Nani Meaning – What Does Nani Mean?

Nani Meaning – What is the definition of “Nani” and How can we use it effectively?

The word “Nani” seems familiar to adults who usually use this word or “Nanny” to call their dear Grandmothers. However, just to let you know, “nani” has a total different meaning from “nanny” despite the fact that they have the same way of pronunciation. In this article, we are going to provide you with the definition of “nani“, its origin, useful real-life examples and even synonyms so that you can use the word effectively and flexibly. Let’s get started!

Nani Meaning - What Does Nani Mean?


Nani: What is its definition?

The word “nani” (なに) is a Japanese word that stands for “what.” in English. The short version of “nani” is “nan”.

You may have heard of Japanese movie characters saying “nani?” whenever they don’t understand something, right? “Nani” is often used when people want to express their misunderstanding or surprise toward something, for example, a 20-year-old guy gets married with an 80-year-old woman.

Nani’s Origin 

Nani’s meme comes from the “Fist of the North Star” anime that Ivanchin can watch on YouTube on September 6, 2017. In the movie, the character asked, “Omae wa mou shindeiru. Nani?” In English, this is interpreted as “You’re dead. What?” Memes are still popular. Used as an exclamation point or dialogue in other YouTube videos. For example, the Japanese version of the line used in Terminal Montage “Something About Super Smash Bros.”

Real-life Examples

Using ‘Nani’ in a Sentence

Nani is the more formal and polite term to use when asking a question, as in:

  • Nani wo suru tsumori desu ka? – What are you about to do?

In more normal cases, you can use nan. As a general rule, if the following word “what” starts with a syllable from the group t, n, d, use nan as follows:

  • Nandeshou? – What do you want?

Using ‘Nani’ in Context

You can use “nani” or “nan” in the restaurant. You can use either of these terms, depending on whether you are having a formal business lunch or a casual dinner. For example, in a snack bar you can say:

  • Osusume wa nan desu ka. –  Do you recommend anything?
  • Are wa nan desu ka. – What’s that?

If you are at a more formal meal, but you don’t know what to order, you may ask your partner:

  • Nani ga oishii desu ka. – Do you have anything good?

    Alternatives to “Nani”

    • what?
    • say that again?
    • You serious?
    • Really?
    • I’m sorry, what?
    • I beg your pardon?
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