The Body II: Idioms and Proverbs

第216課: The Body II: Idioms and Proverbs

Given how expression-rich Japanese is overall, it is only natural that there would be hundreds of idiomatic expressions for the body as well. This lesson will be broken down by body part. Phrases that are most important to any learner will be introduced first whereas obscure, old-fashioned, and/or literary phrases will be mentioned last. Each section will also include a chart of four-character idioms (四字熟語) that utilize said body part to impress your friends.

※When multiple body parts are used in a single expression, the expression will be listed in the section of the first body part mentioned. For example, 頭隠して尻隠さず is under “頭を使った表現” rather than “尻を使った表現.”

※Each expression will be given a meaning (意味) that’s either an equivalent or at least a natural rendition in English and an explanation (解説) which explains the actual Japanese wording. 

※With important exceptions in which there is a high degree of personification, body idioms which involve animals will be avoided in this lesson and discussed in a separate lesson. 

※This lesson is under construction and is only viewable to members. 


■Set Phrases 慣用句

  • 頭が上がらない   

意味: To be no match for

解説: This expression indicates that the person one is referring to is a superior who you cannot defy. This may also be used when you feel a sense of inferiority or obliged toward someone. The superior in question is an object of respect, but due to the emphasis on one’s own inferiority, it is not to be used as a compliment. However, it can still be used in business/honorific circumstances so long as there is no overbearing context. 

例文: 色々と教えて頂いた先輩には頭が上がりません。

  • 頭が固い

意味: To be thickheaded

解説: One’s way of thinking is not flexible, having a bias towards how one views things. Individuals described by this phrase are obsessed over their own ideas, and it’s difficult for them to accommodate. 
派生語:頭が固まる (to be stuck in one’s ways)

例①: 頭が固い人にはどのように接したらいいんでしょうか。



意味: To be flexible/open-minded
解説: The opposite of 頭が固い, people of this temperament are able to take actions that fit the circumstances.
例文: 頭が柔らかいとすぐにアイデアが浮かんだりするほか、色々な目線で物事を見ることができる。

  • 頭が痛い
    意味①: To have a headache (literal)
    意味②:To rack one’s brains (idiomatic)

解説: Aside from literally referring to headaches, this phrase may also indicate worry over problems that are difficult to solve. 

例文: 月末になると資金繰りで頭が痛い。

  • 頭が重い

意味①: To feel heavy in the head (literal)
意味②: To be sick with worry (idiomatic)
解説: This phrase is quite similar to 頭が痛い, but the degree of worry is more severe. 

例文: 考え過ぎや悩みで頭が重く痛かったり眠れなかったりすることが多い。

  • 頭が切れる

意味: To be sharp(-minded)

解説: Such people are quick at thinking up solutions. This phrase is akin to street smarts. People of this nature need not actually be highly intelligent, but they’re able to make solutions on their own and can use their experiences and opinions when the time calls for it. 
例文: 誰でも頭が切れる人になれるのです。


意味: To be bright/smart

解説: Although very similar to 頭が切れる, they are not entirely synonymous. You can in fact be very smart but not sharp-minded. 頭が良い focuses on the information that someone knows. 
派生語: 地頭が良い (to be smart by nature)
例文: 頭がいいなと思う人の共通点は何でしょうか。

  • 頭(の回転)が悪い

意味: To be dumb

解説: The opposite of 頭が良い. 
類義語: 頭(の働き)が鈍い・頭が弱い・頭の回転が遅い
例文: 頭の悪い人、あなたの周りにも思い当たる人がいませんか。

  • 頭が下がる

意味: To admire greatly/to salute
解説: Though structurally similar to 頭が上がらない, their meanings are quite different. Rather than showing a sense of inferiority, 頭が下がる shows how one is impressed with another person. 
例文: どんな細かいことでも真面目に取り込む姿勢には、本当に頭が下がる思いでいっぱいです。

