The meaning of uchi (内) in Japanese and how to use it

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

What does uchi mean?

The Japanese word uchi (内、うち) means inside or interior. It can also mean we or our when referring to one’s in-group such as a company or school. Uchi is usually (but not always) written in hiragana rather than kanji.

Uchi can also mean home in certain contexts. Finally, women sometimes use uchi to say I or myself in Kansai dialect (beyond the scope of this article).

Below, we take a look at some examples of the various ways to use uchi in Japanese, as well as a handy expression that includes it.

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.

Uchi meaning 1: Inside

The Japanese word uchi has a number of meanings such as inside, we, and home.

As mentioned above, one meaning of uchi is inside or interior. Uchi commonly appears within words such as uchigawa (内側、うちがわ), which also means inside!

Uchi pokketo ni okane ga atta.
There was money in the inside pocket.

Kasa no uchigawa wa kirei da ne.
The inside of the umbrella is pretty, isn’t it?

Uchi meaning 2: We/our

Uchi stands for we or our when you are taking as an insider of a certain group (to an outsider). For example, you might be talking about your company to an acquaintance who doesn’t work there.

Uchi no kaisha wa kyuyo ga yokunai.
The salaries are not good at our company.

Uchi no gakkou wa shukudai ga ooi kedo, waruku wa nai yo.
There’s a lot of homework at our school, but it’s not too bad.

Uchi meaning 3: Home

Asa wa zutto uchi ni ita.
I spent the whole morning at home.

Uchi ni kaeritai kedo, mada shigoto ga nokkoteimasu.
I want to go home, but there’s still work to do.

The meaning of the expression uchi ni

Uchi ni (うちに) is a really useful phrase in Japanese conversation, which means while or alternatively, while such and such is true. When the sentence is negative uchi ni can mean before, or before such and such happens.

The above might sound complicated, but it really isn’t. This is one of those phrases that’s much easier to remember with context than with explanations, so here are some examples.

Wakai uchi ni tanoshii koto wo shiyou!
Let’s do fun stuff while we’re young!

Atatakai uchi ni tabete ne.
Do eat it while it’s hot.

Nanimo ienai uchi ni otousan ga okotta.
My dad got mad before I could say anything.