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The Controvert
04-07-2008, 02:47 PM
"Domo arigato" means "thank you very much", but what does "domo" and "arigato" mean, literally? I thought "domo" might have had another meaning.

Domo arigato!

John Mace
04-07-2008, 03:08 PM
I'd translate it as follows:

Domo = thanks (but even less polite)

Domo arigato = thank-you

Arigato gozaymasu = thank-you very much

What the individual words mean by themselves... I'll leave that up to a native speaker.

Alive At Both Ends
04-07-2008, 03:28 PM
"Arigato" is an honorific form of the adjective "arigatai" meaning "indebted".

"Domo" means "very". So, "I'm very indebted to you" is the literal meaning.

Cerowyn
04-07-2008, 03:34 PM
Domo (or doumo, どうも ) in the context of domo arigato is usually translated as "very." However, as John Mace points out, it can be used by itself to mean "thanks" (casually). It is also often used [by itself] as a greeting. However, I can't think of any other case in which domo means "very." Other translations for "very" are: tottemo とっても, taihen 大変 and hijoni 非常に.

Alive At Both Ends
04-07-2008, 03:37 PM
BTW, "gozaimasu" is an honorific verb meaning "to be" (plain form gozaru). It occurs in three common phrases - "Ohayo gozaimasu" (good morning), "Arigato gozaimasu" (thank you), and "Omedeto gozaimasu" (Congratulations). The literal meanings are "it's early" (hayai desu), "I'm indebted" (arigatai desu), and "it's auspicious" (medetai desu).

bordelond
04-07-2008, 03:40 PM
"Arigato" is an honorific form of the adjective "arigatai" meaning "indebted".

"Domo" means "very". So, "I'm very indebted to you" is the literal meaning.
Am I remembering right that arigato can be used to mean "thank you" by itself? No domo necessary?

Alive At Both Ends
04-07-2008, 03:42 PM
Am I remembering right that arigato can be used to mean "thank you" by itself? No domo necessary?
It certainly can.

John Mace
04-07-2008, 03:47 PM
My experience (and I am not a native speaker) is that "domo" by itself for "thanks" would be somewhat dismissive. Kind of like saying: I'm much higher status than you, and I don't really have to say "thanks", but I will.

Is that about right?

Cerowyn
04-07-2008, 03:51 PM
"Arigato" is an honorific form of the adjective "arigatai" meaning "indebted".Do you mean "indebted" in the sense of ongi 恩義? Because every dictionary I have translates arigatai as "grateful" (although Oxford gives "thankful" as a second definition).

Alive At Both Ends
04-07-2008, 03:52 PM
I ought to mention that I'm not a native speaker either, but I believe you're right about domo on its own. I wouldn't use it on its own to Japanese people in Japan, being a foreigner.

Cerowyn - I regard "thankful" "grateful" and "indebted" as near synonyms. YMMV.

Cerowyn
04-07-2008, 03:55 PM
My experience (and I am not a native speaker) is that "domo" by itself for "thanks" would be somewhat dismissive. Kind of like saying: I'm much higher status than you, and I don't really have to say "thanks", but I will.

Is that about right?Not in my experience, but I'm not a native speaker, either. In a Starbucks, I'll say domo when they give me my coffee (or, sometimes sumimasen if it's a fancy coffee, since there's more effort involved).

I usually explain domo by itself as being the equivalent of "thanks" rather than "thank-you," keeping in mind that there are fewer occasions when the more casual is acceptable in Japan than in North America.

John Mace
04-07-2008, 03:59 PM
Translating some of this Japanese stuff into English... hmmm, taihen desu ne!

jovan
04-07-2008, 08:53 PM
This has largely been answered, but I'll just cover a little bit more for extra points:

Domo, or more accurately dōmo is most often used to stress an expression of thanks. By extension, it can be used by itself as a short, casual expression of thanks. As mentioned, it is merely casual and carries no dismissive undertones.

Dōmo is also used in the following situations, which are unrelated to expressions of thanks:

- To express mild perplexity: Dōmo komatta (Hmm, what should I do?)

- To express that things aren't going as one wishes: Dōmo umaku ikanai (No matter what, things aren't working out.)