  • 頭を下げる

意味①: To bow
意味②: To apologize
意味③: To be impressed

解説: Whereas 頭が下がる is solely idiomatic, 頭を下げる is taken more literally, but the biggest difference is in that the doer of 頭を下げる is lowering their head willfully, although the act of lowering one’s head is a major cultural aspect of both bowing and apologizing. As for ③ which is synonymous with 頭が下がる, the sense of how impressed one is does differ. With 頭を下げる, there is still that sense of willfully showing that one is impressed. When 頭が下がる is used, the speaker is just so impressed that it’s almost as if it’s an involuntary action.  
例①: 謝るときに私たちはよく頭を下げます。
例②: 少しでも勇気づけたいという努力には頭を下げざるを得ない。

  • 頭を冷やす

意味: To cool down one’s anger
解説: This phrase is a more literal phrasing of what is meant by “to chill out.” It’s thought that when one is worked up that the head itself is warmed up from all the blood rushing back. However, it is best not to literally cool down one’s head as that may cause more harm than good to the body.
派生語: 頭が冷えた (to be calmed down) 

例文: 頭を冷やせ!

  • 頭を擡げる

意味①: To rear its head
意味②: To come to the fore

解説: This phrase may be literally interpreted as “to raise one’s head,” but it usually has some figurative nuance as well such as an idea/force to be reckoned with emerging to the forefront. 

類義語: 浮かび上がる①, 台頭する②

例文: ふとした疑問が頭を擡げた。

  • 頭に浮かぶ

意味: To come to mind

解説: It’s important to remember that 頭 is often used to mean “mind” and not just the anatomical “head.”

例文: あのとき頭に浮かんでいたことってこのことだったのか。

  • 頭を捻る

意味: To puzzle over

解説: Also possible with the verb 絞る, “squeezing” and “twisting” the mind is the same thing as wracking one’s mind over something.

類義語: 頭を搾る・知恵を絞る

例文: 頭を捻って解決策を見出す。

  • 頭を抱える

意味: To be at wits’ end
解説: Imagine seeing someone holding their head out of frustration and at a loss of what to do. 

例文: 予期せぬ事態に頭を抱えることも多い。

  • 頭が回る

意味: To get one’s head around
意味(~ない): To know no better/be muddleheaded
解説: The mind either runs well or it doesn’t. However, this phrase may also be taken more literally as “for the head to rotate” depending on the context.
例①: しっかり頭が回るように、早めに朝ご飯を食べておこう。
例②: 疲れすぎて頭が回らない。

  • 頭にくる

①To get mad
②(Alcohol/drugs/disease) to get to one’s head. 

解説: Its literal interpretation usually involves substances or illness. In any case, the state of mind of an individual described by 頭にくる is concerned, whether it be acting out of anger or being out of whack. 

例文: もう頭にきて携帯を川に投げ捨てちゃった。

■Proverbs 諺

  • 頭隠して尻隠さず
    意味: To bury one’s head in the sand
    解説: Literally, “hiding one’s head without hiding one’s arse.” This proverb evokes a scene in which someone only hides the bad when the intention was to hide everything. 
  • 頭が動けば尾も動く
    意味: The boss has to set a good example.
    解説: Literally, “if the head does not move, the tail too will not move.” This proverb relates to when a superior takes action, then those below him too shall act. 
  • 頭押さえりゃ尻上がる
    意味: It is hard to please all parties.
    解説: This proverb relates to situations in which both sides won’t go well. The phrase literally means “if you cover your head, your arse will be lifted up.” 
  • 頭から火が付く
    意味: Disaster lies above one’s head.
    解説: Danger and disaster starting with one’s heading catching on fire would be quite an omen, no?
  • 頭剃るより心を剃れ
    意味: Mind is the man.
    解説: This proverb chastises people of the likes who shave their head to be a “monk” but don’t have the heart of the monk. It’s a command to be true at heart more so than one’s outward appearance. 
  • 頭でっかち尻窄み
    意味: To have a big start but end not so well 
    解説: 頭でっかち means “big-headed/top-heavy.” 窄む means “to get narrower.” 窄み may be replaced with the synonymous 窄(すぼ)り. 
    類義語: 竜頭蛇尾

