23 ways to apologize in Japanese

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The Japanese are so polite that they end up apologizing for just about anything. So much so that there are thousands of ways to apologize in the Japanese language. Today we are going to see 23 ways to apologize.

There are different ways to apologize in Japan. It all depends on the seriousness of your mistake and your relationship with the person. A simple bump in Japan is reason enough to apologize. The Japanese apologize even without making a mistake.

It is worth remembering that the translations to the letter can be quite strange as: I was sad, I was rude, I'm sorry, forgive me things like that. however the effect of the word in Japanese is quite different from the translation into Portuguese.


Sumimasen and SHITSUREI - Light excuses

Sumimasen [すみません] is one of the most common words spoken in Japanese. It is often used as a mild apology. If you run into someone in the middle of the street or metro you can apologize by saying sumimasen [deshita].

Shitsurei [失礼] can be translated as “excuse me” but literally it's rude, disrespectful and impolite, as if you're saying: I'm going to do something rude now, sorry. It is an informal and light apology. If you need to reach something at the dinner table you can say shitsurei.

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Shikkei [失敬] has the same meaning as shitsurei. It is mainly used by salaried workers. Young people don't usually use it. The first time you say that, you go along with a group of employees.

Shitsureishimashita [失礼しました] is the formal version of shitsurei. In Japanese, the verb in the past often sounds more formal. It can be translated as "I was rude". You can say that if you spill a drink on a dinner table.


Sumimasen Deshita [すみませんでした] is Sumimasen's formal past tense. Use this to apologize to your boss when you are caught sleeping in the park during working hours.

Suimasen [すいません] and Sunmasen [すんません] are other colloquial ways to apologize with the same meaning as sumimasen but more regional and informal.

Sumima sen en [すみま千円] is a humorous and playful term of apology and forgiveness. A pun using 1,000 yen [千円] at the end of the sumimasen sentence.


Using Gomen to apologize in Japanese

Gomen [ごめん] is a very informal form of excuse that should only be used with close friends and family. It's slang for gomenasai (short form). You can say gomen when you are 5 minutes late when meeting a friend.

Gomen ne [ごめんね] O huh in gomen it serves to emphasize, identical to “huh" Brazilian, but it sounds more feminine. Say it Gomen ne when you're 5 minutes late meeting your friends.

Gomenasai [ごめんなさい] means I'm sorry and it sounds a little more formal, but don't use it with everyone. In other words, don't try to say gomenasai with your boss or higher level people. Use it when someone is angry with you.


Sumanai [済まない] can indicate something inexplicable, unjustifiable, unforgivable, an apology and thanks, pity and remorse. Young people often use suman [すまん] informally as if it were a sorry.

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Formal ways to say sorry in Japanese

Moushiwake Gozaimasen deshita [申し訳ございませんでした] is a formal apology. You should only use it if you have done something very wrong. It can be used by the president of a company that launched a defective product.

Moshiwake arimasen deshita [申し訳ありませんでした] is an even more polite form. Use to apologize after your company releases a very dangerous defective product. To the letter it can literally mean: We are sorry.

Makoto ni moushiwake gozaimasen deshita [誠に申し訳ございませんでした] is mostly used by a dishonored samurai and a ninja. Use this option when you fall in love with a shogun's daughter. A super formal way, keigo!

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Other ways to apologize in Japanese

Owabishimasu [お詫びします] literally means apologies. It may sound like I'm sorry for that or I'm sorry for making that mistake.

Fukaku owabiitashimasu [深くお詫びいたします] is a more formal version of owabishimasu and means my deepest apologies.

Kokorokara owabi moshiagemasu [心からお詫び申し上げます] literally means “heartfelt apologies from the heart”. Used by a business manager who sincerely apologizes and that everything was the cause of his incompetence.

Ainiku [生憎] gives the idea of unfortunately or it was not possible, but it means forgiveness and apologies. It is usually written in hiragana and is often used in the middle of sentences in longer expressions.


Saasen [サーセン] is an unusual way to say sorry or sorry.

Osoreiru [恐れ入る] is a verb that can mean regret, beg excuses and forgiveness. Literally the word means to be afraid.

  • Soorii [ソーリー] from English “Sorry”;
  • Ekusukyuiizumii [エクスキューズミー] from English excuse me;

I hope you enjoyed the article, if you did leave your comments and share with friends. Do you know any other alternative to apologize in Japanese?