What Does Hontou Mean in Japanese?

Japanese Words

Those of us for whom English is our first language, might not realize how much we use the word "really" in everyday conversations. Often, someone will tell us a startling fact or make a somewhat surprising statement and the natural response is "really?"

There are many ways to say the word "really" in Japanese. However, one of the most common ways is  Hontou.

Other Ways to Say "Really?"

  • Hontou Ni: The word Hontou Ni has the same meaning as Hontou. However, there is a stronger emphasis on the NI so it tends to be a stronger version of the word in verbal and written form. Examples of "really" in a Japanese formal conversation is: Hontou ni hajimete desuka? (Is it really your first time?); Hontou ni yoku nite iru! (She’s really like you!); Hontou ni sono saabisu wa tadadesuka? (So is your service really free?).
  • Hontou desu ka  means, "Are you sure?" can be used in  place of Hontou in formal situations.  Hontou desu ka allows you to express more doubt when saying "really?" in Japanese.
  • Sou desu ka is translated as " Is that so?" or "Are you sure?'
  • Hontoudesu means: "It is true." or "It is a fact."
  • Honki is another word for really in Japanese. Hon means true, and ki means spirit or state of being. Example: Honki desu ka? (Are you serious?).

Pronunciation of Hontou

Listen to the audio file for "Hontou."

Japanese Characters for Hontou

本当。 (ほんとう。)

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Sources:

Spin Japan, "8 Natural Phrases to Say "Really" in Japanese!"

Japanese from Zero, "Ask a Teacher."

Wikia, Hontou ni Arigatou!

Nihongo, Hontou