The most common way to wish someone good luck in Japanese is “頑張って(ね) (ganbatte (ne)).”
However, “頑張って(ね) (ganbatte (ne)) doesn’t exactly translate to “good luck” in English but is very commonly used in Japanese. We’ll cover other ways to say “good luck” in Japanese in this article, but “頑張って(ね) (ganbatte (ne)) is by far the most natural and used expression.
How Do You Say “Good Luck” in Japanese?
When wishing someone good luck, the exact translation in Japanese would be 幸運を祈ります (Kōun o inorimasu). But this phrase is not often used in our daily conversation.
In fact, it sounds a bit awkward if used. We’ll talk about this expression in more detail later in this article. But for now, let’s go over the most common and natural ways to say “good luck” in Japanese.
1. 頑張って! (Ganbatte): Good Luck!
You’ll hear native Japanese speakers saying 頑張って! (ganbatte) a lot. While this is not a direct translation of “good luck,” it is the most natural and commonly used.
頑張って! (ganbatte) is used when you want to wish someone good luck for an upcoming event. This could be something important like an exam or a job interview, or a competition (sports, academic, etc.).
The verb 頑張る (ganbaru) means “to make a strenuous effort and to persevere.” By changing this to the te-form, 頑張って (ganbatte) becomes a casual request. It has a nuance of “Give it your all, okay?” A polite way to say this is 頑張ってください (ganbatte kudasai). This polite version is like saying “Please try your best” in English.
As you can see, these phrases are more for cheering a person on to keep fighting towards a goal. However, these phrases (especially 頑張って) can also be translated as “good luck.” This is because when you encourage someone, you wish them well and hope things go great for them. This “hope” that things will turn out great and wishing them well has the same nuance as saying “good luck” in English.
You can add the particle ね (ne) at the end of both phrases to make them sound more conversational, to emphasize the speaker’s feelings, or to seek agreement from a listener.
Let’s take a look at the differences below.
Different Ways To Use 頑張って (Ganbatte)
Good luck. / Do your best.
Good luck, okay? (You got this!) / Do your best, alright? (good luck!)
Ganbatte kudasai ne.
Please do your best. (I wish you well)
Please note that the meaning of 頑張って! (ganbatte!) can vary depending on the situation. As mentioned above, it can give off the nuance of “good luck” in English, but not always. It can convey so many different meanings like “try your best,” “fight!” or “don’t give up!”
頑張って (ganbatte) can even be used sarcastically. We’ll go into the sarcastic way of using 頑張って at the end of this article.
Writing 頑張って (Ganbatte) With Kanji
Not to get too sidetracked, but the meaning of the kanji characters of 頑張って is pretty cool. 頑 (gan) means “stubborn,” while 張 (ha) means “to stick” or “to affix.” So the kanji or 頑張って means “to be firm (to stick) in your stubbornness.”
(Shūkatsu, ganbatte ne.)
Good luck with finding a job.
(Ashita no shiken ganbatte!)
Good luck with tomorrow’s exam.
If you would like to see how to use 頑張って (ganbatte) naturally in conversations, go to the end of this article. We included two longer dialogues below to show you how this phrase is used naturally.
2. うまくいくといいね (Umaku Iku To Ii Ne): Good luck! / I Hope It Goes Well
This expression translates to, “I hope it goes well.” Though this phrase does have a nuance of “good luck,” it is less frequently used compared to 頑張って (ganbatte). However, it is possible to use this phrase along with 頑張って (ganbatte).
うまく (umaku) means something going or doing something “well,” and いく (iku) means “to go.” The conditional と (to) particle means “if something happens.” いい (ii) is a casual way of pronouncing 良い (yoi), meaning “good.” If we put it all together, this phrase means, “If things turn out well, it would be good.” Or, in simpler terms, “I hope things turn out well.”
(Doyōbi no sapuraizu pātī, umaku iku to ii ne.)
Good luck with the surprise party on Saturday. (I hope it turns out well)
(Arubaito no mensetsu umaku iku to ii ne.)
