The Verbal Affix ~ぐ: ~らぐ・やぐ

第364課: The Verbal Affix ~ぐ: ~らぐ・やぐ「~らぐ・やぐ」における動詞化接尾辞の「₋ぐ」

As we saw in the previous lesson, the affix /~ra-ya/ attaches to a handful of adjectival roots to create independent adjectival nouns (of varying autonomy in modern grammar). This affix can be followed by the adjectival affix /-ka/, but a small percentage of those same adjectival roots can be followed by the verbal affix /-gu/. For instance, the root /usu-/ written as 薄 in Kanji, means, “thin (object),” and from these aforementioned processes, the following words can be derived: うっすら(と)(faintly), 薄らか (incredibly thin), 薄らぐ (to become thin/fade).

The meaning of /-gu/, when paired with /~ra-ya/ to produce /-ragu~yagu/, is more or less synonymous with ~(かの)ようになる, either translating as “to become/present such a state” or “to act as one has become such a state.” Due to this very specific nuancing, whereas there around 50+ extant examples of /-raka~yaka/, there are only six examples of /-ragu~yagu/ in Modern Japanese:  和らぐ, 安らぐ, 薄らぐ, 華やぐ, 平らぐ, and 若やぐ. 

To fully understand this affix, we’ll first start off by studying the meanings of these verbs and compare them to any relevant alternative word forms that may exist. Afterward, we’ll study just a few more examples that existed in Classical Japanese but did not survive into the modern lexicon. 

※In Old Japanese, the affix /-gu/ is thought to have been devoiced as /-ku/, which is how it would appear in works such as the 万葉集.

Modern Use of ~らぐ・やぐ

The very small impact /-ragu~yagu/ has had on the Japanese lexicon is likely due to other grammar points being far more useful and so widely used. What can be said by the handful of examples, though, is that each of the six verbs listed above are intransitive. Without further adieu, let’s see how these six verbs behave.


和らぐ is a combination of the root /yawa-/ meaning “soft” combined with /-ragu/. It has the four following definitions, which are listed by their frequency in Modern Japanese.

①(For a state that has been severe) to calm down.
②(For a stiff atmosphere) to soften.
③To become supple. (Archaic)
④To become affectionate. (Archaic)

和らぐ is mostly paired with weather, physical and emotional pain, anger, sadness, etc. entering a calmed state. Although the translation “to be mitigated/eased” can be seen in dictionaries, it is not typically used in reference to abating man-made rules/systems.

In Classical Japanese, its primary meaning was to indicate “one’s heart/mind calming down,” and from this came meaning ④, and as for ③, this would be the literal meaning of the word inherited from the root. Oddly enough, it’s the sense of emotional relief that led the word to referring to severe mental ailment calming down. Although the weather isn’t necessarily an ailment, severe weather conditions can certainly wain on a person’s mind.

1. 暑さが和らいでくる時期とはいえ、30度を超え熱帯夜となる日もある。
Although this is the period when the heat calms down, there are even days where the temperature exceeds 30 degrees, and the nights are sweltering.

2. なぜ痛いところを手で押さえると痛みが和らぐの?
Why is it that pain eases when you press down on the hurt area with your hand?

3. 一度、寒さが和らいだ後に気温が低下するぶん、余計に寒く感じられる。
Once the temperature declines after the cold temperatures have subsided, it feels colder all the more.

4. 学校で活動ができて少し悲しみが和らいだ気がします。
I feel like my sadness has subsided a little by being able to do activities at school.

5. 今、この治まれる御代に随ひ、ともに和らぎつつ
In accordance with the times being at peace, the two are quite close…


6. あかぎれなどには、水がかかればことの外やはらいでよいといふ」
They say that chaffed skin becomes unexpectedly supple when water gets on it.

From these examples, it would seem that 和らぐ is deeply tied to emotional feeling even when it is in reference to weather. We could say that the state being presented by /-gu/ in this word is certainly emotional in nature, so let’s see if the other example words tie into human emotion.


There is very little in terms of morphology and grammar that distinguishes 安らかになる (to feel at ease) and 安らぐ (to feel at ease). Both phrases are very composed and solemn in tone, and both are more suited to romanticized language than everyday speech. Of the two, though, it would be the former that is most common in the spoken language, and this may be a consequence of the affix /-gu/ being so rare in Modern Japanese. On the other hand, the noun 安らぎ (serenity/peace of mind) derived from 安らぐ is used considerably more.

7. 本当にこのお経さえ唱えれば心が【安らかになる安らぐ】のだろうか。
Will I truly become at peace in mind if I were to recite this sutra?