  • 頭の黒い鼠
    意味: Untrustworthy person
    解説: A reference to people who steal things from the home. In this phrase, dark-haired people are being liken to rats. 
  • 頭の濡れぬ思案
    意味: Worry about the now. 
    解説: Rather than thinking about the future, it’s most important to solve the problems already affecting you.
  • 頭禿げても浮気は止まぬ
    意味: The old coachman loves the crack of the whip.
    解説: Even balding from old age doesn’t stop people from having love affairs. 

■Four-Character Idioms 四字熟語

  • 頭会箕斂(とうかいきれん)
    意味: Gathering taxes from all over
    解説: 頭会 means “head count.” 箕斂 means “scooping up with a winnowing basket.” In this idiom, people are being likened to agricultural bound. Their fruit is taxes. 
  • 頭童歯豁(とうどうしかつ)
    意味: Becoming elderly
    解説: 頭童 literally refers to a child’s shaven head, but in this idiom it refers to the hair disappearing. 歯豁 refers to the space between teeth becoming all over the place as one gets older. 
  • 銅頭鉄額(どうとうてつがく)
    意味: Being very fierce
    解説: This idioms refers to a soldier covered in armor, thus bronze heads (銅頭) and iron foreheads (鉄額). 
  • 改頭換面
    意味: Cosmetic changes
    解説: 改頭 means “to adjust one’s head” and 換面 means “to turn one’s face.” This idiom refers to when only the surface of something is changed and not its substance. 
  • 円頭方足
    意味: Human
    解説: All humans have round heads (円頭) and square feet (方足).  
  • 竜頭蛇尾(りゅうとうだび)

→Same as 頭でっかち尻窄み



  • 髪を下ろす

意味①: To have one’s hair shaved
意味②: To put one’s hair down

解説: The verb 下ろす has the meaning of “to cut off” things that grow, and hair is certainly something that grows and is in need of trimming. When one removes all of one’s hair, that’s one prerequisite of the transition to becoming a monk/nun. Now, context is key. If the situation has nothing to do with monasteries, it’s almost certainly being used in the sense of ②. 
例文: 亮太は苦悩の末に髪を下ろして出家することにした。

  • 後ろ髪を引かれる

意味: To do something with painful reluctance.
解説: Very few people like having their hair pulled back. 
例文: 生まれたときから住んできた土地を後ろ髪を引かれる思いで去ることになった。

  • 間髪を容れず

意味: Without a moment’s delay
解釈: The correct reading of this phrase is かんはつをいれず, but many people do in fact pronounce it as かんぱつをいれず. This is used as an adverbial phrase for describing situations that are very pressing without a moment’s delay. It comes from the notion that there isn’t even enough room for a single hair to intervene. 
例文: 今後の経済財政政策を間髪を容れずに講じていかなければならない。

  • 間一髪(のところ)

意味: Close call
解釈: This is used as an adverbial phrase and is related to above. In fact, you can also say 間一髪を容れずに. Interestingly, 間一髪 is read as かんいっぱつ. 
例文: 鹿は間一髪のところで衝突を免れた。

  • 身体髪膚これを父母に受く。敢えて毀傷せざるは考の始めなり。

意味: Filial piety begins with not harming one’s own body as one’s entire body was given by one’s parents.
解釈: This proverb is rather self-explanatory. 髪膚 refers to both the hair and skin. 

  • 緑の黒髪

意味: Glossy black hair
解説: To have black hair which is as glossy as young leaves. 
例文: 緑の黒髪の美女と言えば、あの女優でしょうね。

  • 旋毛を曲げる

意味: To be contrary.
解説: Let’s rile up people’s nerves, or should we say, hair whorls. 

