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!” If you want to learn more Japanese, be sure to check out all of our Japanese lessons.
1. Shut-up: 黙れ / だまれ (Damare)
Strength: ★★★★★ Frequency of Use: ★☆☆☆☆
The first phrase I will explain is 黙れ (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.
黙れ (damare) is the imperative form of the verb 黙る (damaru) which means “to stop talking.” 黙れ(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 – #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 (urusai)” to your neighbor, you are telling him to “shut that noise up!” If you said “黙れ (damare),” you would be telling him to “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.
黙れ (damare) is mostly used by men. Women hardly ever use 黙れ (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
- 行け (ike): go away
2. You’re Loud/Irritating: うるさい (Urusai)
Strength: ★★★★☆ Frequency of Use: ★★★☆☆
This phrase is much more common than 黙れ (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.
(Ā mō, urusai!)
Ahhh, it’s so noisy!
Situation 2: Fumiko is talking to her mom on the phone.
お母さん: もしもし？ 聞こえる？
Okāsan: (Moshi moshi? Kikoeru?)
Mom: Hello? Can you hear me?
Fumiko: (Un, kikoeteru yo.)
Fumiko: Yes, I can.
お母さん: え？何？ 聞こえてる？
Okāsan: (E? Nani? KIKOETERU?)
Mom: Eh? 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: 静かに / しずかに (Shizuka Ni)
Strength: ★★☆☆☆ Frequency of Use: ★★★★☆
The phrase “静かにしてください (Shizukani shite kudasai)” means “Keep it down, please,” and is very commonly used. 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.
“Shizuka ni” is often written in kanji like this: 静かに
However, it can also be written in hiragana like this: しずかに
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 静かに (shizuka ni).
Contrary to うるさい (urusai), which expresses strong feelings, 静かに (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 either:
- お静かに (o shizuka ni)
- お静かにお願いします (o shizuka ni onegai shimasu)
Here are some common ways “shizuka ni” is used in Japanese:
- 静かにする。 (Shizuka ni suru.): I will be quiet.
- 静かにして。 (Shizuka ni shite.): Be quiet. (in a polite way)
- 静かにしてください。 (Shizukani shite kudasai.): Please be quiet.
- お静かにお願いします。 (O-shizuka ni onegai shimasu.*): Please be quiet.
- 静かにしろ！ (Shizuka ni shiro!): Be quiet! (In a strong, forceful way)
*Note: お願いします (onegai shimasu) is used to make a request rather than a demand.
Polite Phrases to Ask Someone to Be Quiet:
- 静かにしていただけますか？ (Shizuka ni shite itadakemasu ka?): Would you mind keeping it down?
- 静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 in most situations.
4. Be Quiet (Formal): 静粛に / せいしゅくに (Seishuku Ni)
Strength: ★★☆☆☆ Frequency of Use: ★★☆☆☆
This is a more formal version of 静かに (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, concert halls, courts of law, or formal ceremonies.
This phrase is often followed by お願いします (onegai shimasu) which means “please” in English.
To make this expression more formal and polite, you could put the honorific 御 (go) in front of it like this:
(Please) keep it down.
(Kore yori shō 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 (urusai). 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 in a joking way.
(Tonari no heya ga yakamashii kara, benkyō ni shūchū dekinai.)
The room next door is noisy, so I can’t concentrate on my studies.
6. Zip It: お口にチャック (O-Kuchi Ni Chakku)
Strength: ★★★☆☆ Frequency of Use: ★☆☆☆☆
This has the same meaning as the phrase “zip your lips/mouth” in English. However, using お口にチャック (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 their index finger to their mouth and saying “しー (Shī)” is more appropriate, but can also be rude (just like in most other cultures). Using one of the polite phrases mentioned above like 静かにしていただけますか (Shizuka ni shite itadakemasu ka) would work best in most situations.
- お口 (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 index 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!