Good luck with the interview for arubaito. (I hope you do well)
The example dialogue below shows how this expression can be used together with 頑張って (ganbatte).
Takumi: Ashita wa kaisha de purezen nanda.
Takumi: I will have a presentation tomorrow at work.
Atsuko: (Junbi wa bantan?)
Atsuko: Are you fully ready for it?
Takumi: (Un, junbi wa dekiteru kedo, kinchō suru nā. Demo okyūryō ga agaru chansu ni naru kamo.)
Takumi: Yes, I am ready for it, but I’m nervous. However, this might be my chance to get a raise.
Atsuko: Uwā, umaku iku to i ine. Ganbatte.
Atsuko: Wow, I hope it goes well. Good luck.
3. 健闘を祈ります (Kentō O Inorimasu): Good luck! / Giving It Your All
健闘 (kentō) means “a good fight” or “to put a lot of effort into something.” 祈る (inoru) means “to pray.” This is an expression you say to someone when you want them to give it their all and show their ability to the fullest. This is a formal phrase, so it is not often used in casual situations.
For example, it can be used in semi-formal speeches before competitions like football or baseball games to encourage the athletes. You would also use this with people older than you or who have a higher social status than you (like your boss).
It also can be used in a business setting. You could say this to someone leaving your company to wish them a successful future (full of successful “battles”).
Because it sounds very formal and business-like, you probably wouldn’t say it to your friends or family, especially in casual situations. If using this phrase in very formal situations like a speech in front of your business partners or at a big event, it would be better to use the honorific form:
- Formal/Polite Version: ご健闘をお祈りします (Gokentō o oinori shimasu.)
- Very Formal/Polite Version: ご健闘をお祈りいたします (Gokentō o oinori itashimasu).
- Super Formal/Polite Version: ご健闘をお祈り申し上げます (Gokentō o oinori mōshi agemasu).
(Ashita daiji na purezen ga aru sō desu ne. Gokentō o oinori itashimasu.)
I heard you have a very important presentation tomorrow. Good luck.
(Kondo no taisen aite wa kanari tsuyoi sō desu ne. Gokentō o oinori itashimasu!)
I understand that the opponent this time is quite strong. I wish you good luck!
4. 幸あれ (Sachi Are): Good Luck! / All The Best
This classical and even poetic expression is used to wish someone good luck. 幸 (sachi) is kun-yomi (Japanese reading) of the kanji. ～あれ (are) is a classic command form that is not used in daily conversation. It is used in song lyrics, congratulatory speeches, or formal writings. Sometimes 幸あれ (sachi are) is used as a catchphrase.
(Shinkon no futari ni sachi are!)
Good luck to the newlyweds!
(Atarashii kadode ni sachi are!)
Good luck on your new start (on life)!
Other Japanese Words For Good Luck
While the words listed here mean “good luck,” they are intended to be used as expressions to describe types of luck. These words and phrases are not used to wish someone “good luck.”
1. 運が良い/いい (Un Ga Yoi/Ii): Lucky, Having Good Luck
運が良い/いい (un ga yoi/ii) means having good luck. This is an adjective to describe a person who has good luck. The opposite word of this is 運が悪い (un ga warui), which means “bad luck.”
運 (un) means something that happens that can’t be controlled by your efforts or abilities. So it can be translated as “fate” or “luck.” Japanese people generally don’t have strong beliefs in God or a divine creator, but many believe in a natural force that affects human activities. 運 (un) is considered a stroke of luck coming from this “natural force” or the heavens.
These expressions can be used to describe the luck of things like animals as well.
Here is a conversation between two girls who, by chance, bump into Brad Pitt on the street in Japan.
Chisato: (Watashi tte nante un ga waruin darō. Kyō wa warui koto bakkari okiteru.)
Chisato: I have such bad luck. Only bad things are happening to me today.
Yayoi: (Māmā, sonna hi mo aru yo. Oishī mono demo tabete genki dasō yo.)
