How to Say Hot and Cold in Japanese: Different Words for Different Situations

The words “hot” and “cold” are very easy to master in English, but they can be a little tricky in Japanese.  

In Japanese, there are different words for hot and cold depending on what you are talking about. For example, talking about the weather uses a different word than if you were talking about an object that feels hot or cold.

There are two words to express cold in Japanese:

  • 寒い (samui): Cold weather, air
  • 冷たい (tsumetai): Cold to the touch

There are also two words in Japanese to describe hot things: 

  • 暑い (atsui): Hot weather, air temperature
  • 熱い (atsui): Hot objects, hot to the touch, hot/passionate people

This article will show you how to master these words so you can use them naturally in conversations.  

How to Say “Cold” in Japanese: 2 Ways

Let’s first go over the 2 different words for “cold” in Japanese, and how to use them.

1. 寒い (Samui): Cold Weather / Air Temperature

When talking about the weather or air temperature, we use the word 寒い (samui). 寒い is not used to say objects are cold. When you hear 寒い, think of it as referring to the environment, the weather, or feeling cold (due to the environment).  


1. 今日は寒い
(Kyō wa samui.)
It’s cold today. 

2. この部屋は寒い
(Kono heya wa samui.)
It’s cold in this room.

2. 冷たい (Tsumetai): Cold To the Touch

When something feels cold, such as a cold drink, we use the word 冷たい (tsumetai).  While cold weather is described using 寒い (samui), things like cold wind and cold rain are described using 冷たい (tsumetai).


1. 何か冷たい飲み物が飲みたい。
(Nanika tsumetai nomimono ga nomitai.)
I want to drink something cold.

2. 氷は冷たい。  
(Kōri wa tsumetai.)
Ice is cold.

3.  冷たい風が吹いている。
(Tsumetai kaze ga fuiteiru.)
A cold wind is blowing.

4.  冷たい雨が降っている。
(Tsumetai ame ga futteiru.)
It’s raining cold rain.

 3. 冷たい (Tsumetai): Cold Personality/People

冷たい (tsumetai) can also describe a person or their personality/attitude. 


1. あの人は私に対して冷たい
(Ano hito wa watashi ni taishite tsumetai.)
That person treats me coldly.

2. あの先生は生徒に対して冷たい態度をとる。
(Ano sensei wa seito ni taishite tsumetai taido o toru.)
That teacher has a cold attitude toward the students.

How to Say “Hot” in Japanese?

Depending on what you describe, there are also different words for “hot” in Japanese.   

The pronunciation of these two words is exactly the same, but their kanji is different.

Let’s take a closer look below.

1. 暑い (Atsui): Hot Weather / Air Temperature

For weather and air temperature, the word for hot is い (atsui). If you look at this kanji character, you can see that it has the sun radical “日,” which refers to weather and heat.  


1. 今日は暑い
(Kyō wa atsui.)
It’s hot today.

2. この部屋は暑い
(Kono heya wa atsui.)
It’s hot in this room.

3. 日本の夏は蒸し暑い
(Nihon no natsu wa mushiatsui.)
Summer in Japan is hot and humid

2. 熱い (Atsui): Feels Hot To the Touch

熱い (atsui) is used to describe how something feels. This kanji character has the water radical, “氵” in it.  When we talk about the weather in general, we use the kanji 暑い (atsui), but for the elements like the wind (see example #4 below), we use the kanji 熱い (atsui).


 1. このお茶は熱い
(Kono ocha wa atsui.)
This tea is hot.

2. お風呂のお湯は熱い
(Ofuro no oyu wa atsui.)
The water in the bathtub is hot.

3. その鍋、熱いから気をつけてね。
(Sono nabe atsui kara ki o tsukete ne.)
Be careful because the pot is hot.

4. 今日は風が吹いているが、熱風*なので、全く涼しく感じない。
(Kyō wa kaze ga fuiteiru ga neppū nano de mattaku suzushiku kanjinai.)
Hot wind is blowing today, so I don’t feel cool at all.