8. 我が家をどこよりも心安らぐ場所にしたい。
I want to turn my home into a place where my heart is at peace more than any other.

9. 一番気持ちが安らいだのはスタッフの皆さんの笑顔と気持ち良さのおかげでした!
My feelings became most at ease thanks to the smiles and coziness of all the staff.

10. 人情の溢れる街に囲まれ、安らぎが感じられるところです。
It is a place one can feel serenity, being surrounded by a town full of kindness.


Translating 薄らぐ as “to become thin” may not be so helpful considering that the forms 薄くなる, 薄れる, and 薄まる exist. Although this translation is accurate for all four forms, there are distinct nuances to be aware of.

①薄くなる is rather straightforward in that it refers to an object/thing becoming thin. This change, unless paired with something like ~ていく, isn’t implied to be a gradual change. Rather, the change is being described in the moment.

②薄れる refers to something that was once clear and distinct becoming weaker and faint over time. It is often used in reference to color, memory, consciousness, etc. It can be accurately translated as “to fade (away)/thin out.” It is not used in reference to heat/cold or other physical phenomena that can’t be perceived as “thinning out.”

③薄まる refers to concentration/density thinning out. It is often used in a physical sense in reference to taste, color, etc., but it can also be used in reference to more abstract yet “deep” things such as suspicion. It can be translated as “to become weak” in the sense of thickness (physical or abstract), but “to become diluted” would also be very accurate.

④薄らぐ is very similar to 和らぐ in that it describes sheer intensity, often impressions, gradually becoming less intense over time. It is often used in reference to memory and pain, but it may also be used in reference to fog/mist, heat/cold, interest, all of which can be very “intense” in nature. It can be better translated as “to ease up/lessen.”

The best way to conceptualize these differences is by seeing the words that they’re paired with, so with that, pay close attention to the nouns used in the following examples. There is certainly overlap between the words, which can be shown by how all four can be used with “mist,” but the connotations may not be exactly the same given the differences showcased.

11. 水に薄まっても殺菌効果が続く。
Disinfecting effectiveness continues even when it dilutes in water.

12. 水分だけを補給すると、血中の塩分やミネラル濃度が薄まってしまう
If you only rehydrate, the salt, mineral concentration in the blood will end up getting diluted.

13. 本来の意味が薄れている
The original meaning is weakened.

14. 台風10号の影響が薄らいできたため、久しぶりに海へ行くことにした。
Due to the effects of Typhoon #10 calming down, I have decided to go to the ocean for the first time in a while.

15. ゆっくりではあったが、痛みは薄らいでいった
Though slow, the pain did ease up.

16. 地球を保護するオゾン層はまだ薄くなっているんです。
The ozone layer that protects the Earth is still getting thinner.

17. 香りを噴出する周辺ほど濃度が強く、そこから遠くにつれて香りが薄まってしまう
The density is stronger in the vicinity of where it emits the fragrance, and the further away you go from there, the fragrance gets weaker.

18. 当時の細かな出来事や物事については私自身の記憶もかなり薄れているのではないかと思います。
As far as the detailed events and things of that time, I feel as if even my own memory has faded considerably.

19. 時と共に記憶は薄れていく
Memory gets blurry with time.

20. もう夏が終わり、一雨ごとに暑さが薄らいでいく季節になりましたね。
Summer has already ended and we’re now in the season in which the heat goes away with each rain. 

21. 最近、寒さが薄らいでだんだん暖かくなってきましたね。
The cold has calmed down lately, and it sure has gotten gradually warmer.

22. ようやく霧が薄らいできたようで、辺りも明るくなってきた。
At last it appears that the fog has eased up, and the area has also become brighter. 

23. ようやく霧が薄れて、太陽の姿が見えてきた。
At least the fog has faded and the sun has appeared. 

24. 朝から濃かった霧がようやく薄まっていく中で幻想的な白い虹が見られた。
As the fog that had been thick since morning finally thins out, one could see a wondrous, white rainbow. 

25. 霧が薄くなって水分が少なくなると、硫酸塩の濃度が高くなって、非常に有害なスモッグとなるわけだ。When fog becomes thin and its moisture becomes insufficient, the sulfate density rises, and it becomes extremely hazardous smog. 


The root /hana/ means “flower,” but despite being a noun, it is responsible for the formation of two adjectival forms 華々しい (spectacular/dazzling) and 華やか (gorgeous/flowery). The former is used to refer to ‘spectacular’ activity or state whereas the latter is a more generic phrase either referring to something/someone being as gorgeous (like that of a flower) or how something is brilliant. 

26. 僕はこれまで、この上もなく華やかな海の底に棲む生き物に心を留めたことはなかった。

Up until now, I hadn’t given such attention to the supremely brilliant creatures living at the bottom of the sea.