- To express lack of understanding at a situation: Dōmo kare ga shachō ni natta rashii (Can you believe it, I heard he became the head of the company.)


Arigatō, etymologically comes from the verb aru and the suffix -gatai. Aru means "to be (in a place)". In modern Japanese, it's only used for inanimate objects but in classical Japanese, it's used for people. The -gatai ending expresses difficulty, and transforms the verb in an adjective. Shinjiru = believe, Shinjigatai = hard to believe. So arigatai means literally that it's difficult to be. In other words, I'm so overwhelmed by your kindness that I have difficulty just being in your presence. That's just etymology, though, these kinds of thoughts don't go through a modern speaker's mind when they casually drop an arigatō.

The -tō ending comes from the adjectival form arigataku, which in classical Japanese becomes arigatō in the connective form. The same transformation happens with omedetai -> omedetaku -> omodetō (congratulations).

John Mace
04-07-2008, 09:22 PM
This has largely been answered, but I'll just cover a little bit more for extra points:

Domo, or more accurately dōmo is most often used to stress an expression of thanks. By extension, it can be used by itself as a short, casual expression of thanks. As mentioned, it is merely casual and carries no dismissive undertones.
Perhaps "dismissive" was too strong a word. Wouldn't it be considered impolite in some circumstances-- ie, if you were saying "thanks" to your boss? In American English, "thanks" is informal, but never impolite-- unless you intend it to be. Your boss wouldn't bat an eye if you said "thanks" to him or her, as long as you didn't use in impolite tone.

TokyoBayer
04-07-2008, 10:01 PM
Just tacking on a few more points.

Domo can also be used as a greeting in a long-term or friendly business / customer relationship. I just called a customer / friend and our conversation went as follows:

Kato: ohayou gozaimasu. Kato degozaimasu Good morning, this is Kato (note the initial formal greeting.)
TP: domo, TP desu This is Dave (I'm down into polite language since we've established it's us talking. The domo here seems to be a replacement for osewani natteimasu which is a standard greeting expressing thanks for the business relationship,)

telephone conversation related to his friend who is registering my car and our upcoming golf outing

TP: yoroshiku (Please take care of this)
Kato: demo desu (no problem)

Perhaps "dismissive" was too strong a word. Wouldn't it be considered impolite in some circumstances-- ie, if you were saying "thanks" to your boss? It's inappropriate because just domo wouldn't be saying "thanks" in those circumstances.

For Ceroywn saying domo at Starbucks is really not different than saying hai ”Yes” as more acknowledging that they have handed you the cup than thanking them. It’s not impolite or dismissive in this circumstance.

However this is why using just it could be seen as dismissive, if the person who you have said it to does not consider them your social inferior, has make an effort or has gone out of their way to do something for you.

As a general rule, you are better off using sumimasen (pardon me or excuse me) when thanking socially superiors or unknown people for kindnesses. Saying "thanks" can be seen as childish, as the recipient believes they have a right to accept a kindness.

There's a fine line between expressing thanks and apologizing, but apologizing to the person for their efforts is safer if you don’t know which is appropriate.

jovan
04-07-2008, 10:32 PM
Perhaps "dismissive" was too strong a word. Wouldn't it be considered impolite in some circumstances-- ie, if you were saying "thanks" to your boss? In American English, "thanks" is informal, but never impolite-- unless you intend it to be. Your boss wouldn't bat an eye if you said "thanks" to him or her, as long as you didn't use in impolite tone.
It's very difficult to draw parallels with English because English lacks a lot of the built-in formality that many languages have. There are English-speaking places where it's okay to call your boss by his first name. In many cultures this would be unthinkable. Japanese society has much more strictly codified behaviour codes for inter-personal relationships. It's as much a function of the society than language. Would you say "thanks" when talking to the Queen in a formal occasion? I suppose if you did that it would be considered too casual for the occasion and as a result impolite.

I think you need to draw a distinction between an expression that's simply too casual for some situations, like dōmo, and an expression where the social order is explicit. If you tell someone tabenasai (eat) you are explicitly putting yourself in a position of authority. That's okay if you're talking to your kids but utterly unthinkable when talking to your boss.

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