The meaning of otoko (男) and how to use it

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

What does otoko mean?

Otoko (男、おとこ) means man or guy in Japanese. You can use this word to talk about men in a general sense. However, otoko can sound vulgar in certain situations. It may also a negative connotation when referring to a particular person.

Keshikaran otoko da!
What a rude man he is!

Which word to use to say man?

As you are probably aware, Japanese has many words to denote different levels of politeness.

You are therefore better off using either otoko no hito (男の人、おとこのひと) or dansei (男性、だんせい) to either: 1) be more polite or 2) keep the context neutral.

I would say that otoko no hito is a little more conversational than dansei, which tends to be used in news programs, newspapers, and so on.

Let’s look at some examples of all three below.

Otoko = Man/guy (can be somewhat vulgar)

Otoko means a man or a guy 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.

Otoko wa tsurai yo.
It’s tough being a man.

Kare wa monosugoku shitsukoi otoko da.
He is a very persistent guy.

Ore wa otoko dakara shouganai.
I’m a man so it can’t be helped.

Otoko no hito = Man

Otoko means a man or a guy in Japanese.

Watashi wa se ga takai otoko no hito ga taipu.
My ideal type is a tall man.

Osake wo nomisugiru otoko no hito wa suki jyanai desu.
I don’t like men who drink too much.

Nande yasashii otoko no hito wa motenai no?
Why aren’t nice guys popular with women?

Dansei = man (polite)

Nihonjin dansei no heikin shinchou wa 170 senchi gurai desu.
The average height of Japanese men is about 170cm.

Sono dansei no onamae wa nan desu ka?
What is that man’s name?

What is the female equivalent?

Onna (女、おんな) means woman in Japanese. The more polite forms are onna no hito (女の人、おんなのひと) and jyosei (女性、じょせい).

Why example sentences?

Learning Japanese can seem like a daunting task at first. The grammar and forms of politeness are very different from what English native speakers are used to.

You also have three distinct writing systems to get the hang of. I know it was difficult for me when I started out in 2005. But don’t let the kanji fool you! Like any language, Japanese is conquered one word at a time.

Example sentences are a big part of how I achieved fluency and became a professional translator. That’s why I’m writing this series of articles to break down new words in simple terms. I hope they will be useful.

A couple of bonus tips

Here are a couple of additional pointers to supercharge your learning.

1. Learn new vocabulary terms with example sentences
It’s much easier to remember the meaning of a new word within a sentence rather than in isolation. Use sites such as Linguee to find helpful examples for the term you want to learn.

2. Focus on verbs first and foremost.
Verbs will allow you to quickly construct your own sentences so they should be the main part of your study early on. You can always learn the Japanese for pencil sharpener when you actually need it.