27. 東京オリンピックは華々しく開幕した。
The Tokyo Olympics have started magnificently. 

From the latter, we have the similar verbal form 華やぐ, translated as “to become brilliant/cheerful.” It has also been used in the sense of “to prosper” in older language. Whereas 華やか is still fairly common, 華やぐ has almost disappeared from modern speech, being often replaced by 華やかになる. However, one difference between the two is that, at times, 華やぐ is implying “cheerful” behavior in the sense that the person is giving that face, but it may not be an actual change. 

28. 東京の新橋と赤坂では、お茶屋街が健在であり、そこでは、まだ芸妓も華やいでいる。
In the areas of Shimbashi and Akasaka in Tokyo, geisha teahouse districts are going strong, and there the geisha themselves are also blooming.

29. 美容師さんに髪をきれいにしてもらい、お会計をしている時は、男女を問わずお客さんにとって最も気持ちが華やいでいる時と言える。
One can say that the moment when you’re at the register after having your hair look great by a stylist, whether you’re male or female, is when the customer feels brilliant the most.  

30. 華やいだ雰囲気を醸し出す。
To create a cheerful atmosphere.

Orthography Note: 華 may be replaced with 花 in any of the word forms shown, but this is not that common.


The primary meaning of 平らぐ in Classical Japanese was “to become flat.” However, just as is the case with its adjective forms–平ら・平らか–in Modern Japanese, this too was also extended to mean “to become at peace” as well as “to get better (ailment).” In Modern Japanese, this word has almost entirely disappeared, but the meaning of “to become at peace (society)” can still be seen in literature.

31. 山の頂の少し平らぎたるより、煙は立ち上がる。
Smoke rises from the top of the mountain where it’s become slightly flat.

32. 一夜の後たぎりたる脳の漸く平らぎて、静かなる昔の影のちらちらと心に映る頃、ランスロットはわれに去れという。
When his mind at last became calm after a night of hype and the shadow of the quiet past flickered in his heart, Lancelot said for me to go.


Just as how 若やか means “youthful,” 若やぐ means “to look/feel/act young.” Even when it is implied that the person is taking on this behavior as a temporary change, it does not imply actually becoming young. If you did want to give that nuance, you would have to use 若くなる. Thus, 若やぐ is synonymous with 若いかのように【なる・見える】. 

33. 今の方がずっと若やいでいるんだ。
(That person) is far more youthful acting now.  

34. 聴いていると気持ちが若やいでウキウキしてくる。

As you listen, you feel young and get all happy. 

35. 少し掠れているが、若やいだ声だ。Though a little husky, the voice is a youthful one. 

Transitive Forms ~ぐ → ~げる  他動詞形「~げる」

Another oddity about these verbs is that an even smaller number of them developed transitive forms. In Classical Japanese, these transitive forms still ended in ~ぐ, but their conjugation class changed. When intransitive, they were 四段 (four-grade) verbs, but when transitive, they became 下二段 (lower two-grade) verbs. Upon the collapse of the 二段 (two-grade) verb conjugation classes, the transitive ending of those verbs changed from ~ぐ to ~げる. Of the six verbs above, only four of them formed a transitive version, and only three of those are commonly used today. 

語幹 自動詞形 他動詞形 Transitive Meaning(s)
 /yawa-/ 和らぐ 和らげる ◎ ①To moderate/relieve②To make easier to understand/soften
 /yasu-/ 安らぐ 安らげる 〇 To calm the mind
 /tai-/ 平らぐ 平らげる ◎ ①To eat up②To put down (a rebellion)③To make flat (archaic)
 /usu-/ 薄らぐ 薄らげる△ To thin/dilute

①Of these four examples, only 和らげる and 平らげる are common but with notable changes in nuances. 

②安らげる is incredibly rare, being usually replaced by other phrases such as 落ち着かせる. Lastly,

③As 薄らげる, although it did appear in Classical Japanese and Early Modern Japanese, it is essentially a dead word with other word forms such as 薄くする and 薄める being preferred. 

④As for how 平らげる acquired the meaning of “to eat up,” imagine a table full of all sorts of food and a single person eating every last bit of it. You are essentially “clearing/flattening” the table back to its prior state.

36. 四方の敵を平らげてくださる神がおられるため、城壁なんざ必要なし!

As there is our god who will put down all of our enemies, there is no need for a wall or such things!

37. クッション言葉とは、クッションのように衝撃を和らげるための言葉だ。
Cushion words are words meant to soften the shock like a cushion. 