*Note:  The word 熱風 (neppū) is made up of two kanji characters: 熱, meaning “hot,” and 風, which means “wind.” However, you may have noticed that this word is not read as “atsui kaze.” This is because most kanji have two or more different readings known as kunyomi (native Japanese reading) and onyomi (Chinese-derived reading). Usually, when you combine two or more kanji characters (with no hiragana in between them), these characters will be read using the onyomi.  

熱: Two Different Readings

  • On-yomi: netsu
  • Kun-yomi: atsu 

3. 熱い (Atsui): Passionate, Intense, Hot Tempered

熱い (atsui) is also often used to describe someone’s personality.

You can see the same kanji in the word 熱心 (nesshin), which means “enthusiastic” or “energetic.”


1. ワールドカップで、オランダとアメリカの熱い戦いが繰り広げられた。
(Wārudo kappu de oranda to amerika no atsui tatakai ga kurihirogerareta.)
The World Cup match between the Netherlands and the United States was intense.

2. 健と健史には熱い友情がある。
(Ken to Takeshi ni wa atsui yūjyō ga aru.)
Ken and Takeshi have strong ties of friendship.

3. 彼は熱いね!**  
(Kare wa atsui ne!)
He is a very passionate person!

**Note:  In English, if you say, “He is hot!” it means he is physically attractive, but in Japanese, there is no such meaning. In Japanese, 彼は熱い means “He is a passionate person.”

How to Say “Warm” in Japanese?

“Warm” follows the same pattern as “cold and hot” in Japanese.  

  • 暖かい (atatakai): weather/air temperature
  • 温かい (atatakai): feels warm to the touch

While the kanji characters are different, the pronunciation is the same.

1. 暖かい (Atatakai): Warm Weather, Temperature

暖かい (atatakai) means nice and warm (weather or temperature).

As you can see, the kanji “暖” contains the sun radical, 日, which indicates something related to climate, air, temperature, or something you feel with your whole body.


1. 冬の間、暖かい南国で過ごす。
(Fuyu no aida atatakai nangoku de sugosu.)
During the winter, I stay in the South where it’s warm

2. この部屋は暖かい
(Kono heya wa atatakai.)
It’s warm in this room.

3. 春が来て、暖かくなった
(Haru ga kite atatakaku natta.)
Spring has come, and it’s warmer.

4. 今日は寒いから、暖かい服装で出かけよう。
(Kyō wa samui kara atatakai fukusō de dekake yō.)
It’s cold today, so let’s go out wearing warm clothes.

5.  暖かい***セーターを着る。
(Atatakai sētā o kiru.)
I put on a warm sweater.

***Note:  A sweater is something to wear, so you might think it should be 温かい instead of 暖かい. However, a sweater is not warm to the touch and doesn’t get warm by itself. After you put on a sweater, you get warm, so we use the kanji 暖かい.

2. 温かい (Atatakai): Warm To the Touch

温かい (atatakai) describes how warm something feels (to the touch).


1.  温かい飲み物を飲む。
(Atatakai nomimono o nomu.)
I will drink something warm.

2. 寒い日は、温かいものを食べたい。
(Samui hi wa atatakai mono o tabetai.)
When it’s cold, I want to eat something warm.

3. 温かい (Atatakai): Warm Personality, Warm-hearted, Warm Words

You can use 温かい (atatakai) to describe someone’s personality. In this case, it can mean “kind” or “warm-hearted.” 


1. 彼は温かい人だ。(=彼は親切だ。)
(Kare wa atatakai hito da. = Kare wa shinsetsu da.)
He is warm-hearted. = He is kind.

2.  温かいご支援ありがとうございます。
(Atatakai goshien arigatō gozaimasu.)
Thank you for your warm (kind)  support.

3. いつも温かい言葉をかけていただきありがとうございます。
(Itsumo atatakai kotoba o kaketeitadaki arigatō gozaimasu.)
Thank you always for your kind words.

4. このレストランは温かい雰囲気だ。
(Kono resutoran wa atatakai funiki da.)
This restaurant has a warm atmosphere.