例文: 自分の案が却下されたぐらいで、旋毛を曲げるようでは困ります。


■Four-Character Idioms 四字熟語

  • 頭髪種々(とうはつしゅしゅ)

意味: Elderly person with short hair
解説: The hair of the elderly is likened to seeds that have just sprouted.

  • 頭髪上指(とうはつじょうし)

意味: Hair-splitting anger
解説: One is so angry that the hair itself is sticking up. 

  • 怒髪衝天(どはつしょうてん)

解説: It’s 訓読 rendition is 怒髪天を突く or 怒髪冠を衝く. This phrase comes from an ancient Chinese legend. When the Emperor Gaozu of Han and Xiang Yu, the King of Chu, met, one of Xiang’s generals was ordered to kill Gaozu with a sword dance as a pretext. When a retainer of Gaozu heard of this, he was so angry that his hair stood up and his eyes were flaming, which ultimately resulted in the assassination attempt failing. 

■Five-Character Idioms 五字熟語

  • 白髪三千丈

意味: White hair is 3000 jou.

解説: Over-exaggeration. This phrase can even be used as an adjective.



  • 額を集める

意味: To put heads together
解説: This phrase is equivalent to getting into a huddle, literally “bringing everyone’s foreheads together.”
例文: クラスのみんなが額を集めて相談して決めた。

  • 額に汗する

意味: To work diligently.
解説: This can be literally and naturally interpreted in English as “to work up a sweat.” 
例文: 額に汗して働く。

■Four-Character Idioms 四字熟語


  • 顔が厚い

意味: To be impudent
解説: Someone who is shameless will have a thick-skinned face. It must be noted that the phrases listed below are far more common than 顔が厚い itself. These phrases all derive from the Chinese poetry compilation 詩経.
類義語: 面の皮が厚い・厚顔である

例文: 図々しい人のことを「面の皮が厚い」というが、身体のなかで皮膚が厚いのは、実は、足の裏だ。 

  • 顔が利く
    意味: To have clout
    解説: You know when your face has an effect.
    例文: 彼は政治力も凄くて、政治家にも顔が利く。
  • 顔が広い

意味: To be well-connected.
解説: 顔 often has the meaning of “influence/notoriety” when used in idioms. 
例文: 先生は顔が広いですね。

  • 顔が揃う
    意味: To be all gathered

解説: Everyone’s faces are gathered.
類義語: 顔を揃える = To gather everyone
例文: 全員の顔が揃っています。

  • 顔が売れる

意味: To be widely recognized

解説: This phrase literally means, “for one’s face to sell.”
例文: あのお笑い芸人は顔が売れている。

  • 顔を出す

意味①: To make an appearance
意味②: To attend

解説: Show your face.
例文: 以前はたまにしか顔を出さなかった顧客の中には、定期的にテイクアウトの注文を入れてくれるようになった。

  • 顔を貸す

意味: To grant a person a moment
解説: This phrase is used to describe being asked to appear and then doing so.
例文: ちょっと顔を貸してくれ。

  • 顔を売る

意味: To make oneself known to the public
解説: Sell your face to be known.
類義語: 顔が売れる = To be popular/widely known
例文: 彼は人の不幸を利用して自分の顔を売ろうとしている。

  • 顔を立てる

意味: To save face
解説: Build that image.
類義語: 顔が立つ = For one’s status to be maintained
例文: 私の顔を立てるためならその気遣いは必要ない。

  • 顔を潰す

意味: To make somebody lose face

解説: This phrase is used to describe ruining someone’s public reputation.
類義語: 顔が潰れる = To have lost face/honor. 

例文: 社長の顔を潰してしまったのです。

  • 顔を汚す

意味: To disgrace someone
解説: Dirtying someone’s face would certainly dishonor them. 
類義語: 顔に泥を塗る
例文: お父さんの顔を汚す気か!?