38. 表現を和らげるため、「ちょっと」などが用いられることもある。
To soften an expression, (words) such as “chotto” are also occasionally used.

39. ホットミルクなどを飲むことは、気持ちを安らげるのに効果的らしい。
Drinking hot milk and the sort seems effective in calming one’s emotions.

40. 早食いの人は、ほかの人がまだ半分も食べていないのに早々に料理を平らげてしまう。
Speed-eaters end up downing all their food down in haste even as others won’t even have finished half of theirs.

41. 良質な睡眠も、ストレスや苦痛などを和らげるために必要なことです。
Good-quality sleep is also necessary to relieve stress and pain. 

42. 朝庭に出で立ちならし夕庭に踏み平らげず、佐保の内の里を行き過ぎ、あしひきの山の木末(こぬれ)に白雲に立ちたなびくと、我(あれ)に告げつる。
Neither in the morning nor in the evening do my feet tread and flatten the garden (which I love), for as I leave my abode here in Saho (Nara), the ends of the trees of the sloping mountain forest turn into a trail of clouds (=smoke), but why must it inform me so (of your cremation). 


More Archaic Examples 古語における「~らぐ・やぐ」の使用例

Only a handful more of examples ever truly existed in Classical Japanese, but all of these should be familiar as their adjectival forms ending in /-yaka/ continue to exist in Modern Japanese. Each of these words gives off a meaning of “appearing to be…” Thus, ~やぐ in these instances is equivalent to ~かのように見える. Although /-yagu/ could be seen as /-ragu/ throughout antiquity, this should be treated as dialectal variation in the context of these words as /-yagu/ was the dominant ending for them.  

・鮮やぐ: Intransitive (four-grade conjugation) = “to appear vibrant/excellent”; transitive (lower two-grade conjugation) = (to make extravagant) 

43. 侍従もあやしき褶(しびら)着たりしを、鮮やぎたれば・・・
Even the chamberlain wore a shabby shibira, but now that she (has changed) and appears excellent…

Word Note: 褶 was an ancient skirt-like garment over one’s clothing which was wrapped around the waste which extended down to the knees worn predominantly by women of lower rank. 

44. 万(よろづ)変はらぬ御ありさまなるに、宮たちの御衣(おほんぞ)ばかりを鮮やげさせたまひて
Though your state (of mourning attire) has not changed at all, you’ve made just the clothing of the crown so extravagant…
 『 栄花物語』より

・爽やぐ: Intransitive (four-grade conjugation) = “to improve (in one’s health condition)”; transitive (lower-grade conjugation) = “to improve/nurse (one’s health condition). 

45 秋待ち付けて、世の中少し涼しくなりては、御心地もいささか爽やぐやうなれど
Having awaited fall for it to cool down, it would seem that her condition has become quite refreshed, but… 


46. いましばし爽やげて、渡したてまつれ。
Come over once you’ve nursed yourself a little more.


・細(ささ)やぐ: Intransitive (four-grade conjugation) = “to appear slender.”

47. いと若うぞおはします。もとよりいとささやかにおはしますけなめり。更に猶いと心もとなきまでささやがせ給へり

She is so young; it would seem that she’s been quite slim framed all along. Oh what’s more is how how slim she is, I can’t stand thinking about it.

・たをやぐ: Intransitive (four-grade conjugation) = “to become/appear graceful/gentle/pleasantly weak.” 

48. 君も少したをやぎたまへる気色持てつけたまへり。She, too, has put on a slightly refined appearance.  

In Conclusion… 最後に…

This lesson examined the two handful of words that exhibit the affix /-gu/ seen following the affix /-ra~ya/ that we have previously learned about which follows the roots of a significant number of adjectival roots. However, unlike the competing adjectival affix /-ka/, the verbal affix /-gu/ is used with a very small pool of words which has continued shrinking over time. 

Despite only appearing in six words in Modern Japanese, these words that survived managed to maintain a distinct meaning of “to appear/act… (a certain state)” even as other word forms existed for similar function. We even see how transitivity pairs were created from the same /-gu/ affix which eventually split into two endings, with the transitive ending /-geru/ barely surviving in Modern Japanese.

Having carefully studied both the adjectival affix /-ka/ and the verbal affix /-gu/, we have gained an understanding of how the underlying affix /-ra/ is used in the Modern Japanese lexicon. For further study, consider the contrast between word forms that involve [-ra/ya] + [-ka]/[-gu] and those made by doubling the root + [-shii]. This differentiation was hinted at with 華々しい, 華やか, and 華やぐ, but we can also see this dynamic more broadly with other word groups such as 若い, 若々しい, 若やか, and 若やぐ. Stay tuned for this coverage in the future.