Jouzu ni Japanese how to use it

Jouzu is the Japanese word for 'skillful' or 'good (at)', explained in detail

What does “jouzu” mean in Japanese?

Japanese native speakers say "jouzu" to mean "skillful" or "good (at)" in Japanese. In this blog post, I will explain this word in detail based on its kanji expression and history. And also, I will explain how to use it through example sentences. Let's get started!

Contents

Definition and meanings of "jouzu"

Let me start with the definition and meanings of “jouzu”.

  • jouzu - 上手 (じ ょ う ず): a noun, but often used as an adjective to mean ‘skillful’ or ‘good (at)’ in Japanese.

In the Japanese language, the border between nouns and some adjectives called na-adjectives is very ambiguous. Basically every na-adjective consists of one noun and one conjugative suffix, but native speakers often omit the suffix especially in speaking. Some Japanese nouns, therefore, can work as abbreviated forms of na-adjectives. “Jouzu” in one of them. It can work as the abbreviated form of "jouzuna" which means "skillful" or "good (at)" in Japanese.

Compared to its grammatical definition, its meanings are very simple and clear, I think. To understand this word more clearly, however, let me explain its kanji characters in detail, one by one.

“Jouzu” in kanji

Let me explain the kanji characters as follows:

  • : a kanji character widely used to mean "top", "upper", "above", "beyond", or "over" in Japanese.
  • : a kanji character widely used to mean "hand" in Japanese. Depending on the situation, this can also work as a plural noun meaning ‘hands’. Learn more about Japanese plural.

From these two kanji characters, we can understand that “jouzu” literally means ‘the top of a hand’. Unfortunately, this kanji concept doesn't seem to be in line with the meanings. Sometimes this kind of mismatch between appearance and meaning could happen. But, why can this kanji expression mean "skillful" or "good (at)"? To answer this question, let me explain some history.

Some history of "jouzu"

To understand why "jouzu" can mean "skillful" or "good (at)" in Japanese, we need to know some history of this word. “Jouzu” originally came from its heteronym, “kamite”, which is highly related to the Japanese theater culture.

  • kamite - 上手 (か み て): a noun meaning ‘stage left’ in Japanese.

Interestingly, it was said that actors at the stage left (it’s the right side from the audience) tended to play better than those who were at the stage right. In other words, actors on “kamite” tended to play better. This tendency stretched the use of the noun, “kamite”, to an adjective meaning skillful ’or‘ good (at) ’. And its pronunciation as the adjective has been changed as time goes by. Today, "kamite" only means "stage left". "Jouzu" means "skillful" or "good (at)".

This is the short history of "jouzu" and the reason it can mean "skillful" or "good (at)" in the Japanese language. Then, let me explain how to use it through the example sentences below.

Example # 1: how to use “jouzu” to mean ‘good at’

kanojo wa ryouri ga jouzu desu - 彼女 は 料理 が 上手 で す (か の じ ょ は り ょ う り り が じ ょ う ず で す)

She is good at cooking.

Below are the new words used in the example sentence.

  • kanojo - 彼女 (か の じ ょ): a pronoun meaning ‘she’ in Japanese.
  • wa - は: a binding particle working as a case marker or topic marker. In the example, this is used after "kanojo" to make the subject word in the sentence.
  • ryouri - 料理 (り ょ う り): a noun meaning ‘cooking’ in Japanese.
  • ga - が: a case particle used to make the subject word or the object word in a sentence. In the example, this is used after “ryouri” to make the object word in the sentence.
  • desu - で す: an auxiliary verb used after a noun or adjective to make it polite. Probably this is well known as a part of Japanese desu form. In the example, this is used after “jouzu” to make it sound polite.

This is a typical usage of “jouzu”. In the example sentence, it is used to mean "good at". When we want to mean to be good at ’in Japanese, it would be a good choice.

Example # 2: another usage of “jouzu”

kare wa watashi yori tenisu ga jouzu desu - 彼 は 私 よ り テ ニ ス が 上手 で す (か れ は わ た し よ り て に す が が じ ょ う ず で す)

He is better at tennis than I am.

Below are the new words used in the example sentence.

  • kare - 彼 (か れ): a pronoun meaning ‘he’ in Japanese.
  • watashi - 私 (わ た し): a pronoun meaning ‘I’ in Japanese.
  • yori - よ り: a case particle used to provide a target of comparison. In the example, this is used after "watashi" to provide the target of the comparison with "kare".
  • tenisu - テ ニ ス (て に す): a noun meaning ‘tennis’ in Japanese. This is an imported word which originally came from the pronunciation of "tennis".

This is another typical usage of “jouzu”. In this example, it has been translated as to be better at ’due to the role of“ yori ”.

Summary

In this blog post, I've explained “jouzu” in detail based on its kanji expression and history. And also, I've explained how to use it through the example sentences. Let me summarize them as follows.

  • jouzu - 上手 (じ ょ う ず): a noun, but often used as an adjective to mean ‘skillful’ or ‘good (at)’. These two kanji characters literally mean ‘the top of a hand’. This word originally came from its heteronym, “kamite”.
  • kamite - 上手 (か み て): a noun meaning ‘stage left’ in Japanese. Actors on the stage left tended to play better than those who were on the stage right. So, this word started to be used as an adjective to mean 'skillful' or 'good (at)'.

Hope my explanations are understandable and helpful for Japanese learners.

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Filed Under: nouns