Word of the Week: へとへと (heto heto)

Photo credit: Cris Saur

Posted: 31st Aug 2023

Hello and welcome to the Ippo Ippo Japanese Word of the Week!

This Week's Word Is...


  • In rōmaji: heto heto

Before We Begin

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What Does へとへと (heto heto) Mean?

へとへと (heto heto) has a few potential English translations, including:

  • Exhausted
  • Knackered
  • Worn out
  • Dead tired

The extreme tiredness expressed by へとへと (heto heto) is both physical and mental. As such, it's a great alternative to simply saying 疲れている/疲れています (tsukareteiru/tsukareteimasu - I'm tired) when asked how you are - especially if your tiredness is particularly pronounced.

How is it Written?

While most of the examples of へとへと that I have come across are in hiragana, it is possible to write this word in katakana.

へとへと (heto heto) is a type of Japanese オノマトペ (onomatope - onomatopoeia). Words of this kind are often written in katakana for extra emphasis or to give a "harder" feel. You can read more about this in Tofugu's Definitive Guide to Japanese Onomatopoeia under the heading "Hiragana or Katakana".

How to Use へとへと (heto heto) in a Sentence

Let's talk about how the word is used.

Example Sentences

  1. ああ、へとへとだよ。(Aa, heto heto da yo - Argh, I'm so exhausted)*
  2. 今日は朝からずっと忙しくて、もうへとへと。(Kyō wa asa kara zutto isogashikute, mō heto heto - I've been busy all of today since this morning. I'm knackered.)
  3. もうへとへとでこれ以上歩けないよ。(Mō heto heto de kore ijō arukenai yo - I'm so worn out I can't walk any further)
  4. 久々に運動したら、10分でへとへとになった。(Hisabisa ni undō shitara, juppun de heto heto ni natta - I exercised for the first time in a while and was exhausted in just 10 minutes)
  5. 昨日はへとへとですぐ寝てしまった。(Kinō wa heto heto de sugu nete shimatta - Yesterday I was so knackered I fell asleep straight away)

*だ (da) is the short (typically more casual) form of ですよ (desu), meaning you could also say へとへとですよ (heto heto desu yo).


Bonus Language Note: へとへと (heto heto) and もう (mō)

You may have noticed that へとへと (heto heto) often appears alongside the word もう (mō), as in もうへとへと (mō heto heto).

もう (mō) is one of my favourite words (or just sounds) in Japanese, as it's super simple - and fun - to say, yet incredibly expressive at the same time!

While もう (mō) doesn't have any one specific English translation, perhaps the easiest way to understand it is as a standalone expression of frustration or exasperation similar to "jeez!", "come on!" or "damn/darn it!". As such, when it's tagged onto the front of another word, it acts as a kind of intensifier - so if you find yourself feeling really へとへと (heto heto), I recommend letting out some frustration by saying もうへとへと (mō heto heto)!

Fun fact: もう (mō) is also the sound made by cows in Japanese. Although it's not the same word and is usually written in katakana as モーモー (mō mō), I like to imagine that cows in Japan are simply great at venting their frustrations.

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