Have you ever wanted to say “shut up” in Japanese? Even though Japan is a polite society, there may be times when you just want to tell someone to “shut up!”
As a Japanese person, I don’t think we say “shut up” directly compared to other countries. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t have powerful ways of telling someone to be quiet. We’ll go over ways to politely tell someone to be quiet, but we’ll also go over ways to tell someone that you hate to shut the @#$ up! So, let’s get to it!
1. Shut-up: だまれ (Damare)
Strength: ★★★★★ Frequency of Use: ★☆☆☆☆
The first phrase I will explain is damare. This is a very strong way to tell someone to shut up. This word expresses your disgust for someone. This literally is like telling someone, “Shut the @#%! up,” in English.
だまれ (damare) is the imperative form of the verb だまる (damaru) which means “to stop talking.” だまれ (damare) is used when you express your disgust at a person, rather than a situation.
For example, when your neighbor is playing their guitar at 3 am, using the word うるさい (urusai – see #2 on this list) feels more natural in this situation. This is because the sound of the guitar is what is bothering you, not the person playing it. So by saying “うるさい” to your neighbor, you are telling him to “shut that noise up!” If you said “だまれ,” you would be tell him “shut his mouth” instead, which would be weird since he is not talking.
Since this is a really strong phrase, don’t use it unless you absolutely have to, or it can get you in trouble really quickly.
Damare is mostly used by men. Women hardly ever use damare. Women may use it jokingly toward someone they are very close with.
If you encounter a creepy guy that just won’t shut up and leave you alone, this is what you can say.
(Damare! Acchi e ike! )
Shut up! Go away!
- あっち (acchi) over there
- へ (e) towards
- いけ (ike) go away
2. You’re Loud/Irritating: うるさい (Urusai)
Strength: ★★★★☆ Frequency of Use: ★★★☆☆
This phrase is much more common than damare. You can say it when you feel someone or something is being noisy or loud. This phrase can also be used when joking around with friends, playfully telling them to be quiet. However, when used with someone who you don’t know well, it can be a strong word and may sound rude—so be careful when using it.
Urusai is also used to comment on a situation, even when people are alone. If there is construction going on across the street, for instance, you could say urusai to yourself to express your frustration.
Situation 1: You hear some construction downstairs, and it’s disturbing your sleep.
Ahhh, it’s so noisy!
Situation 2: Fumiko is talking to her mom on the phone.
お母さん: もしもし？ きこえる？
(Okaasan: Moshi moshi? Kikoeru?)
Mom: Hello? Can you hear me?
(Fumiko: Un, kikoeteru yo.)
Fumiko: Yes, I can.
(Okaasan: Eh? Nani? KIKOETERU?)
Mom: What? CAN YOU HEAR ME?
(Fumiko: Un, chotto urusai kara shizuka ni shabette!)
Fumiko: Yes, you’re a bit loud, so tone it down, will ya?
3. Be Quiet: しずかに (Shizuka Ni)
Strength: ★★☆☆☆ Frequency of Use: ★★★★☆
“Shizukani shite kudasai,” which means “Keep it down, please,” is a very common phrase. You can hear it being said at companies, museums, cafés, libraries, and schools. It’s more of a formal phrase but can also be used amongst friends.
With your friends or people who have a lower social status than you (kids, people with less seniority than you, etc.), you can say the more informal “Shizuka ni.”
Contrary to urusai, which expresses strong feelings, shizuka ni is used to ask someone who is loud to be quiet in a more neutral way.
When you add お (o)in front of shizuka ni, it sounds even more polite. So you could say, おしずかに (o shizuka ni) or おしずかにお願いします (o shizuka ni onegai shimasu).
Here are some common ways “shizuka ni” is used in Japanese:
- しずかにする。 (Shizuka ni suru.) – I will be quiet.
- しずかにして。 (Shizuka ni shite.) – Be quiet. (in a polite way)
- しずかにしてください。 (Shizukani shite kudasai.) – Please be quiet.
- おしずかにお願いします。 (O-shizuka ni onegai shimasu.*) – Please be quiet.
- しずかにしろ！ (Shizuka ni shiro!) – Be quiet! (In a strong, forceful way.)
*Onegai shimasu is used to make a request rather than a demand.
Polite Phrases to Ask Someone to Be Quiet:
- しずかにしていただけますか？ (Shizuka ni shite itadakemasu ka?) – Would you mind keeping it down?
- しずかにしていただいてもいいですか？ (Shizuka ni shite itadaite mo ii desu ka?) – Could you keep it down?
These two phrases are polite and professional, so they should be used in places where you would show respect to others. In general, anyone — even strangers—should be treated with respect, so this is a good phrase to use anywhere.
4. Be Quiet (Formal): せいしゅくに/静粛に (Seishuku Ni)
Strength: ★★☆☆☆ Frequency of Use: ★★☆☆☆
This is a more formal version of しずかに (shizuka ni). It has a very stiff and formal tone. Since it sounds so formal, it’s used to ask people to refrain from talking in meetings or venues like theaters or concert halls.
This phrase is often followed by お願いします(onegai shimasu) which means “please” in English.
(Kore yori shou ga hajimarimasu node, seishuku ni onegai shimasu.)
The show will be starting now, so please quiet down.
5. Too Loud: やかましい (Yakamashii)
Strength: ★★★☆☆ Frequency of Use: ★☆☆☆☆
This means “it’s loud” and is similar to うるさい. This word can be used as a funny, ironic way to say “be quiet” since it sounds a bit old-fashioned. It sometimes makes an appearance in comic books. People might be surprised and have a good laugh (especially if you’re young) if you say this.
6. Zip It: おくちにチャック (O-Kuchi Ni Chakku)
Strength: ★★★☆☆ Frequency of Use: ★☆☆☆☆
This has the same meaning as the phrase “zip your lips/mouth” in English. However, using おくちにチャック (O-kuchi ni chakku) with a mouth-zipping gesture is usually for small kids or a kindergarten teacher telling her class to be quiet. It’s too childish to be used between adults.
For adults, putting a finger to your mouth and saying “しー”(Shii) is more appropriate, but can also be rude (just like in most other cultures). Using one of the polite phrases mentioned above like しずかにしていただけますか(Shizuka ni shite itadakemasu ka) would work best in most situations.
- おくち (o-kuchi): mouth
- に (ni): towards/at
- チャック (chakku): zip
7. Unspoken Gestures
Another way to tell people to be quiet in Japanese is through gestures.
Gestures such as putting your finger in front of your mouth, or making a mouth-zipping motion with your fingers, are also used in Japan.
Sometimes, staring at someone could work, but use this with caution. Yes, some people might notice and refrain from their loud behavior. But then again, some people might take this the wrong way—so be careful.
As I mentioned in this article, it’s really rare in Japan for people to say “shut up” to each other seriously and directly. Usually, we don’t express our feelings of disgust, dissatisfaction, or discomfort to people directly.
Japanese people think that it’s not respectable to let somebody know your true feelings, so we tend to hide them. Of course, this only applies to friendly conversations. Sometimes at night, people who are drunk, or are just angry, might get into some heated arguments.
The alcohol releases them from their “shyness,” which makes them say things they normally wouldn’t say. I’ve even heard someone say, “Shut up! Fu** you!” while waiting for the train a few times. Again, though, this is rare.
I hope you’ve found this helpful and can start using these phrases today!
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Thank you for reading!