japanese kanji for sorry

What Is The Japanese Kanji For Sorry? | How To Say Sorry In Japanese? 

05 de June, 2024Shopify API

The Japanese kanji for sorry is 謝意. We break down the kanji for sorry and learn how to say sorry in Japanese. Check it out!

In the intricate tapestry of the Japanese language, expressing emotions and sentiments often transcends the boundaries of mere words. This is particularly evident when it comes to conveying apologies. 

While "sorry" might be a simple word in English, in Japanese, it unfolds into a rich world of kanji characters and cultural subtleties. 

In this article, we will delve deep into the Japanese kanji for "sorry," unraveling the layers of meaning, usage, and the profound cultural significance behind these characters. 

Join us as we explore the art of apologizing in Japan and discover how the Japanese script beautifully encapsulates the essence of remorse and reconciliation. 

Whether you're a language enthusiast or seeking to deepen your cultural understanding, this exploration of the Japanese kanji for "sorry" promises to be both enlightening and engaging.

Japanese Kanji For Sorry Is 謝意

Instead of a single kanji character, the Japanese language conveys the concept of "sorry" or "apology" using a combination of kanji characters. Here are two commonly used kanji combinations:

  • 謝罪 (Shazai):
    • 謝 (sha) means "apology" or "to apologize."
    • 罪 (zai) means "fault" or "sin."

Together, 謝罪 (shazai) conveys the idea of apologizing for a fault or wrongdoing. This term is often used in formal contexts, such as official apologies from organizations or businesses.

  • 謝意 (Sha-i):
    • 謝 (sha) is the same character used in the first combination and means "apology."
    • 意 (i) means "feelings" or "intentions."

The combination 謝意 (sha-i) represents the idea of expressing one's feelings of apology or remorse. It is a more emotional and personal way to convey a heartfelt apology.

How To Say Sorry In Japanese?

In Japanese, there are multiple ways to express apologies and say "sorry." The most common and straightforward way is to use the word "ごめんなさい" (gomen nasai), which is a polite and sincere way to apologize. 

However, if you are curious about the kanji characters associated with the concept of "sorry," you might find it interesting to know that there isn't a single, universally recognized kanji character for "sorry" as there might be in English.

Here are some common ways to say sorry in Japanese:

1. ごめんなさい (Gomen Nasai):

  • Pronunciation: go-men na-sai
  • Usage: This is the most common and versatile way to say sorry in Japanese. "ごめんなさい" (gomen nasai) is a polite and sincere expression of apology suitable for various situations, both formal and informal. It can be used in everyday conversations, among friends, and in more serious or professional contexts.

2. すみません (Sumimasen):

  • Pronunciation: soo-mee-mah-sen
  • Usage: "すみません" (sumimasen) is a versatile phrase that can be used not only for apologizing but also for expressing gratitude and getting someone's attention. It is slightly less formal than "ごめんなさい" (gomen nasai) but still polite. You can use it when you want to say sorry in a less serious or formal manner.

3. 謝罪する (Shazai Suru):

  • Pronunciation: sha-zai soo-roo
  • Usage: When you need to make a formal or written apology, you can use the verb "謝罪する" (shazai suru), which means "to apologize." This is often used in official apologies issued by organizations, businesses, or public figures.

4. 謝意を表す (Sha-i o Arasu):

  • Pronunciation: sha-ee o ah-rah-soo
  • Usage: To express your sincere feelings of apology or remorse, you can say "謝意を表す" (sha-i o arasu), which means "to express one's apology." This phrase conveys a deeper sense of regret and is suitable for personal apologies.

5. 申し訳ありません (Moushiwake Arimasen):

  • Pronunciation: moh-shee-wah-keh ah-ree-mah-sen
  • Usage: This phrase is a formal way to apologize and is often used in professional or serious situations. It conveys a deep sense of regret and responsibility. It can be translated as "I have no excuse" or "I am deeply sorry."

6. お詫び申し上げます (Owabi Moushiagemasu):

  • Pronunciation: oh-wah-bee moh-shee-ah-geh-mah-su
  • Usage: This is an even more formal way to apologize and is typically used in written apologies or formal statements. It is a very respectful way to convey deep regret and remorse.

Remember that the choice of apology depends on the level of formality and the severity of the situation.

In casual conversations, "ごめんなさい" (gomen nasai) or "すみません" (sumimasen) are often sufficient.

However, in more formal or serious situations, it's important to choose the appropriate phrase to convey your apologies sincerely and respectfully.

Breaking Down The Components Of the Kanji 謝意

  • 謝 (Sha):
    • Meaning: The first character, 謝 (sha), is the key component that represents the concept of apology or saying sorry.
    • Pronunciation: Sha
  • This character consists of two parts:
    • 言 (gen) on the left, which means "word" or "speech."
    • 耶 (ya) on the right, which is a phonetic component used for its pronunciation.
  • Together, 謝 (sha) conveys the idea of expressing regret or remorse through words or speech. It symbolizes the verbal aspect of an apology.
  • 意 (i):
    • Meaning: The second character, 意 (i), adds depth to the word 謝意 (sha-i). It means "feelings," "intentions," or "meaning."
    • Pronunciation: i
  • This character consists of two parts:
    • 心 (kokoro) on the bottom, which means "heart" or "mind."
    • 云 (gen) on top, which is a phonetic component used for its pronunciation.
  • Together, 意 (i) suggests that 謝意 (sha-i) is not just about the act of saying sorry but also about the sincere feelings and intentions behind the apology. It emphasizes the emotional aspect of apologizing and signifies genuine remorse.

The Combined Meaning:

When you break down the components of 謝意 (sha-i), you get a clear picture of its meaning:

  • The 謝 (sha) character signifies the verbal aspect of apology, emphasizing the act of expressing regret through words or speech.
  • The 意 (i) character adds depth by highlighting the emotional and sincere feelings behind the apology, emphasizing that it's not just words but genuine remorse and intentions.

In essence, 謝意 (sha-i) represents the complete concept of apologizing in Japanese, encompassing both the verbal expression of regret and the heartfelt feelings and intentions accompanying the apology. 

It reflects the cultural importance placed on sincerity and responsibility when apologizing in Japanese society.

Cultural Significance of ごめんなさい 

Understanding the cultural nuances of apologizing in Japan is essential. Japanese culture places a strong emphasis on politeness, humility, and taking responsibility for one's actions. 

When someone apologizes, it is not just an expression of regret but also an acknowledgment of their role in a situation and a commitment to making amends.

Using the appropriate kanji combinations to convey apologies reflects the depth of sincerity and the degree of formality required in a given situation.

While 謝罪 (shazai) may be used in official statements or corporate contexts, 謝意 (sha-i) is more suited for personal interactions and expressing genuine remorse.


In the Japanese language, there isn't a single kanji character that directly translates to "sorry." Instead, apologies are expressed through combinations of kanji characters like 謝罪 (shazai) and 謝意 (sha-i), each carrying its own subtle nuances.

Understanding these nuances is crucial in Japanese culture, where apologizing is not just about saying sorry but also about taking responsibility and showing sincerity.

So, if you ever find yourself needing to apologize in Japanese, remember that the choice of words and kanji characters can make a significant difference in conveying your sentiments accurately and respectfully.

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