Word of the Week: じめじめ (jime jime)

Posted: 21st July 2023

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

As longstanding followers of this series may have gathered, this has for some time not been a weekly feature of my blog, but more of a "this is a fun word that came up a lot this week" sort of affair. Regardless, something tells me this week's word may be pretty handy for many of us living through the summer of 2023.

This Week's Word Is...

じめじめ

Jime jime

Before We Begin

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What Does じめじめ (jime jime) Mean?

じめじめ (jime jime) has several possible translations, including:

  • Damp
  • Humid
  • Clammy

It also encompasses the idea of something gloomy, melancholy or depressing.

Today we're going to focus on the definition of humid, as this is (in my experience) the most common way in which you're likely to encounter the word.

How is it Written?

じめじめ (jime jime) is often written in hiragana, but can also be written in katakana as ジメジメ。Interestingly, katakana is often used to give a harder, more emphatic feel to many オノマトペ (onomatope - onomatopoeia words) - of which じめじめ (jime jime) is one. Tofugu touch on this in Japanese Onomatopoeia: The Definitive Guide, which I recommend checking out if you're new to the topic of オノマトペ (onomatope).

According to 漢字ペディア (Kanjipedia), it is possible to write jime jime with the kanji 湿湿, while ふりがな文庫 (Furigana Bunko) notes a couple of other less common ways of writing the word in kanji. While I've personally never come across jime jime written in kanji and it's not an option my Japanese keyboard automatically produces, the kanji used here (湿:moisture, humidity) is one we'll see come up again in some other ways of saying "humid" in Japanese.

How to Use じめじめ (jime jime) in a Sentence

The first thing to know about じめじめ (jime jime) is that it's paired with the verb する。For example:

  • 今日はじめじめしています (Kyō wa jime jime shiteimasu - It's humid today)

If you know some Japanese already, you may wonder why exactly the verb する (suru) is being used here. While the usual definition of this verb is "to do", it can also be used to describe sensory experiences, e.g. いい香りがする (ii kaori ga suru - [something] smells good) or 音がする (oto ga suru - [something] makes a sound).

For a more in-depth picture of how じめじめ (jime jime) and する (suru) can combine, let's take a look at some example sentences and phrases from the Japanese dictionary Weblio:

  1. 今朝も曇っててとてもじめじめしていた (Kesa mo kumottete totemo jimejime shiteita - This morning was cloudy and very humid)
  2. じめじめした日 (Jime jime shita hi - A humid day)
  3. じめじめした寒い日は健康に悪い (Jime jime shite samui hi wa kenkō ni warui - Humid, cold days are bad for your health)

As you may notice from #3, じめじめ (jime jime) isn't all about hot weather!

Here are some notes to help decipher the use of する in the sentences above:

  1. In the first example, it is given in short form (していた - shiteita). The long form version of this would be していました (shiteimashita). Both of these mean the same thing ("it was humid") but in speech indicate different levels of politeness.
  2. In the second example, する (suru) modifies 日 (hi), meaning the phrase じめじめする (jime jime suru - to be humid) changes form so it describes 日 (hi - day). The した (shita) in じめじめした (jime jime shita) is the short form of しました (shimashita): the past tense of する (suru).
  3. The third example is the same as the second but with the addition of 寒い (samui - cold) before 日 (hi).

If you're interested in some examples of how じめじめ (jime jime) can have different meanings such as "damp" (e.g. of clothes) or "gloomy" (of a personality), check out the following links:

Bonus Note: Other Japanese Words for "Humid"

Now you've got your head around how to use じめじめ (jime jime), let's have a quick lot at some other ways of saying "humid" in Japanese.

Option 1: 蒸し暑い (mushi atsui)

My own personal favourite because it sounds like "mushy", which is how I feel during Japanese summer:

  • 蒸し暑いです (Mushi atsui desu - It's humid)

This works just like 暑い (atsui - hot), so the negative form would be 蒸し暑くないです (Mushi atsukunai desu - It's not humid).

Option 2: 湿っぽい (shimeppoi)

The 湿 in 湿っぽい (shimeppoi) is a kanji we encountered earlier in this post. The kanji in and of itself means "humidity" or "dampness", and the word is once again fairly straightforward in its usage:

  • 湿っぽいです (Shimeppoi desu - It's humid)

Option 3: 湿度が高い (shitsudo ga takai)

Once again, there's that kanji!

In this phrase, 湿 is combined with 度 to form the word 湿度 (shitsudo: humidity level). As such, the way this word is used is a little different from those above:

  • 湿度が高いです (Shitsudo ga takai desu - lit. "The humidity level is high")

While this may sound a little more technical, in reality it's just another way of saying "It's humid"!

Option 4: 湿気が多い (shikke ga ōi)

Finally, our last kanji combo is 湿 + 気 = 湿気 (shikke - humidity, dampness, moisture). Unlike 湿度 (shitsudo), this doesn't refer to a level, but rather to the actual amount of humidity in the air, hence:

  • 湿気が多いです (Shikke ga ōi desu - lit. "There's a lot of humidity")

Once again, this is just another way of saying "It's humid".

Which Word Should I Use?

If you're now feeling a bit overwhelmed by the amount of choice presented to you, my advice is to pick a phrase that you like the sound of and stick with it for the time being. Over time, you're bound to expand the words and phrases you're comfortable with using, so just make sure you've got at least one up your sleeve that you can use to get your point across and I guarantee you'll be on the right path!

You've reached the end of this post! I hope you enjoyed it.

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