Learning Japan's latest slang; Understanding Gen Z terms


Have you ever heard of the word "サボる (saboru)"? It means to skip work or school, and derives from the French word "sabotage"; it takes the first half "サボ (sabo)" and adds the Japanese verb "する (suru; to do)" on the end. For example, it can be used in sentences like; "今日( きょう ) 授業( じゅぎょう ) めんどくさいから、サボろうかな〜 (Kyō-no jugyō mendoi-kara, saborō-kana~; Today's class is a pain in the neck, so I guess I'll just skip it.)"

The reason why "る (ru)" is added here, is because many Japanese verbs end with "る"; for example, "( ) べる (taberu; to eat)," "( ) る (miru; to see)," "( かえ ) る (kaeru; to go home)," "( ) きる (okiru; to wake up)," "( はし ) る (hashiru; to run)," and "( ) る (noru; to ride)." By adding "ru" to the end, the verb can be used to express action or behavior.

In this article, I would like to introduce you to some "〇〇る" terms that can be used when casually chatting with your Japanese friends! First, let me introduce you to some words that are derived from English words. In Japanese, "外来語( がいらいご ) (gairai-go; loan words)" such as terms derived from English are written in katakana. Hence, the form "katakana word + る" is commonly used in these cases.

① ググる (guguru)

Just as "Google" is used as a verb in English (as in "to google something"), "ググる (guguru)" is used as a verb in Japanese as well. It means to search and look something up on the Internet.
Example: わからないことがあったら( なん ) でもすぐにググる。(Wakaranai koto-ga attara nandemo sugu-ni guguru.)
Meaning: When I don't understand something, I immediately google it.

② ディスる (disuru)

"ディスる (disuru)" is an expression used to deny or criticize someone. It is considered to be a verbalization of the English negative prefix "dis-."
Example: 後輩( こうはい ) にディスられてめっちゃショックだった。(Kōhai-ni disurarete meccha shokku-datta.)
Meaning: I was devastated when my junior dissed me.

③ バグる (baguru)

It derives from the English word "(computer) bug / glitch" and is used to mean that a device (such as a computer) malfunctioned. The word "bug" originally meant a defect in a program, but "バグる (baguru; buggy)" is often used simply when a device malfunctions or stops working unexpectedly. It can also be used as a metaphor for someone's contradictory behavior.
Example: あれ、パソコンが( きゅう ) にバグった!(Are, pasokon-ga kyū-ni bagutta!)
Meaning: Oh no, my computer suddenly got buggy!

④ バズる (bazuru)

The word "バズ (bazu)" comes from the English word "buzz," which means to gain attention and be shared rapidly by a large number of people. When a social media post goes viral and becomes a trending topic, such as receiving 10,000 retweets on Twitter or a million views on TikTok, it is safe to say that the post has "バズった (bazutta; gone viral)." Example: 友達( ともだち ) ( ) げた動画( どうが ) がバズっている。(Tomodachi-ga ageta dōga-ga bazutteiru.) Meaning: The video that my friend uploaded went viral.

⑤ ミスる (misuru)

This is a verb form of the English word "miss." This term means "to fail" or "to make a mistake."
Example: ミスった!アラームをセットするの、( わす ) れてた!(Misutta! Arāmu-wo setto-suruno, wasureta!)
Meaning: Darn it! I forgot to set my alarm!

Here are some examples that are not derived from loan words:

⑥ じわる (jiwaru)

This is derived from the onomatopoeia "じわじわ (jiwa jiwa)," which is used to mean that something "gradually becomes funnier," or "it takes time for the joke to sink in." "Jiwa jiwa" is an onomatopoeia that describes the slow and steady progress of something. It can be used as in "借金( しゃっきん ) がじわじわと( ) える (shakkin-ga jiwajiwa-to fueru; my debt has been slowly increasing)" or "( くすり ) がじわじわと( ) いてきた (kusuri-ga jiwajiwa-to kiitekita; the medication is gradually kicking in)." Example: この画像( がぞう ) 、じわる。(Kono gazō, jiwaru.) Meaning: This meme is hilarious.

愚痴( ぐち ) る (guchiru)

This is pronounced as "ぐちる (guchiru)." "愚痴 (guchi)" is a noun meaning to complain about something that can not be helped, and the verb form of this word is "愚痴( ぐち ) る (guchiru)." The correct way to use this word is "愚痴( ぐち ) ( ) う (guchi-wo iu; to complain about something)" or "愚痴( ぐち ) をこぼす (guchi-wo kobosu; to whine/grumble about something)," but the term "愚痴( ぐち ) る (guchiru)" is used by a fairly wide range of age groups. It is used in the same sense as "文句( もんく ) 不満( ふまん ) ( ) う (monku-ya fuman-wo iu; to whine or grumble about something)." Example: 彼女( かのじょ ) は、( ) うたびに愚痴( ぐち ) ってばかりいる。(Kanojo-wa, autabi-ni guchitte bakari-iru.) Meaning: Whenever I see her, she's always complaining about something.

( ) える (baeru)

This is pronounced as "baeru." The original pronunciation of this verb is "haeru," which means to catch attention or to stand apart from something in a positive way. It is used as in: "( こん ) のスーツにネクタイがよく( ) える (kon-no sūtsu-ni nekutai-ga haeru; Your tie looks great against your navy blue suit)." Then came Instagram, and the popularity of posting beautiful and picturesque photos led to the emergence of the new term, "インスタ( ) え (insuta-bae)." It is often used to describe a fantastic landscape or situation in which you can take pictures that are likely to get lots of attention and "likes" on Instagram. The word "インスタ( ) え" was selected as the "Buzzword of the Year" in 2017. From there, the verb "映え (bae)" also came to be pronounced as "ばえる (baeru)" mainly amongst young people. Example: このお( みせ ) 料理( りょうり ) ( ) える!( ) ( ) がおしゃれだね。(Kono omise-no ryōri, baeru! Mitame-ga oshare-dane.) Meaning: The food in this restaurant looks so Instagenic! It looks so fancy.


With "〇〇る" words, long sentences can be squeezed into a shorter term, which is useful when chatting casually with friends or texting them. However, please be aware that these words are not the best choices for formal situations! Since "〇〇る" is such a versatile term, I am sure that new words will continue to appear in the near future. Many of these terms can be difficult to comprehend at first, even for native Japanese speakers. So, until you get used to these terms, I recommend that you first aim to be able to listen and recognize them, instead of trying to use them from the get go. The terms I introduced in this article have been in use for a relatively long time, so it would be helpful to learn their meanings!