What To Say When You’re Sick in Japanese

What To Say When You’re Sick in Japanese

Welcome back to our “Video & Article” series with tutor Miki. In this article and video, Wasabi Tutor Miki teaches you how to describe when you aren’t feeling so well physically in Japanese. Be it a sore throat or a hurting tummy, learn all kinds of vocabulary and useful phrases in this lesson!

Table of Contents
[Describing Throat Pain]
[Describing Headaches]
[Describing Stomach Pain]
[Going to the Doctor]
[Recovering From an Illness]
[Vocabulary List]


In this lesson, Miki introduces phrases and vocabulary related to feeling ill in Japanese. When you’re not feeling well, it can be hard to describe what’s wrong in a foreign language. Whether you just want to explain what you’re feeling to your friends or co-workers or whether you are about to visit a clinic, Miki has put together a list of useful phrases and vocabulary!

[Describing Throat Pain]

First, let’s see how to best describe pain in your throat since that is one of the most common and surprisingly painful symptoms of a cold. First of all, “( のど ) ( いた ) い” means “My throat hurts. You can also use the onomatopoeia “イガイガ” and say “( のど ) がイガイガする”, which conveys that something is irritating your throat and feels strange. So the onomatopoeia “イガイガする” is combined with “( のど ) ” (throat) to describe a state of pain and irritation in your throat. “イガイガ” gives off the image of tiny spiky balls causing discomfort in your throat. なんかのどがイガイガする。 I feel somewhat uncomfortable in my throat.

[Describing Headaches]

Next, let’s see how to describe headaches. The easiest way is to say “( あたま ) ( いた ) い”, which means “My head hurts”, or “I have a headache”. You can also say “頭痛( ずつう ) がする”, which translates more like “I feel a headache”. For headaches, you can also use “ガンガンする” when you want to describe the feeling of a pounding headache. すごい( あたま ) がガンガンする。 I have a strong pounding headache. Be careful though, because when you use “ガンガンする”, you can’t combine it with “頭痛( ずつう ) ”. “頭痛( ずつう ) がガンガンする” doesn’t make any sense. To summarise, for describing headaches, you can try using these three terms: ( あたま ) ( いた ) い。 My head hurts. 頭痛( ずつう ) がする。 I have a headache. ( あたま ) がガンガンする。 I have a pounding headache.

[Describing Stomach Pain]

For the next section, let’s take a look at describing stomach pain. Just like for describing headaches, you can either say the straightforward “お( なか ) ( いた ) い”, which means “My stomach hurts”, or you can say “腹痛( ふくつう ) がする” which means “I have a stomachache”. To make your description more vivid or specific, you can use the onomatopoeia “キリキリする”, which is often used to describe stinging stomach pain. Casual: めっちゃ( ) がキリキリする。 I feel a strong stinging pain in my stomach. A little more formal: ( ) がすごくキリキリします。 I feel a strong stinging pain in my stomach. By the way, the difference between “( ) ” and “お( なか ) ” is that “( ) ” is formal and “お( なか ) ” is casual. That’s we have on the holiday season today. Thank you for reading this article, and please feel free to consult our native Japanese language teachers if you have any further questions! You can also discuss this article on our official “Japanese Learning Group” on Facebook!

[Going to the Doctor]

Let’s take these sentences to a somewhat more advanced level. Let’s say you want to see a doctor because of stinging pain in your stomach. Going to the doctor to have an illness checked out can be said as “病院( びょういん ) で/医者( いしゃ ) に/先生( せんせい ) にみてもらう”. So you have the following options: 病院( びょういん ) でみてもらう。 I’ll have it checked out at a hospital. 医者( いしゃ ) にみてもらう。 I’ll see a doctor about it. 先生( せんせい ) にみてもらう。 I’ll see a doctor about it. “病院( びょういん ) ” means hospital or clinic, and “医者( いしゃ ) ” means doctor. “先生( せんせい ) ” you’ve probably heard before - it’s an honorific term used to refer to teachers, but also for doctors and other people with important duties in society. “( ) る” shares its Kun-reading with “( ) る”, but means to “examine something” specifically in a medical context. ( ) がキリキリするので、病院( びょういん ) 先生( せんせい ) ( ) てもらいたい。 Because I have a stinging pain in my stomach, I want to have it examined by a doctor at a hospital. In Japan, most hospitals or clinics will provide you with a prescription which you have to bring to a pharmacy to receive your medicine. In Japanese, prescription means “処方箋( しょほうせん ) ” and a pharmacy is “薬局( やっきょく ) ”. You might hear a hospital receptionist telling you to bring your prescription to a nearby pharmacy to receive the medicine. 薬局( やっきょく ) 処方箋( しょほうせん ) 提示( ていじ ) してください。 Please show your prescription at a pharmacy.

[Recovering From an Illness]

There is an interesting term to describe the state of being in the middle of recovering from an illness. This is called “( ) ( ) がり”, which literally translates to “Coming back up from being ill”. Here’s an example of how to use this expression: ( ) ( ) がりだからあまり無理( むり ) しないでね。 You’re still recovering (from your illness), so please don’t overwork yourself. You can also use “ぴんぴんする” to describe having recovered fully from being sick and being back in your best form. たけしさん、風邪( かぜ ) だったみたいだけど、大丈夫( だいじょうぶ ) ? I heard that Takeshi was sick, is he ok? そうなの?全然( ぜんぜん ) 今日( きょう ) ぴんぴんしていたよ。 Is that so? He was completely fine today. That’s we have on describing illness today. Thank you for reading this article, and please feel free to consult our native Japanese language teachers if you have any further questions! You can also discuss this article on our official “Japanese Learning Group” on Facebook!
単語たんごリスト(Vocabulary list)
( のど )
( いた )
Painful, sore
igaiga suru
To feel a tickle in the throat
( あたま )
頭痛( ずつう )
gangan suru
Pounding of a headache
( なか )
Stomach (casual)
( )
Stomach (formal)
kirikiri suru
A stinging feeling (e.g. stinging pain)
病院( びょういん )
医者( いしゃ )
先生( せんせい )
Doctor, teacher (honorific way of addressing someone or talking about a teacher or doctor etc.)
( )
To examine (medically)
( ) てもらう
mite morau
To have something (medically) examined
処方箋( しょほうせん )
薬局( やっきょく )
提示( ていじ ) する
Teiji suru
To show, to present
( ) ( ) がり
yami agari
Convalescence, recovering from an illness
pinpin suru
To be lively and healthy