  • 顔を繋ぐ

意味①: To keep up acquaintance. 
意味②: To meet up two people who don’t know each other.
解説: Bring faces together.

例文: 顔を繋いでもいいけど、付き合いはできないと思うよ。

意味: To wince
解説: Envision a facial expression that’s worried/sad.
例文: 僕は思わず顔を曇らせてしまった。

意味: To burn with shame
解説: Imagine being so embarrassed that your face is as red as fire.

  • 何食わぬ顔

意味: Nonchalant look
解説: Though verb 食う is indeed the vulgar form of “to eat,” this is not the only meaning the verb has. In fact, it is quite productive in set phrases, and it is not possible to replace it with 食べる in these phrases. In this phrase, 食う bears the meaning of “to snatch food.” You’re giving off a face of not having done so even though you did. This is extended to situations where you know but pretend you don’t, which can also be expressed with the phrases 素知らぬ顔 and 知らん顔. 
類義語: 涼しい顔

例文: ケイトさんは大勢の人の前で日本語を間違えてしまって顔から火が出そうだった。

  • 浮かぬ顔

意味: Long face
解説: The verb 浮く has a meaning of “to be cheerful.” Here, the face described is not so. 
例文: ところが、彼一人だけ何となく浮かぬ顔をしていた。

  • 合わせる顔がない

意味: Too ashamed to meet
解説: You don’t even have the face to be next to that person you’re so ashamed.
例文: もう友達に合わせる顔がない。

  • 顔向けが出来ない

意味: To be unable to face others 
解説: You’re unable to show your face in public.
例文: 契約を取らなければ、課長にとても顔向けができない。

  • 顔色を窺う

意味: To gauge someone’s feelings
解説: You can tell a lot about how someone feels from their complexion.
例文: 選挙があるからこそ、政治家は国民の顔色を窺おうとしている。

  • 顔色無し

意味: To put to shame

解説: For an opponent to go pale out of surprise, shock, and/or fear. 顔色 is read as がんしょく instead of  かおいろ in this expression.

例文: 敵は顔色無しだった。

  • 仏頂面

意味: Sour look
解説: This expression derives from the notion of the tremendous countenance of the Buddha as endless grace (広大無辺の功徳) resides above His head, specifically the 仏頂尊 rendition which is depicted as being filled with majesty (威厳) and wisdom (知恵). The Buddha’s face stays constant, but this can also be seen as lacking emotion, and in a sense, a surly face. 



  • 燕額虎頭
    解説: 燕額 refers to a jaw that resembles a swallow. 虎頭  refers to a head that resembles that of a tiger. Together, these words are combined to represent a person of high status who you can visually see their dignity. Here, 頷 is used to mean “jaw.” 


  • 鼻が利く

意味①: To have an acute sense of smell
意味②: To have a good nose (figuratively)
解説: This phrase is both literal and figurative as it would be in English.
例文: 彼女は鼻が利くので、僕が彼氏ができたことをすぐに察してしまって、健太くんと付き合ってるんでしょ?ってしつこく聞いてきたんだ。

  • 鼻が高い

意味①: To have a prominent nose
意味②: To be proud

解説: When people are proud of themselves, their nose tends to be pointed high up.

例文: ご両親もさぞかし鼻が高いでしょうね。

  • 鼻に掛ける

意味: To be full of pride.
解説: This phrase has the nuance of being proud of outstripping others. This phrase shares its origin with 鼻が高い. Though noses being pointed high is a sign of being prideful, this phrase actually came from China where locals attributed this behavior to Westerners. Conversely, this is also how Westerners thought of the Chinese who had lost the Opium Wars despite having touted China as the superior nation. 

