Nan Desu Ka Meaning

Nan Desu Ka Meaning: Understanding the Japanese Phrase

Nan Desu Ka is a common phrase used in Japanese that has slowly made its way into the global digital communication world. Though the phrase may not be well-known to non-Japanese speakers, it is often used in anime, manga, and various online platforms. If you’re an anime fan, you’ve probably heard it more than once.

In this post, we will explore the meaning and significance of Nan Desu Ka and how it is commonly used in Japan, as well as in the rest of the world.

What is the meaning of Nan Desu Ka?

As earlier mentioned, Nan Desu Ka is a Japanese phrase, which is usually translated into English as “What is it?” or “What’s wrong?”. The phrase is often seen in Japanese books, TV series, anime, manga, and other forms of entertainment.

The phrase is made up of three Japanese words, namely: “nan,” which means “what,” “desu,” which means “is,” and “ka,” which essentially changes the statement to a question. The three words when combined together forms the very popular phrase known as Nan Desu Ka.

What is the significance of Nan Desu Ka?

While Nan Desu Ka may seem like a simple phrase, it holds some important significance in Japanese cultures. In Japan, it is considered a polite method of asking questions. It is seen as a respectful way to inquire about something without sounding too direct.

In Japan, polite language is essential, particularly when addressing elders or individuals of higher status. Therefore, the use of “Nan Desu Ka” in such situations helps show the speaker’s respect and awareness of the cultural expectations.

How is Nan Desu Ka used?

If you’re visiting Japan and want to interact with the locals, Nan Desu Ka is a very useful phrase to know. It’s used to inquire, clarify or confirm anything.

For example, suppose you are at a Japanese restaurant and cannot read the menu. In that case, you can ask the waiter, “このメニューの中で一番おすすめは何ですか?(Kono menyu no naka de ichiban osusume wa nan desu ka?)”, which translates to “What is the most recommended dish on the menu?”. Here, the use of Nan Desu Ka shows politeness and respect for the waiter who is there to help you.

In anime and manga, the phrase is often used when a character is confused or trying to comprehend something. For instance, in “One Punch Man”, when Saitama is asked about his workout routine, he responds with “100 push-ups, 100 squats, 100 sit-ups, and a 10km run every day…nan desu ka?” expressing his surprise at people’s reactions to his routine.

Similarly, in “Dragon Ball Z”, the character Vegeta uses Nan Desu Ka quite often when he’s asking about his opponent’s power level or trying to understand the situation.

Nan Desu Ka in the Digital World

In the digital world, specifically online forums and message boards, Nan Desu Ka has gained popularity as a means of asking for information or clarification. Non-Japanese people use this phrase to ask for information on various aspects of Japanese culture and language.

For instance, when someone asks for the meaning of a Japanese phrase, someone else might respond by saying “Oh, that’s Nan Desu Ka”. This response implies that the initial question is too general and should be more specific.

Furthermore, since the phrase has become a viral trend among non-Japanese speakers, it has been meme-fied and transformed into various versions. For instance, “Nani Kore Wa” is a playful adapted version of the phrase, which means “What’s this”? It is often used in memes to satirize the anime and manga culture.


In summary, Nan Desu Ka is a Japanese phrase that is commonly used in various occasions, be it in real-life scenarios, anime, manga, or online platforms. It has become a trend among non-Japanese communities who are exploring Japanese culture and language. Knowing the meaning and usage of the phrase can help you better understand Japanese customs and create a more respectful and friendly interaction with Japanese people.