Commonness of casual phrases like "あたし" and "ちっちゃい"


I came across a Japanese girl in Germany who talked using words like あたし instead of わたし, or ちっちゃい instead of ちいさい. When I asked her, she said that these words or usages of words are more common in Japan.

  • Is this true?
  • How does the majority of Japanese people judge this?
  • Shall learners pay attention to such details or avoid this topic entirely?


Posted 2011-05-31T18:54:00.623

Reputation: 391

3Another frequent example: さみしい instead of さびしい. – Kdansky – 2011-05-31T22:38:13.000

4@Kdansky, び and み have similar prononciation histories, that's why those 2 exist. – makdad – 2011-06-01T03:20:52.537

1Also words like あったかい instead of あたたかい although I'm not sure whether it would be spelled with a っ – jpierson – 2011-06-01T10:16:07.013

3@jpierson: Yes, a colloquial form of あたたかい is spelled as あったかい with a っ, as you did correctly. あたかい is incorrect. – Tsuyoshi Ito – 2011-06-04T11:43:50.847



Atashi is for females. Chicchai can be seen as more emphatic "tiny". They are both quite common. Remember that in most textbooks for any language the most ideal form of the language (often judged so by prescriptive grammarians) is taught. As you familiarize yourself with real world usage (through travel, friends, and media) you will discover all sorts of words you were never taught because they seemed "too casual". DO pay attention because casual speech is appropriate for casual situations; nothing sets you apart as a gaijin more than using polite speech in every single conversation you have.

Nate Glenn

Posted 2011-05-31T18:54:00.623

Reputation: 3 819

My family and relatives use very casual language at home in Japan, and from my experience it's just like any other country. In fact my in-laws often insist I stop being so polite to them. It's best to learn polite form first, and through interaction with others you can learn the less formal language and when it's appropriate. It's better to be too polite rather than not polite enough. – Chris Gaunt – 2011-05-31T22:51:58.310

6@Herr Kaleun: If the polite approach was right in every situation, there would not be "casual" speech to begin with, now would there? One should at the very least learn to understand casual speech (both grammar and vocabulary), and when comfortable, start using it when appropriate. – Matti Virkkunen – 2011-05-31T19:08:47.000

@ali - while I agree with you on atashi being feminine, I've never heard chicchai used solely by women or referred to as a feminine – Mark Hosang – 2011-05-31T23:46:20.573

@HerrKaleun that's a huge oversimplification of Japanese as a "polite culture". It's a hierarchical culture, so there are many different levels of politeness, and using the approriate language is of utmost importance--be it casual or polite. A society when everyone speaks with the same amount of respect to everyone would be as far from hierarchical as it gets. – Ataraxia – 2012-09-14T14:33:04.203

so ちっちゃい is usable by both females/males to refer to anything including females/males ? – Pacerier – 2011-06-25T09:15:59.217

1Hmmm so the polite approach is not right in every situation? This is strange. I thought in a culture like the Japanese, being polite is THE thing to do. Strange. – Herr – 2011-05-31T19:02:21.890

7Yes, but as a foreign learner you go through phases. You start out polite, think "I'm going to learn REAL Japanese" and go way too casual. Then you realize that how 'well spoken' you are in Japanese is tied directly to how well you can operate in complex social hierarchies with vaguely defined protocol and then have to go back to the books and actually learn polite Japanese. You've been warned :P – Ali – 2011-05-31T20:17:22.467

2Also, 'atashi' and 'chicchai' aren't particularly polite, just feminine. – Ali – 2011-05-31T20:17:59.580


あたし (atashi) is the female version of 私 for referring to yourself. わたし (watashi) is the neutral form for that, so you can use it always. あたし is only used by females, while 僕 (ぼく, boku) one of multiple possibilities for males is (although 僕 by itself is rather informal).

There are many words that are dependent on who it says, or who it is addressed. あたし is just one example there.


Posted 2011-05-31T18:54:00.623

Reputation: 483


Yes, they're common, but those words in particular are very casual and あたし is only used by girls. Many women will not use it since it's so effeminate, but it's not uncommon.


Posted 2011-05-31T18:54:00.623

Reputation: 272

1Can you give some more examples, would be kool :) – Herr – 2011-05-31T19:00:24.857

1This question is a little open-ended. There is an unending supply of colloquialisms and slang. Maybe you can narrow what you'd like from this topic first? – Wahnfrieden – 2011-05-31T20:07:18.143


Only girls would use this kind of language, especially high school girls. If adults use it, it wouldn't sound right. You definatley couldn't use it within a business!

I think they use this kind of language to be kinda cute.

If you're learning the language, you should of course learn the proper words and maybe just look at these kind of feminisms to be aware of it to understand.


Posted 2011-05-31T18:54:00.623

Reputation: 193

3I don't think chicchai is limited to HS students as I've heard many people at my work, both males and females, use it in reference to the size of my head (silly Japanese people).

-1: Also, while I'll agree with you that Atashi is used to be cute, and may have it's biggest usage among HS, it is definitely not limited to that. – Mark Hosang – 2011-05-31T23:51:25.910

just a quick question.. does あたし in business conditions sounds like a flirt ? – Pacerier – 2011-06-25T09:17:25.130