例文: 優秀なことを鼻にかけているから何だか癪に障るんだよなぁ。

  • 鼻の下が長い

意味: To be soft on (women)
解説: This phrase can occasionally be still interpreted literally. In which case, 鼻の下 is the area below the nostrils and the upper lip. The saying comes from the idea that men who had a larger space between their nose and lips were looser towards women, perhaps due to dropping their jaws in astonishment too much. Though dictionaries will still list this phrase as being associated with male-heterosexual attraction, the phrase can be attributed to any man regardless of their actual orientation. 
例文: 店内が鼻の下が長い男性客で混雑している。

  • 鼻を鳴らす

意味①: To coo at
意味②: To snort

解説:  鳴らす means “to make a sound,” and when used with “nose,” that sound is called a “snort.” The first meaning is what is figurative, which is often used in contexts when someone is acting like a spoiled child.
例文: うちの次男は毎週のように鼻を鳴らしてお小遣いをせびりに来るの。

  • 鼻を突く

意味①: To assail the nostrils
意味②: To go nose-to-nose (uncommon)
解説: The more figurative second meaning is actually not that seen in modern speech. 

例文: 台所のごみ袋からは鼻を突く匂いがする。

  • 鼻が曲がる

意味: For one’s nose to wrinkle
解説: This expression is synonymous with 鼻を突く. A stench is so strong that your nose bends. 
例文: 私が去年訪れた深圳 の工場から出ている汚染水は、年中、鼻が曲がるほどの異臭がしている。

意味①: To be sick and tired with.
意味②: To stink
解釈: Although this can phrase refer to being stimulated by awful smells, it can also describe feeling unease at hearing or even seeing what you’ve grown tired of–“to get up someone’s nose.” 
例文: ソーダファウンテンを使ったら、異臭がして鼻につき、気持ちが悪くなった。

  • 鼻を折る

意味: To humble someone

解説: Most of the time this is figurative, but someone might actually be serious about breaking your nose if you’re in need of getting your nose punched.
例文: 調子に乗っているあいつの鼻を折ってやろう!

  • 鼻(先)であしらう

意味: To snub someone
解説: To not pay attention to what someone else is saying and handle that person coldly. 

例文: 銀行に融資を頼んだところ、鼻であしらわれてしまった。

  • 鼻(先)で笑う

意味: To snicker
解説: To scoff and look down at someone. 
例文: 日本人の友達に日本語能力試験で百点を取ることなんてできるわけがないじゃないかと鼻で笑われた。

  • 鼻摘み(者)

意味: Disgusting fellow
解説: People who constantly hold their nose are uncouth.

例文: 今の店長はいつも悶着を起こしてばかりいる鼻つまみ者だ。

  • 鼻っ柱を圧し折る

意味: To crush an opponent’s self esteem. 

解説: If you were to break someone’s nose, that would certainly take that person down a peg. 

対義語: 鼻っ柱が強い = To be hard-nosed/strong-willed

例文: オリンピックで鼻っ柱を圧し折られることにならないといいよね。

  • 鼻息が荒い

意味①: To have heavy breathing (nasal)
意味②:  To be proud

解説: Though it can be taken literally, it may figuratively refer to someone having strong enthusiasm. 
例文: 彼が出版した教科書はすでにベストセラーになっているので、鼻息が荒いのも当然なんだ。

  • 鼻息を窺う

意味: To sound out a person’s feelings
解説: Figuring out a person’s intent or mood may very well be ascertainable from just how that person is breathing through the nose. 

