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Kanji in this term

Grade: 2


From Old Japanese.[1]


Medial /h/ regularly changed from [p][ɸ][w]. Japanese never distinguished between /wu/ and /u/, so that automatically becomes [u]. The /w/ only surfaces in the negative form of iwanai, where the phoneme /wa/ exists. Surface forms /iwimasu/ and /iwemasu/ automatically become /iimasu/ and /iemasu/ since Japanese no longer distinguishes /wi, we/ from /i, e/.

Possibly related to Korean (ip, “mouth”).


Alternative formsEdit


言う (transitive, godan conjugation, hiragana いう, rōmaji iu, alternative reading ゆう, rōmaji yuu, historical hiragana いふ)

  1. to say, to tell somebody
    • circa 762, Shōsōin Man'yōgana Monjo
      和可夜之奈比乃 可波利爾波 於保末之末須 美奈美乃末知奈流奴乎 宇氣與止 於保止己可都可佐乃比止伊布 之可流可由恵爾 序禮宇氣牟比止良 久流末毛太之米弖 末都利伊禮之米太末布日 與禮良毛伊太佐牟 之可毛己乃波古美於可牟毛 阿夜布可流 可由恵爾 波夜久末可利太末布日之 於保己可ツ可佐奈比氣奈波 比止乃太氣太可比止 □己止波宇氣都流
      (please add an English translation of this quote)
    • circa 890, Taketori Monogatari (page 7)
    • 10th century: Ise Monogatari (chapter 6, page 84)
    アリスは (わたし) (やす)みたいと ()った
    Arisu wa watashi ni yasumitai to itta.
    Alice said to me that she wants to rest.
     (わたし) ()ようにしなさい。
    Watashi ga iu yō ni shinasai.
    Do as I tell you.
     (かれ) (へん)だと ()われた
    Kare wa hen da to iwareta.
    He was told that he was strange.
  2. to call, to name, to give a name
    • circa 890, Taketori Monogatari (page 3)
      いまは (むかし)竹取 (たけとり) (おきな)いふもの (あり)けり。
      Ima wa mukashi, Taketori no Okina to iu mono arikeri.
      (please add an English translation of this example)
    この動物 (どうぶつ) () (ほん) () (なん) ()いますか。
    Kono dōbutsu wa nihongo de nan to iimasu ka.
    What do you call this animal in Japanese?
    ピリオドは、s ()t ()o ()p () や full (フル) s ()t ()o ()p () ともいい (へい) (じょ) (ぶん) (めい) (れい) (ぶん) ()わりに ()ける。[1]
    Piriodo wa, sutoppu ya furu sutoppu to mo ii, heijobun meireibun no owari ni tsukeru.
    A period, also called a stop or full stop, attaches to the end of a declarative or imperative sentence.

Usage notesEdit

As a transitive verb, this can take the usual accusative particle (o) after the object of the verb. However, it is much more common to see this with the quotative particle (to) instead.


言う (intransitive, godan conjugation, hiragana いう, rōmaji iu, historical hiragana いふ)

  1. to cry, to call, to make a noise (such as an animal)
    ニャーニャー () (ねこ)
    nyānyā iu neko
    a mewing cat




  1. ^ 1988, 国語大辞典(新装版) (Kokugo Dai Jiten, Revised Edition) (in Japanese), Tōkyō: Shogakukan
  2. ^ 2006, 大辞林 (Daijirin), Third Edition (in Japanese), Tōkyō: Sanseidō, →ISBN