Ganbatte – Understand the True Meaning

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ganbatte (頑張って) is a very popular word in the Japanese language. It is used in different ways by the Japanese to encourage people to strive for something.

What is the literal translation of this expression? What is its true meaning? Does Ganbatte mean Good luck? What are the variations of Ganbatte? In this article, we will study the word in depth ganbatte.

What does Ganbatte mean?

As mentioned in the introduction to this article, the expression Ganbatte is intended to encourage the person to strive for something, the equivalent of saying good luck in English.

Simply put, the word ganbatte can literally mean the following expressions below:

  • Do your best!
  • Go ahead!
  • Keep focus!
  • hold on!
  • Stay!
  • Hard!
  • Forces!
  • fight!
  • Do not give up!

This word is used to encourage people to put effort into something they are doing, be it school, work, goal, loss, illness, sports, and other things. That is, by saying ganbatte you will encourage or motivate a person.

The word ganbatte (頑張って) is actually a conjugation of the verb ganbaru (頑張る) and is also often written to mean to persevere, persist, insist, and remain. Often the expression can be formal accompanied by kudasai.

What is the true meaning of ganbatte?

The origin of the word Ganbatte in the Japanese language

The word is written with the ideograms from [頑] stubborn, foolish, firm and meaning to stretch, spread, place. But the true origin of the ideogram [張] in the word ganbatte comes from the verb to fix, to stick, to stretch, to place, to encompass, to fill, to strike and to form.

You must be wondering where all these words came from? The Japanese language is often very much defined by the context of the conversation, which is one of the reasons these words and ideograms have so many translations.

Other verbs that use the ideogram [張] is haridasu (張り出す) which literally means to hang, highlight, protrude and overlap. Words like leader, originator, tension, resistance, rivalry, and schema use the ideogram (張).

These words quoted well represent the meaning of the word ganbatte, strongly indicating its use to encourage people to win and face their goals. It is believed that this expression ganbatte it has been used since the Edo period, originating from the expression look ahead, move forward.

What is the true meaning of ganbatte?

The different variations of ganbatte

Below we will see different conjugations of the verb ganbaru or ganbare:

  • 頑張れ = ganbar: Do your best!
  • 頑張った = Ganbatta: I did my best;
  • 頑張ります = Ganbarimasu: I will do my best;
  • 頑張れる = Ganbareru: I can do my best;
  • 頑張りたい = ganbaritai: I want to do my best;
  • 頑張れます = Ganbaremasu: I can do my best;
  • 頑張ってくれ = Ganbattekure: Do your best for me;
  • 頑張らなかった = Ganbaranakatta: I didn't do my best;
  • 頑張りなさい = Ganbarinasai: you better do your best;
  • 頑張っていた = Ganbatteite: I was doing my best;
  • 頑張りました = Ganbarimashite: I did my best (formal);
  • 頑張っています = Ganbatteimasu: I'm doing my best;
  • 頑張りましょう= Ganbarimashou: Let's do our best (together);
  • 頑張ってください = Ganbatte Kudasai: Please do your best! (formal)

Other verbs and words derived from ganbaru or that convey the same idea: 

  • ファイト! = fact – From English lute, It's getting more and more popular;
  • 頑張り = ganbari – tenacity, resistance;
  • 踏ん張って = funbatte — This expression means hold fast;
  • けっぱれ = keppare – Ganbatte in Hokkaido dialect;
  • きばれ = Kibare – Ganbatte in Kagoashima dialect;
  • ちばりよー = chibariyo – Okinawan dialect ganbatte;
  • おきばりやす = Okibariyasu – Ganbare in the Kyoto dialect;
  • 無理はしないで = Muri wa shinaide – Do not exaggerate too much;
What is the true meaning of ganbatte?

Does Ganbatte also mean good luck?

In Brazil and several other countries, we usually use the expression “good luck” when someone is going to struggle or face something, very similar to the meaning of ganbatte or ganbare. Both are expressions of encouragement, but the verb ganbaru has absolutely nothing to do with luck.

Some unfortunately translate this expression as good luck, whether in Japanese anime or books. As much as the Japanese believe in superstitions and in luck or misfortune, there is no word equivalent to good luck, and if you try to take it literally, the Japanese won't understand.

That's because the Japanese believe in their ability to face challenges and difficulties. They will not blame luck or bad luck, the most they will blame is themselves for having failed and not trying hard enough.

Good luck is rather vague, now saying do your best (ganbare) is much more realistic. If you want to know how to literally say good luck, the most common expression is kouun wo inoru (幸運を祈る) which literally means I pray for your good luck.

What is the true meaning of ganbatte?

When to use the expression ganbatte?

This word can be used to say that someone has worked hard or worked hard at their new job, sport, or school. In the same way that, it can be used to encourage a person to strive and work hard on future goals.

Using this expression also conveys the idea that you expect that person to achieve their goals. To finish the article, let's leave some example sentences that can give an idea of how this expression is used in the Japanese language:

  • お祭りの間 頑張ってくれましたね。
  • the matsuri no aida ganbattekuremashitane;
  • I greatly appreciate your efforts during our festival;

  • 彼女は今が秋頑張って勉強している。
  • Kanojo wa ima ga aki ganbatte benkyō shite iru;
  • She is working (studying) hard this fall;

  • 焦らずに頑張ってね。
  • aserazuni ganbattene;
  • Stay calm and do your best;

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