What Does Urusai Mean? Does It Really Mean Shut Up?

The word うるさい (urusai) in Japanese has a lot of meanings. It can be used to describe something that is noisy, loud, or irritating. It can also be used to describe someone’s personality. And it can be used to tell someone to “Shut Up!” Let’s look at all of its nuances and see how to use it yourself.

うるさい (Urusai): Noisy, Annoying, or Irritating

Urusai can be used when something annoys or irritates you. Saying “ahhhh!” in English when you feel irritated has a similar nuance to うるさい (urusai). 

Imagine a fly buzzing around you on a warm, humid day in May. If it annoys you, you may shout, “Urusai!” Interestingly, the kanji for urusai can be written as 五月蝿い, which literally means “the month of May” and “fly (insect).”

五月 (gogatsu – May) + 蝿 (hae – a fly) = 五月蝿い (urusai)

Urusai is also written as 煩い, but it is usually written in hiragana (うるさい).  

It is also very commonly used when a loud noise bothers you—for example, construction work, loud motorcycles, people playing music loudly, etc.  

Examples:

1. 工事の音がうるさい。
(Kōji no oto ga urusai.)
The construction is noisy (and it’s irritating).

2. テレビの音が大きすぎてうるさい。
(Terebi no oto ga ōkisugite urusai.)
The TV volume is too loud (it’s noisy and bothering me).

Urusai in the Past Tense

If you want to use うるさい (urusai) in the past tense, use うるさかった (urusakatta). 

If you’re not too sure about how to use or conjugate Japanese adjectives, check out our guide on Japanese adjectives to learn all about it.

Example:

1. 工事の音がうるさかった。
(Kōji no oto ga urusakatta.)
The construction was noisy (and it bothered me).  

Using Urusai as “Shut Up!”

If you are very angry at someone for making a lot of noise, you can tell them うるさい! (urusai!), which in this case means “shut up!

Saying urusai in a loud, angry way should be avoided though. It can cause even more trouble or even start a fight if you’re not careful.  

For example, a mother tells her daughter to clean her room and to do her homework. The daughter may shout at her mother:

ああもう、うるさい!
(Ahh mō urusai!)
Stop telling me what to do!

Or if someone is yelling at you and really making you mad, you can tell them うるさい (urusai)! Saying it in an angry way gives off the nuance of “shut up!”

If you want to take it up another level, you can say: 

うるせぇ!
(urusē)! 
Shut the hell up!

Changing the “さい (sai)” to “せぇ (sē)” makes the word much more harsh, forceful. That’s why うるせぇ (urusē) is usually used when people are angry or fed up.  This is mainly used by men since it is a rough way to say “shut up.”  Women usually say うるさい (urusai) even if they are really mad or irritated.  Of course, there are exceptions to every rule.  There might be some women who say うるせぇ (urusē) when they are upset!

Of course, there are many other ways you can tell someone to shut up in Japanese.

Saying うるさい (urusai) is a non-angry way (the way you usually would speak) is often used to tell someone you know well to be quiet.  

For example, if a husband plays video games loudly while his wife is trying to read a book, the wife may say:

ねえちょっと、うるさいよ。
(Nē chotto, urusai yo.)
Hey, it’s too loud. (So turn it down, will ya?)

Asking Someone to Be Quiet Politely

If someone is loud, and you want to politely ask them to keep it down, use this phrase instead:  

静かにしてください 
(Shizuka ni shite kudasai.). 
Please be quiet.

This phrase is much more polite and can be used to ask someone to keep it down nicely. This phrase is appropriate for when people are loud on the train, library, or other places where they should keep their voices down.  

If you want to be even more polite, you can use Japanese honorifics and say:

すみません。ちょっと静かにしていただけませんか?
(Sumimasen. Chotto shizuka ni shite itadakemasen ka?)
Excuse me. Would you be able to keep it down a little?

Using うるさい (Urusai) to Mean “Shut Up” in a Playful Way

Saying うるさい (urusai) to mean “shut up” isn’t always said out of anger. It can be used playfully as well. It is also used frequently with people you are close with, like your family or friends.

Let’s say a popular song starts playing on the radio. Your friend starts to sing it loudly and out of tune on purpose. In this playful situation, you could tell your friend “うるさい!” The nuance of saying urusai in this situation would be, “You sound awful! Be quiet!” in a playful way.  

The main thing to remember when using うるさい (urusai) is the tone you use to say it. Saying it with a neutral tone (not angry or loudly) gives off a meaning of “That’s loud, or quiet down.” However, saying it with anger will give it the meaning of “shut up!!”  

Using うるさい (Urusai) to Describe Someone’s Personality 

うるさい (urusai) can also be used to describe someone’s personality. Usually, having an うるさい personality is not a good thing. However, there are some cases where it can imply something good.   

Example:  

Imagine a sommelier who only wants the best wine with the best taste. They only recommend the best and will not even mention bad or average-tasting wines.  

A way to describe this person is:

味にうるさい
(aji ni urusai)
They are picky about flavor.

While being picky is usually not a good thing, in this case, it does have a positive meaning that the sommelier is very careful about the wines he chooses.  

However, most of the time, うるさい (urusai) is used negatively to talk about bad traits of people.  

Examples:

1. あの人は細かなことにうるさい。
(Ano hito wa komaka na tokoro ni urusai.)
That person cares too much about the details.

2. あいつは本当にうるさい。何が起きても、絶対に文句を言うんだよ。
(Aitsu wa hontо̄ ni urusai. Nani ga okitemo, zettai ni monku o iun da yo.)
That guy is really picky. He will for sure complain no matter what happens.   

How to Use Urusai in Other Ways

うるさい (urusai) can be used to describe feelings arising from what you see.

Examples:

1. If an editor feels a design is too busy, they may say:

このデザイン、ちょっとうるさいですね。
(Kono dezain chotto urusai desu ne.)
There’s too much going on in this design.

2. You may ask your hairstylist to cut your bangs because they bother you.

前髪がうるさいので切ってください。
(Maegami ga urusai node kitte kudasai.)
My bangs are bothering me, so please cut it.  

Summary

うるさい (urusai) may be one of the most common Japanese words people use in everyday life. It usually describes situations and things in a negative way and can even be rude at times. So be careful how you use this word! It is super useful, but it can get you into trouble too!

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