January 28

What Does Nante Mean?「なんて」


What do you do when saying what you mean just isn't enough and you want to pepper it with some emotion? Using nante (なんて) effectively gives you the ability to make the listener feel what you're talking about, or to downplay something cool you did.

Kumiko Sensei is back in the house today, giving us the Japanese language expertise we all so desperately need. If you didn't catch them, see her previous articles on kikoeru vs. kikeru and shimatta.

Japanese Text Example: What Does Nante Mean?




 槇原敬之さんの「もう恋なんてしない」という曲がありますが、サビの部分がおもしろいです。「もう恋なんてしないなんて 言わないよ 絶対。」と「なんて」が二回も使われています。最初の「もう恋」の後の「なんて」は恋に対して後ろ向きな感情を表し、「恋なんてしない」の後の「なんて」は「恋なんてしない」という発言が馬鹿げていることを意味しています。文全体が二重否定になっており、また恋を絶対にするという強い気持ちが感じられますね。


Nante is used to emphasize emotion or modesty in a sentence. It's not appropriate in formal speech, but you'll use it a lot in casual speech. Let's look at how nante is used in the passage below.

"Nante oishii pasuta na no" (That pasta is so good!). The nante here is short for nantoiu, and shows surprise or emotion. Pasuta wo tsukuru nante kantan dayo (it's easy to make pasta). The nante here displays modesty, as though you're downplaying it. "Mainichi pasuta wo tsukutte moraitai wa, nante ne" (I want you to make me pasta every day then, "modestly"). Here, adding the nante to the end makes it into a bit of a joke.

Makihara Noriyuki's (a famous singer in Japan) song, "mou koi nante shinai" (I'll Never Fall in Love Again) has a catchy hook. "Mou koi nante shinai te shinai nante iwanai yo zettai" (I would never say I'll never fall in love again) uses nante 2 times. The first instance adds emotion to "I won't fall in love again," whereas the second adds emotion to the clause "I would never say," making it a double negative. In this way, he's really saying (quite passionately) that he WILL fall in love again.

You may also hear nante used quite frequently as it means "what," informally. For instance, "what the hell?" is nante kottai (なんてこったい). Keep an ear out, and you'll likely hear nante every day!


Nante is can be difficult to get right the first few times you try, so take it easy and ask your friends to help you out with it. However, it's very useful to know what it means, so you can catch it in daily use as you hear it. Maybe you'll even fall in love again...

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