Three ways to say “good grief” in Japanese

"Taihen da!" or "nante kottai!" are two possible ways to say "good grief" in Japanese.

Life doesn’t always go according to plan. In fact, it can sometimes throw you curveball or two. In this post, I will teach you three different ways of saying “good grief” in Japanese with the help of some examples.

The definition of “good grief”

First things first, Merriam-Webster defines good grief as a phrase that is “used to express surprise or annoyance”.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at how to say it in Japanese.

Taihen da!

Taihen da! (大変だ!)means something like oh no! or Heavens! You naturally would use this in response to a bad surprise or something going wrong. I would say the meaning is pretty close to good grief.

Taihen da! Mou jikan ga nai. Dou shiyou?
Oh no! There’s no more time. What should we do?

Taihen da! Chikoku suru kamo.
Good grief! We might be late.

Yare yare

Another possible choice is yare yare (やれやれ), which means oh dear. I have also seen yare yare translated as good grief to express surprise or empathy.

Yare yare, kawaisou ni.
Oh dear, that’s a pity.

Confusingly though, yare yare can also be used to show relief. I would actually say this is a more common way to use yare yare, so it might be better to use other expressions.

Nante kotta!

Nante kotta! (なんてこった!) is a another useful Japanese phrase, which basically means jeez! or what the heck! I think this matches up pretty well with the negative tone of good grief and it sounds very natural.

Nante kotta is the shortened version of nante koto da (なんてことだ). The meaning is the same, but nante kotta is a tad more casual.

Nante kotta! Tsugi no densha wa ashita datte.
Good grief! Apparently the next train is tomorrow.

Nante kottai (なんてこったい) is another way to say the same thing. Again, the meaning is the same (shows surprise or annoyance).