例文: 店長とはいえ、本社の幹部たちの鼻息を窺わないと何も決めたりできない。

  • 小鼻を蠢かす

意味: To put on a triumphant air
解説: 小鼻 are the wings of the nose. Twitching them makes it look like you’re boastful. 
類義語: 小鼻を膨らます = to flair one’s nostrils

例文: きのうのテストで百点を取ったので、ケイトさんが小鼻を蠢かしながら答案用紙を見せびらかしにきた。

  • 木で鼻を括る

意味: To be blunt

解説: 括る is actually the wrong verb. The expression used to contain こくる, an old variant of 擦る meaning “to rub.” Rubbing the nose with wood, at any rate, would certainly make someone curt to say the least. Why would anyone do this? In the Edo Period, using wooden sticks was the only way for people without money to wipe their nose in the absence of tissue paper. 
例文: 店長に対してもよく木で鼻を括るような言い方をするので、彼は本当に変わった者だ。

  • 鼻持ちならない

意味①: To be foul-smelling
意味②: To be intolerable
解釈: Though it can refer to smells that are so horrid one can barely hold onto one’s nose, it can also refer to behavior that is just as repugnant. 

例文: 率直に言うと、彼は鼻持ちならない人だよ。


意味: To be the first to know about something
解説: You know you have sharp ears when you’re the first to know.
例文: 女子高生は流行に耳が早い。


意味①: To have an earache. 
意味②: To be painfully true.

解説: Sometimes the truth hurts the ears. 

例文: 奥さんの言うことは耳が痛いから聞かない。

  • 耳が肥える

意味: To have an ear for music

解説: When referring to the ears/eyes, 肥える means “to be discerning.” 
例文: 若い世代も耳が肥えている。

  • 耳を劈く

意味: To be earsplitting
解説: Same as English.
例文: 耳を劈くような爆発音が鳴り響いた。

  • 耳寄りな

意味: Welcome news

解説: The verb 寄る means “to draw near,” so imagine news that would pleasing to the ears. 
例文: 耳よりな情報はこちら!

  • 寝耳に水

意味: Great surprise
解説: Water in your ears from when you’re sleeping would certainly be a surprise.
例文: 先日閉店となったなんて寝耳に水だよ。

意味: In one ear and out the other
解説: Same as English. 
例文: 話が右の耳から左の耳へと通り抜ける。

意味①: To remember everything one hears
意味②: To quickly hear into other people’s secrets

解説: You can’t hide anything from 閻魔大王 (the ruler of Hell).



意味: You never know who is watching or listening.
解説: Walls have ears; doors have eyes.


  • 口が干上がる

意味: To lose one’s means of livelihood
解説: Aside from literally referring to the “mouth,” 口 may also refer to a position as in work. 
類義語: 口が上がる・顎が干上がる・鼻の下が干上がる

例文: コロナ禍で仕事を失い、このままでは口が干上がってしまう。



  • 口幅ったい

意味: Impudent
解説: 幅ったい is a rather emphatic adjective meaning “wide.” When someone has a big mouth and doesn’t even know their one place, they are 口幅ったい.  This phrase is actually quite common in humble expressions.
例文: 口幅ったい言い方で恐縮ですが、現在の体制で今月の目標は達成できるとお考えですか。













  • 目糞鼻糞を笑う

意味: The pot calling the kettle black.
解説: In Japanese, the goop in the eye laughing at the snot in the nose is something to take note of.
類義語: See 猿の尻笑い below.
例文: 自分の解釈に合わなければ自分の文法力の無さや知識不足を棚に上げつつも目糞鼻糞を笑うような指摘をしている人が大嫌いだ。

  • 目鼻が付く

意味: To complete most of something
解説: The eyes and noses are what makes up one’s looks. Alternatively, this resembles when things are going relatively well. It can be literally translated as, “the nose and eyes are in place.”
例文: テーブルの片付けは全部目鼻が付いたかな?

  • 目から鼻へ抜ける

意味①: To be very shrewd

意味②: To be fast and not overlook anything.

解釈: 抜ける usually refers to things being missing, but some believe this phrase to come from a legend in which a worker creating the infamous large statue of Buddha got stuck inside while constructing the final eye that had been forgotten about and had to escape by going from the eye and existing the nose. 
例文: ココちゃんは目から鼻へ抜ける非常に賢いゴリラでした。

  • 目と鼻の先

意味: In front of one’s eyes

解釈: If something is right next to one’s eyes and nose, that is definitely point-black range. However, it must be noted that this phrase is used figuratively and is prone to hyperbole. 

