Meaning of “Yabe!” YABAI in Japanese.
For foreigners, one of the concerns or interests while studying Japanese may be the usage of slang or terms used in everyday language that doesn’t appear in dictionaries. Of course, young teenagers tend to come up with new terms, and it might not be necessary to follow most of them. I mean, there are terms that aren’t understood by many Japanese at all.
Here’s one common phrase that you may have heard but couldn’t understand:
“Yabe!” (Oh no!)
No, it’s not a Japanese last name being shouted, “Yabe-san!!” (Mr. Yabe). This is the spoken term often used which originates from the term “yabai.” Another common form of “yabai” is “yaba.”
Both “yabe-” and “yaba” are a rather casual way of expressing the term “yabai.” If you just look at “yabai,” it could translate to “it’s bad.” So then, “yabe-” and “yaba” could be translated as “oh no!”
But then, this term isn’t necessarily used to express badness. It can be used in a rather contradictory positive way also. For example, in an expression such as “that is wicked”(meaning “awesome”). This is similar to the slang usage, “that is bad” (meaning “good”) or “that is sick” (meaning “great”).
This is one example of Japanese slang, but when you break it down and look at it closely,it sometimes might be related to English slang, which is quite interesting. I hope this short introductory usage of the term “Yabe-” interested you. But please do be careful. This is a very casual term and is not suitable for use in conversations with your superiors or professors.
Yabai is an adjective denoting that something is bad or dangerous. Its original connotations were that the speaker felt he or she was in imminent danger or was about to be inconvenienced. The word is thought to derive from slang used by professional thieves and con artists and was already in use by the late Edo Period (1603-1868), when it was pronounced yaba. Some say it derives from the word ayabui, meaning dangerous.
Yabai began to take on a broader meaning in the 1980s as young people started using it to mean “uncool.” As in the past, it still carried a negative connotation. That changed in the 1990s, however, when young people started using it in a positive sense to mean “very good” or “delicious,” in much the same way that the English words bad and wicked have at times taken on positive connotations among younger generations. The colloquial pronunciation of the word, yabeh, is also popular.
An opinion poll conducted by the Agency for Cultural Affairs in July 2005 found that 18.2% of people use yabai to mean “great.” The practice was particularly common among young people: More than 70% of boys aged 16-19 had used the word in a positive sense, while the ratio for girls in the same age range was over 60%.