Yayoi: Well, there’s gonna be days like this. Why don’t you eat some delicious food to cheer up?
Chisato: (Hā, naki sō.)
Chisato: Sigh. I want to cry.
Yayoi: (Nee! Moshikashite are, rainichi shiteru Brad Pitt janai?)
Yayoi: Hey! Isn’t that Brad Pitt who’s visiting Japan?
Chisato: (E? Maji de? Uso, Honto da!)
Chisato: What? Are you serious? It’s really him!
Yayoi: (Chotto watashi tachi muccha un ga ii ne. Konna tokoro de aeru nante. Kakkoii.)
Yayoi: Aren’t we incredibly lucky to meet him in a place like this? Wow, he is handsome.
Chisato: (Mitorete naide, hayaku, kamera, kamera!)
Chisato: Don’t be too mesmerized. Quick! Get the camera!
2. 幸運 (Kōun)
幸運 (kōun) means having good luck.
The meaning is exactly the same as 運が良い/いい (un ga yoi/ii). The kanji “幸 (kō)” means “happy” or “good.” 運 (un) means “luck” or “fate.” So the 幸運 (kōun) means “happy fate” or “good fortune.” Just like 運が良い/いい (un ga yoi/ii), this phrase can be used for both humans and any living creatures.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, 幸運 (kōun) can be used to wish someone good luck by saying 幸運を祈ります (Kōun o inorimasu). This means, “I pray for your good luck.” However, this sounds very formal and is rarely, if ever, used in a daily conversation. It can be used naturally at special occasions like weddings, birthdays, in formal speeches, or in formal writing.
Midori: (Sugoi jiko no koto ga hōdō sareteta ne. Genba ni itan datte?)
Midori: I saw the big accident on the news. I heard that you were actually there.
Tadashi: (Sō nanda. Demo kōun na koto ni, makikomare nakatta. Ato ippun osokattara, makikomareteta.)
Tadashi: Yes, but luckily, I wasn’t involved in it. That would have been me if I had gotten there one minute later.
Midori: (Sō nan da! Un ga mikata shite kuretanda ne.)
Midori: Oh, wow! Luck was on your side.
3. ラッキー (Rakkī)
ラッキー (rakkī) means “being lucky” or having “good luck.”
This comes from the English word “lucky” and means the exact same thing. This word is a casual version of 幸運 (kōun) and is commonly used in daily conversation. This word can also be used to describe the luck of both humans and any living creatures.
Mitsuki: (Kawaī neko da nē.)
Mitsuki: What a cute cat!
Yui: (Desho? Michibata de shinisō datta tokoro o hirotta no.)
Yui: Right? When I found her, she was on the street, clinging to her life.
Mitsuki: (E? Konna ni kawaī noni suteneko datta no?)
Mitsuki: What? I can’t believe such a cute cat was abandoned.
Yui: (Sō, tamatama mitsuketan da.)
Yui: Yes, I found her by chance.
Mitsuki: Rakkī na neko da nē.
Mitsuki: What a lucky cat!
頑張って (Ganbatte): Wishing Someone Good Luck in a Bad Way?
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that 頑張って(ね)! (ganbatte ne) is often used as a way to encourage someone. However, depending on the situation, 頑張って (ganbatte) can also sound sarcastic. It is like saying “good luck with that” in English to imply that you don’t think someone will succeed.
In Japanese, you can say せいぜい頑張って(ね/ください) (seizei ganbatte ne/kudasai) to sound sarcastic.
The expression せいぜい頑張って(ね/ください) (sēzē ganbatte ne/kudasai) originally had a positive meaning of “to do everything in your power” or “do your very best.” But with time, it started conveying more negative nuances, like “doing as much as you can (but still not good enough).” If someone says this to you, it can mean, “I know you can’t do it, but try your best anyway.”
So keep in mind that 頑張って has both positive and negative meanings.
Here is an example of how 頑張って can be used with sarcasm.
