The meaning of hitotsu (一つ) in Japanese and how to use it

This article will give you all of the knowledge you need on the Japanese word hitotsu, including its Japanese definition and translation, example sentences, related expressions and more!

What does hitotsu mean?

The Japanese word hitotsu (written 一つ or 1つ) means one or one of something. Japanese people often use hitotsu to order a single item at a restaurant or bar.

Nama hitotsu kudasai.
One draft beer please.

The traditional Japanese numerals

Below are the traditional numerals you can use to count objects. Don’t worry about learning them all for now. Just know that they exist.

Hitotsu (一つ): One
Futatsu (二つ): Two
Mittsu (三つ): Three
Yottsu (四つ): Four
Itsutsu (五つ): Five
Muttsu (六つ): Six
Nanatsu (七つ): Seven
Yattsu (八つ): Eight
Kokonotsu (九つ): Nine
Too (十): Ten

The problem with hitotsu

Unfortunately, you cannot simply use hitotsu universally to talk about one of something. Japanese uses a system of counters for stating the number of certain types of objects. For example, one person is hitori (一人) whereas one bottle is ippon (一本). These counters also run up to ten, meaning there are a lot of readings to remember.

Chinese also uses a similar system and it’s one of the more difficult aspects of mastering both languages.

Other than the most common counters though, you can usually use hitotsu to count one of something. At a minimum, even if you use hitotsu “incorrectly” you will still be understood (which should be the main goal).

Hitotsu: Usage examples

The Japanese word hitotsu means one or one of something.

Below, we take a look at some examples of how to use hitotsu in Japanese.

To make it easier for you, I have written each sentence in full Japanese kanji in the first line, followed by roman letters (romaji), and hiragana, with the English meaning coming last.

Sore hitotsu kudasai.
Could I have one of those?

Sono kyuurii wo hitotsu kudasai.
One of those cucumbers please.

No hitotsu: One of

When adding the possessive no-particle (の) to hitotsu, we get no hitotsu, which means one of (the best, the biggest, etc.).

Sekai de mottomo utsukushii machi no hitotsu desu.
It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Jyaaman shepaado wa mottomo kashikoi kenshu no hitotsu desu.
German Shepherds are one of the smartest breeds of dog.

Hitotsu hitotsu: One by one

The phrase hitotsu hitotsu means one by one or alternatively bit by bit.

E wo hitotsu hitotsu miteite tanoshiku sugoshita.
I enjoyed myself, looking at the pictures one by one.