Word of the Week: めんどくさい (mendokusai)

Posted: 8th December 2022

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

This week's word is...

めんどくさい (mendokusai)

What does it mean?

めんどくさい (mendokusai) has many possible English translations, including:

  • Bothersome
  • Tiresome
  • Tedious
  • A pain in the neck
  • A bother

Essentially, this is a word that describes anything you can't be bothered with. As such, when students ask about this word I sometimes compare it with the English abbreviation "CBA"!

If you look up めんどくさい (mendokusai) in a dictionary, you may notice it brings up a few different variations:

  1. めんどうくさい
  2. 面倒くさい
  3. 面倒臭い

Variation #1 is another pronounciation of this word, this time with a longer vowel sound in the middle: mendōkusai. In my experience, this is an uncommon way to pronounce the word in everyday speech. However, you may hear the odd person say or write it like this, especially in more formal situations.

Variation #2 and #3 are both different 書き方 (kaki-kata - ways of writing) that you may sometimes come across. Whilst I'd say hiragana is the most common way of writing this word, I definitely have some friends who like to use variation #2 in particular. In other words, this often boils down to personal preference!

Before we move on to some examples of how to use めんどくさい (mendokusai) in real life, let's see what we can learn from breaking down the kanji used in the above 書き方 (kaki-kata):

  • 面倒 (mendō) can mean either trouble/bother or care/attention. With the first meaning, it's actually fairly similar to めんどくさい (mendokusai), e.g. 面倒な仕事 (mendō na shigoto - an annoying/bothersome job). With the latter meaning, however, it can be used more neutrally, e.g. 子供の面倒を見る (kodomo no mendō wo miru - to take care of a child).
  • 臭い/くさい (kusai) also has a couple of meanings, the first of which is "smelly" or "stinks of". To be honest, I've always taken this to mean that something めんどくさい (mendokusai) simply stinks of trouble/bother! However, having done a bit of research, the actual meaning is closer to "very" when added onto a word like this.

So: 面倒+くさい = very 面倒 (troublesome/bothersome)!

How to Use めんどくさい (mendokusai)

If you're totally new to めんどくさい (mendokusai), I encourage you to watch the following video by That Japanese Man Yuta.

What I like about this video is that shows just how handy a phrase めんどくさい (mendokusai) really is - as well as how compact it is in Japanese compared with its various English translations. As Yuta-sensei explains, if you spend a lot of time around people speaking Japanese, you're likely to start using this word even when speaking English. I can certainly testify to this!

While I recommend watching the video itself, here are a few examples given by Yuta-sensei:

  • I have to put out the rubbish but it's so めんどくさい。
  • Editing a video is so めんどくさい。
  • You're such a めんどくさい person, aren't you?

Now you've got a feel for how めんどくさい (mendokusai) can map onto English, here's another video - this time courtesy of Shintaro's Japanese Room - with another couple of examples of how to use it in Japanese. For instance:

  • 掃除するの*めんどくさい (Sōji suru no* mendokusai - I can't be bothered to do cleaning)

*In this sentence, Shintaro-sensei is using a nice informal type of phrasing that you'll hear a lot in daily life in Japan. If you're a bit confused by the grammar, note that technically speaking there should be a が (ga) here. This is because adding のが (no ga) after a Japanese verb makes it into a gerund, i.e. a noun. In English, these look like "ing" verbs, e.g. "swimming", "speaking", "cleaning". A related example would be アニメを見るのが好きです (terebi wo miru no ga suki desu - I like watching anime).

Watch the full video below:

Finally, here's a video that's fully in Japanese, although you can turn on English subtitles via the YouTube settings.

In this video, Misaki-sensei (of Hirasoru Channel) gives some great real-life examples of how to use this incredibly common Japanese word, such as the following mini monologue:

今日は自分でラーメンを一から作るぞ (Kyō wa jibun de raamen wo ichi kara tsukuru zo - Today I'm going to make ramen from scratch)

楽しみ (Tanoshimi - Can't wait!)

えっと、まずはスープから (Etto, mazu wa suupu kara - Okay, first we'll start from the broth)

まずは野菜を灰汁を取りながら (Mazu wa yasai wo aku wo torinagara - First step: bring the vegetables to boil, removing any scum)

6時間煮込みます (Roku jikan nikomimasu - And then simmer for 6 hours)

めんどくさいからカップ麺ででいいや (Mendokusai kara kappu men de ii ya - I can't be bothered with that! I'll just have some cup noodles)

For more examples, including an excerpt from an anime called Gin Tama, watch the full video below:

Now we've covered a whole load of ways to use めんどくさい (mendokusai), let's move on to some bonus notes!

Bonus Note #1: めんどくせえ

If you watched the last video, you may have heard an alternative pronounciation of めんどくさい (mendokusai): めんどくせえ (mendokusee).

This way of ending an i-adjective is common in very casual Japanese, and can be written in different ways, e.g. めんどくせー or めんどくせぇ as well as めんどくせえ。Here's what this sound change can look like with other words:

  • すごい (sugoi) → すげえ (sugee)
  • やばい (yabai) → やべー (yabee)
  • うるさい (urusai) → うるせぇ (urusee)

Important: this "ee" sound is not "ee" as in "need", but more like the "ey" in "hey". Also, this sound change doesn't happen with all i-adjectives. If you haven't come across it before, the above three words are a good place to start if you want to try out some slang in conversation!

Bonus Note #2: めんどい & めんどくさ

Finally, two especially casual/slang versions of めんどくさい (mendokusai) you may encounter are めんどい (mendoi) and めんどくさ (mendokusa)。Again, these ways of ending adjectives are not confined to めんどくさい (mendokusai) alone, but that's a story for another time!

Japaty (apologies - this link has since expired) gives a couple of examples of how these two slang variations might be used in real life. First up:

  • A: 部屋の掃除を今からしないといけないんだ。(Heya no sōji wo ima kara shinai to ikenainda - I have to clean my room now)
  • B: めんどいな。(Mendoi na)

*Note from Elly: it looks like this YouTube channel has disappeared since I first wrote this article! I've left the link above on the off-chance that it resurfaces.

And:

  • A: 今日は雨だけど、市役所に行かなきゃ。(Kyō wa ame da kedo, shiyakusho ni ikanakya - It's raining today, but I have to go to the city hall)
  • B: めんどくさ。(Mendokusa)

Be warned: these are both very informal and should only be used with people you're close to and/or normally speak casually with!

おつかれさま!O-tsukare sama!

Feeling a bit ヘトヘト (heto heto - knackered, worn out) after all that learning?

My final gift to you today is another video entitled もう何もかも面倒くさい時にみて欲しいアニメ (mō nanimo kamo mendokusai toki ni mite hoshii anime - an anime that I want you watch you when everything and anything is mendokusai).

While the language is quite advanced and there are sadly no proper English subtitles at the time of writing, give it a go and see if you can get a feel for what it's about.

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

For updates on posts like this sent straight to your inbox, sign up to my monthly newsletter:

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Image of a person at a laptop with overlay text reading "Boost Your Learning. Get updates on Ippo Ippo PLUS free tips, insights and recommendations from someone who's made the journey from zero knowledge to fluency in Japanese."

Support Me on Ko-fi

If you've enjoyed this post and would like to see more like it in future, please consider sending a donation - however small! - via Ko-fi. I don't include any affiliated links or ads on my blog, so every little helps!

Please donate via the portal below or by going directly to the Ippo Ippo Japanese Ko-fi page.

Skip to content