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Ara Ara: All You Need to Know

by Shannan Reyes
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You’ve probably come across gushing female characters uttering the words “ara ara” across all kinds of anime and in a number of ways. Enough to make you sit back and wonder what it could mean. It’s a rather ambiguous term, with no fixed definition in the Japanese language.

Nevertheless, it is used with explicit intentions in anime by a score of female characters, usually the confident type. This article aims to unmask the term once and for all.

What Is the Meaning of Ara Ara?

ara ara meaning

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If you’ve seen a lot of anime, you might be familiar with the most popular contextual meaning. And that context is cute and dashing anime boys who make women’s hearts flutter with infatuation, excitement, or even just arouse simple amusement. The term is usually used by older women when referring to younger men.

Japanese Meanings

#1. According to Linguaholic, there are three separate words in the Japanese language that are pronounced “ara ara.” When used without exclamation or by men, it usually means the adverb for rough, “roughly.”

#2. With the Japanese equivalent of suffixes like “shii,” “ara ara shii” means rough and violent. It’s a whole other meaning from how it’s used in anime.

#3. The third and final meaning for the term “ara ara” in Japanese translates to “oh my goodness” when used with some kind of exclamation. If you’re the type of person that says “oh my god” often, you’ve already been using ara ara.
Fun fact: “Ara” is also a variety of high-end fish consumed in Japan.

Meaning in the West

Ara Ara means “oh my,” “my my,” or “oh my goodness” but in a flirtatious manner and it’s a feminine term used more often by women referring to cute boys.

Although the Japanese translation is “oh my goodness,” you cannot use ara ara as a perfect substitute for the English meaning of that word. It has a mildly flirtatious connotation even when employed sarcastically.

Simply put, you cannot say “ara ara” for every situation that warrants an “oh my” or “oh my goodness.” That might get misconstrued and in a bad way because the meaning of the term ara ara in the West comes from anime, not from the authentic Japanese language.

How Do I Use Ara Ara?

How Do I Use Ara Ara

The word implies a certain gender expression, so how both sexes have ended up using it differs significantly.

Men

If you’re a man, it’s probably best to refrain from using the term unless you’re a chief at sarcasm. It’s not a very classy word for a guy. For men, there are only a limited number of humorous situations that allow the term to be wielded without consequence.

Using it to refer to younger women might just make you come off as cheesy or maybe even a little creepy. Using it for other guys is alright if you’re bold about your sexual choices, but you should consider the creepy thing here too.
To sum up, men, please try to limit your “ara aras.”

Women

Being a girl, however, also doesn’t let you fly entirely off the handle with the term. Don’t worry though, you don’t have to be too cautious.

In a lot of anime, the term is used as a polite interjection to indicate surprise or amusement, so it’s quite relaxed. It might even just be a satirical comment, the Japanese equivalent of “my my.”

For example, your male friend who you’ve known for a long time is throwing a tantrum over something trivial. You could humorously interject with an “ara ara” to make him laugh and perhaps calm him down. Or say, your little brother is all dressed up and looking sharp for a wedding or a ball. An “ara ara” from you would likely get him a little flustered and embarrassed, but it’s a compliment so it’s all good.

If you’re using it in a flirtatious context with someone you like, that’s acceptable too. Say it in a soft voice for additional cuteness.

Just a note, try to refrain from using it with someone older than you because that might come off as disrespectful.

Why Is Ara Ara So Famous?

The answer to that is anime, where the term is used most often. In real life, even in Japan, it’s unlikely you’ll ever hear the word being used by anyone. It’s considered an ultra-feminine otaku-dense word that was only used casually in anime but picked up unexpectedly.

Otaku culture’s popularity in the West is growing phenomenally with each passing day as more and more people have started to realize that anime is where the real action, drama, adventure, romance, mystery, thriller, aesthetics, and plot twists are.

It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly draws people to anime. For some, it’s been a random discovery, for others perhaps it’s the memes, references, video games, recommendations from friends, or maybe even advertisements.

But as the popularity of anime grows, so do all its catchy phrases and references. It’s a unique world where there’s a place for everyone.

A possible reason “ara ara” became so famous is that it’s actually fun to say, and with a female voice, it makes a really cute sound. Similar to a kitten purring.

Popular Ara Ara Memes

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What Are the Alternatives to Ara Ara?

In the English language, there are several words you could use in the same context as ara ara:

• Oh my
• Gosh
• Golly
• No way
• Woah
• My my

There are also a number of Japanese alternatives:

• Sugoine: Meaning, “that’s incredible” or “unbelievable” and is used to express genuine excitement.
• Majide: Which asks the question “Really?” If you want to interject sarcastically, this is the one to go with.
• Uwa: The Japanese version of “Wow.”

There are probably far more than the ones mentioned here. Your best reference for some solid alternatives is anime. For a rich source of ara ara’s and alternatives, try Kawaii. It’s the cuteness genre of anime that focuses heavily on cute emotive characters having cute emotive interactions.

What Is the Male Equivalent for Ara Ara?

As the word has been coined in anime to only suit being used by females, men might feel like they need their own version of “ara ara” that’s socially acceptable.

A lot of otaku forums and anime fans argue strongly that “yare yare” is the male equivalent of ara ara.

They don’t literally mean the same thing but are often used in the same situation. Except “yare yare” is used by older men to refer to brash younger women but only the ones they secretly feel endeared to.

Based on the context, “yare yare” means “good grief” or “thank goodness.” It’s not a flirtatious word like ara ara, instead it’s both sarcastic and affectionate at the same time.

Men are notorious for hiding their true emotions. So if you hear a “yare yare” from a guy, he probably enjoys your silliness and pretends to be tired of it.

A Few Parting Words

Learning new words in Japanese can be really fun. And when combined with anime, it opens us up to a world of hilarious idiosyncrasies while also broadening our thinking and creativity. Not to mention, so many Japanese words are fun to say. Now if you ever hear someone saying “ara ara” to you, good luck trying not to blush.


Featured image source: Pinterest

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