類義語: 目と鼻(の間), 目睫の間
例文: 仕事は家から目と鼻の先というくらい近い。

  • (好いた目からは・惚れた目からは)痘痕も靨

意味: Love is blind/Love sees no faults
解説: Even pockmarks can look like dimples to the eye’s of someone who loves you. 

例文: 呆れましたが、好きな時は痘痕も靨で、別にいいかと気楽に考えていました。








  • 背(中)に腹は[替・代]えられ[ぬ・ない]

意味: You can’t solve a problem without making some sacrifice.

解説: Your abdomen holds your internal organs, making it more important than your back. For a moment, let’s forgive the people who coined this phrase from not knowing how crucial the spinal cord is and consider how it must have felt to treat the two just as valuable. In times of sacrifice, though, necessity knows no bounds, and let’s not forget that it wasn’t too long ago that 切腹 was also heavily practiced. 
類義語: 背より腹
例文: 2週間後でちょうどいいサイズになっていたころに出したかったが、背に腹は代えられないので、思い切って収穫しました。






  • 手に手を取る

意味: To do something hand in hand with someone

解説: Same as English.
例文: 我々が手に手を取って一致団結すればきっとコロナ禍も乗り切れるだろう。






  • 踵を返す

意味: To turn on one’s heel
解説: The Japanese phrase is not much different. One is literally turning one’s heels the direction one had come.例文: 薫さんは片手をあげてまた明日と言って踵を返していった。

■Four-Character Idioms 四字熟語



  • 脛に傷持つ

意味: To have a guilty conscience
解説: Having a bruise on your shin is certainly something one would want to hide. The original form of this expression was 脛に疵持てば笹原走らぬ. The leaves of certain bamboo grasses hurt to the touch, and so if your lower feet are covered in injuries, you wouldn’t be able to simply walk through without running. The latter part of the expression was likely lost to time due to 走らぬ being equivalent to 走ろう but being confused for the opposite meaning. This phrase can also be likened to shady people running off from the sound of bamboo grass blowing through the wind as it would be a reminder of how they don’t want their bruised shins exposed. 
例文: まあこっちも脛に傷持つ身なので放置せざるを得ない。











  • 片腹痛い

意味: Ridiculous

解説: This phrase originates from 傍らいたし. Many would point out that 片腹 is incorrectly rendered as 片腹, but the word 傍ら itself is derived from that literal breakdown. Nonetheless, the word 痛い is not being used in the sense of “pain.” Rather, the idiom describes a situation in which the onlooker feels uncomfortable and/or sorry about how strange and awful the other person(‘s situation) is. 
例文: 自分の自慢ばかりしている人は、他人の自慢話を聞いていて片腹痛いと思わないのかな?



■Four-Character Idioms 四字熟語

  • 飲灰洗胃(いんかいせんい)

意味: Drunken with ash, the stomach must be washed anew. 
解説: To regret everything up to the present and committing to a fresh start. 
訓読文: 灰を飲んで胃を洗う。


意味: To have guts
解説: The gut even in English has always been thought to be where bravery originates. In this expression, 肝 more so literally means 胆力, which in term is still translated as “courage/nerve” rather than “liver strength.” 

対義語: 肝が小さい

例文: 彼は父親が本社の幹部を務めているらしくて、そのおかげなのか転勤したばかりなのに肝が大きいよね。






  • 猿の尻笑い

意味: The pot calling the kettle black.
解説: Regardless of how hilarious its own arse might be, a monkey is quick to laugh at what his fellow monkey’s arse looks like. 

例文: 二ムシ―さんはいつも新人を馬鹿にしているが、それは猿の尻笑いというものだ。