Useful Points To Remember: Point 1

The difference between 暖かい and 温かい can be a little confusing.

There are exceptions, but this table can help you understand the difference:

AdjectiveAntonym (Opposite Meaning)
寒い (samui) 暖かい (atatakai
冷たい (tsumetai) 温かい (atatakai

Point 2: Casual/Slang Ways to Say 暖かい/温かい

A casual way to say 暖かい/温かい (atatakai) is あったかい (attakai).


(Kyō wa attakai ne.)
It’s warm today.

What’s the Difference between 熱い (Atsui) and 温かい (Atatakai)?

Even though 熱い (atsui) means “hot” and 温かい (atatakai) means “warm,” you may see both words being translated to “hot” in some cases, which makes things confusing. 

However, don’t overthink it. Just like in English, 熱い (atsui) is something with a hot temperature, and 温かい (atatakai) is a warm, “just-right” temperature that is comfortable.  

An Interesting Expression Using 寒い (Samui) and 暖かい (Atatakai)

暖かい (atatakai) can be used when you have a lot of money. On the other hand, we can use 寒い (samui) to express a situation where you are short on cash. It is often used with the word 懐 (futokoro), which can mean your inside breast pocket or your current financial situation.


1. お給料を使い切っちゃって今週は一日一食しか食べられなかったけど、今日は給料日だから懐が暖かい。今晩はステーキを食べよう。
(Okyūryō o tsukaikicchatte konshū wa ichinichi isshoku shika taberarenakatta kedo kyō wa kyūryōbi dakara futokoro ga atatakai. Konban wa sutēki o tabeyou.)
I could eat only one meal a day this week because I used up my salary. But today is payday, so I have plenty of money. I’m going to eat steak tonight.

2. 花子: 明日映画を観に行かない?
Hanako: (Ashita Eiga o mi ni ikanai?)
Hanako: Wanna watch a movie tomorrow?

     智子: ごめん。今懐が寒くて….。
Tomoko: (Gomen. Ima futokoro ga samukute….)
Tomoko: I’m sorry.  I’m short of money now.

    花子: じゃあ、今度のお給料日に行こうか?
Hanako: (Jā kondo no okyūryōbi ni ikō ka?)
Hanako: OK. How about we go on your next payday?

    智子: そうしよう。
Tomoko: (So shiyō.)
Tomoko: Yes, let’s do that.

温かい (Atatakai) VS ぬるい (Nurui)

ぬるい (nurui) also means warm, so how does it differ from 温かい (atatakai)?

The nuance of ぬるい (nurui) can have a negative meaning.

温かい describes something that is not too hot and not too cold. It’s just the right temperature. However, ぬるい (nurui) is used to describe things that are not hot enough and also not cold enough. It’s not the ideal temperature you want.  

What makes this especially confusing is that the kanji for ぬるい (nurui) is 温い (nurui). It shares the same kanji as 温かい (atatakai), just without the “か.” However, ぬるい is often written in hiragana.  

Let’s see the difference in nuance in the examples below.


1a. このお茶は温かいですね。
(Kono ocha wa atatakai desu ne.)
This tea is warm. (It’s the right temperature, so it’s tasty).

1b. このお茶はぬるいですね。
(Kono ocha wa nurui desu ne.)
This tea is not hot enough (or not cold enough, so it doesn’t taste good.) 

Important: Saying ぬるい to describe something someone prepared for you is very direct and can be rude.

2a. お風呂のお湯が温かい
(Ofuro no oyu ga atatakai.)
The water in the bathtub is warm (it’s just right, so it is comfortable.)

2b. お風呂のお湯がぬるい
(Ofuro no oyu ga nurui.)
The water in the bathtub is not hot enough (so it’s not pleasant.)

Photo of author

Yumi Nakata

Yumi is a native speaker of Japanese. She is living in Kanagawa, Japan, raising her three kids. She studied English as an exchange student in Washington state for a year. The days she spent with her American friends are some of the greatest memories of her life.

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