What does “konbanwa” mean in Japanese?
Native speakers say “konbanwa” to mean ‘good evening’ in Japanese. In this blog post, I will explain this greeting in detail based on its components. And also, I will explain how to use it through an example. Let’s get started!
- Definition and meaning of “konbanwa”
- Components of “konbanwa”
Definition and meaning of “konbanwa”
Let me start with the definition and meaning as follows.
- konbanwa – こんばんは : a Japanese greeting for ‘good evening’.
Its definition and meaning are very simple and clear, I think. To understand this greeting more clearly, however, let me explain its components in detail, one by one.
Components of “konbanwa”
“Konbanwa” consists of the following two parts:
- konban – こんばん : a noun meaning ‘tonight’ in Japanese. This can also work as an adverb almost anywhere in a sentence to say ‘tonight’. This can be written in kanji as “今晩” – these two kanji characters literally mean ‘this night’. In the greeting, however, it’s normally written in hiragana.
- wa – は : a binding particle working as a case marker or topic marker. In the greeting, this is used after “konban” to provide a topic.
From these two components, we can understand that “konbanwa” is literally the topic-making phrase which means ‘tonight’, ‘for tonight’, or ‘tonight is’ in Japanese. So, what its components mean is not in line with its meaning as greeting. In the past, however, it worked as topic provider. Japanese people used it to start a conversation with someone they met in the evening. More precisely, they used it at the beginning of the first sentence. So it was a part of the sentence, not an individual greeting as it is today. As time went by, however, its role changed. Finally it started to work as greeting meaning “good evening” in Japanese.
Japanese learners, especially those who know this phrase literally means ‘tonight’, ‘for tonight’, or ‘tonight is’ in Japanese, might consider it as a weird greeting. The background above, however, would help them to understand why the phrase meaning ‘tonight’ can work as greeting.
Then, let me explain how to use it through the example below.
Example: how to say “good evening” in Japanese
Below are the new words used in the example sentence.
- aki – あき : a popular Japanese name.
- san – さん : an honorific suffix used after a name. In the example, it is used after “Aki” to call her in a polite way.
This is a typical usage of “konbanwa”. We can use it in the same way as “good evening” in English.
In this blog post, I’ve explained the Japanese greeting, “konbanwa”, in detail based on its components. Let me summarize them as follows.
- konbanwa – こんばんは : a Japanese greeting for ‘good evening’. This is literally a topic-making phrase meaning ‘tonight’, ‘for tonight’, or ‘tonight is’ in Japanese. In the past, Japanese people used it to start a conversation with someone they met in the evening. As time went by, however, its role changed and it came to mean ‘good evening’. Today, Japanese people use this as greeting to say “good evening”.
Hope my explanations are understandable and helpful for Japanese learners.
Learn more vocabulary on the app!
You can improve your Japanese vocabulary with our flashcards.