める||To shave one’s head in apology, to be remorseful|
|酔う||To get drunk|
|頭にくる||To get mad, to be very offended, to get pissed off|
|頭に血が上る||To get angry, to lose one’s cool|
|冷静||Calm, cool, composed|
|頭を抱える||To be troubled, to be at one’s wits ends|