The meaning of nemui (眠い) in Japanese and how to use it

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

What does nemui mean?

Nemui (眠い、ねむい) means sleepy in Japanese. This word is an adjective that is based on the verb nemuru (眠る), to sleep. You use nemui to say I feel sleepy because you can drop the subject (I) and feel is understood.

Having lived in Japan for many years now, one thing is clear. Japanese people don’t get enough sleep!

If you spend any reasonable amount of time on trains in any major city in Japan, you will see a lot of people sleeping (sometimes even standing up!). Therefore, and perhaps sadly, the word nemui gets used really often in Japanese.

Without further ado (and before you fall asleep on me), let’s take a look at some examples of how to use nemui.

Example sentences using nemui

Nemui is the Japanese word for sleepy.

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

Asa no koohi wo nomu made wa nemui.
I feel sleepy until I drink my morning coffee.

Shukudai wo yarinasai.
Do your homework.

Demo nemui yo, okaasan!
But Mom, I’m sleepy!

Sumimasen. Sukoshi nemui desu.
Excuse me. I’m a little sleepy.

Naze ka, kyou wa kimochi warukute nemui yo.
For some reason I feel bad and also sleepy today.

Nemuku naru = Getting sleepy

When nemui is turned into the adverb nemuku (眠く、ねむく) and added to the verb naru (成る in kanji, but more often written as なる), we get the expression nemuku naru, which means getting sleepy.

Nemuku natta no de denki wo keshita.
I got sleepy so I turned off the light.

Massaaji wa kirai jyanai kedo, itsumo nemuku naru.
I don’t dislike massages, but I always get sleepy during them.