梢：私の夢はジョージ・クルーニ (George Clooney) と結婚すること。
Kozue: (Watashi no yume wa Jōji Kurūni to kekkon suru koto.)
Kozue: My dream is to get married to George Clooney.
Kei: (Fūn, ma, seizei ganbattara.)
Kei: Oh yeah? Good luck with that.
Kozue: (Nani, sono iikata.)
Kozue: How can you talk like that?
Kei: (Sore ni shite mo Ema Watoson tte kawaī yo na. Ore no kanojo ni shitai nā.)
Kei: By the way, Emma Watson is very charming, isn’t she? I wish she were my girlfriend.
Kozue: (Asso. Anta koso seizei ganbaru koto da ne.)
Kozue: Oh yeah? You too, good luck with that.
More Example Dialogues Using 頑張って (Ganbatte)
If you want to see more examples of how 頑張って (ganbatte) is used, take a look at these 2 example dialgues.
Example Dialogue 1:
Here is a conversation between Ms. Yamada and her boss.
Satō: (A, Yamada san. Kyō ga saigo no shukkinbi datta yo ne? Ashita kara Yamada san ga inakunaru to sabishii nā.)
Mr. Sato: Ah, Ms. Yamada. Is today your last day of work? I will miss you from tomorrow.
Yamada: (Buchō, ima made osewa ni narimashita. Kore, tsumaranai mono desu ga, busho no minasan de omeshiagari kudasai.)
Yamada: Mr. Sato, thank you for everything. This is nothing special, but please enjoy it with everyone in the department.
Satō: (Ki ni shinakute ii noni. Sore de, korekara dō suru no?)
Mr. Sato: You didn’t have to give us anything. So what are your plans?
Yamada: (Igirisu ni gogaku ryūgaku suru koto ni shimashita.)
Yamada: I am going to England for language study.
Satō: (Sō kā, wakaitte ii ne. Ganbatte ne. Ōen shiteru yo.)
Mr. Sato: Oh, are you? It’s nice to be young. Good luck. I know you’ll do good.
Yamada: (Arigatō gozaimasu. Buchō mo ogenki de ganbatte kudasai.)
Yamada: Thank you very much. You, too, take care of yourself. I wish you the best.
*Note: Ms. Yamada is giving a gift (probably sweets) to her boss, saying つまらないものですが (tsumaranai mono desu ga). This is a typical Japanese expression that shows the humbleness of the giver. つまらない (tsumaranai) means something “too ordinary” or “not nice.”
This phrase doesn’t mean that she thinks her gift is worthless. It is used to be humble, like saying “this isn’t anything special but,” or “it’s nothing much” in English. By saying this, you show respect to the person you give your gift to.
**Note: This usage of 頑張ってください (ganbatte kudasai) doesn’t mean “good luck.” Because her boss will not have any changes in his life or any events coming up, wishing him “good luck” would be strange. So this usage of 頑張ってください (ganbatte kudasai) is used as part of social etiquette. It is more like, “I wish you all the best in the future.”
Example Dialogue 2:
Misuzu: (Nani kiiteru no?)
Misuzu: What are you listening to?
Kayo: (Hehe, jitsu wa Furansu go no benkyō hajimetan da.)
Kayo: Hehe. Actually, I have started learning French.
Misuzu: (Hē, nande mata?)
Misuzu: Ahh, how come?
Kayo: (Uchi no kaisha, Fransu ni shiten ga aru desho. Furansu de hatarakeru hito wo boshū suru kamo shirenain datte.)
Kayo: Our company has a branch in France, right? I heard that they might recruit people willing to work in France.
Misuzu: (Sore sugoi ne! Chansu jan.)
Misuzu: That’s cool! It’s a big chance for you.
Kayo: (Sō, yume no kaigai seikatsu ga dekiru kamo shirenai.)
Kayo: Yes, my dream to live abroad may come true.
Misuzu: (Wā, ganbatte ne!)
Misuzu: Wow, good luck!