Water Idioms | 水に関する慣用句

今日(きょう)のトピック は、水(みず)に関(かん)する慣用句(かんようく)です。

Today’s topic is idioms related to “water”.

Before diving into our idioms, let us first talk about the Japanese tradition of drinking alcohol.

Traditionally, Japanese people have been drinking alcohol/sake as a tool for communication among them after work in relaxed settings. This special culture is often called 飲みニケーション (nominication) – a combination of the verb のむ and communication.

However, when we go all the way back to the Ed period, there was an even more interesting custom which is for everyone to drink sake from the same cup instead of having their own.

However, since this custom was not considered to be so hygienic since random people’s lips touch the cup, people eventually started to use a big bowl filled with water to rinse their cup every time someone finishes drinking from it.

Although this practice was obviously more proper and hygienic, people would look at this as too formal or something that strips off intimacy between close friends.

So let’s keep this tradition in mind, and let’s look at our first idiom:



It literally means to stink/smell like water but the real sense is that someone is not acting friendly enough even though s/he is supposed to be your friend. For example, he’s not sharing his private life with you or he is too shy to ask you for something. 

Therefore this expression is used to accuse someone of acting too formal, maybe too secretive.

For example, someone tells you that your best friend is getting married but you didn’t know about it. You may become upset and say:


I heard that you are getting married. Why didn’t you tell me? I thought we were best friends. You are acting like we are not friends.

Another example would be:

Your friend is broke, desperately needing some money to pay rent. But he was too shy to ask you.

When you get to know about his situation, you can say to him:

水臭(みずくさ)いじゃないか。言(い)ってくれれば、お金(かね)ぐらい、いつでも 貸(か)してあげるよ。

Why didn’t you tell me? If you ask me, I could lend you money anytime!


It means the same as 水が入(はい)らない since ず is the old negative form which was used just like ない to negate a verb. And it follows the same conjugation rule as the nai form.

This old negative form is no longer used in our daily lives except for a few expressions like this one.

So 水入(みずい)らず means no water getting in between us. No cup rinsing!


Let’s go on an onsen trip with just our family, no one else!


Another example would be:

You have a child and you would never get to be alone with your husband because your child is always around. However one day your mother offered to take care of your child so you can have some quality time with your husband. You can say to your husband:


We are finally alone just between us after a long time!


さす is a verb meaning すこし入れる (to put in a little)

It’s used in the noun 水差(みずさ)し meaning “water jug”.


This expression literally means to throw cold water but it actually means to disturb someone or to spoil someone else’s fun.

For example:

せっかく パーティーが盛(も)り上(あ)がっていたのに、隣(となり)の人が警察(けいさつ)をよんで 水を差した。

When we were having so much fun at our party, my nextdoor neighbor called the police and spoiled it completely.

Or when you are having fun conversation with friends then someone makes a cynical remark, you can say:

水(みず)をさすようなことを いわないでよ。

Don’t be such a wet blanket.



It literally means to “flush in water”. 

This expression is similar to “let bygones be bygones”.

For example:


Let’s forget about the past and become friends again.


Or if you did something bad to someone, you can ask forgiveness by saying:


Please, forgive me just this once!



It literally means “water business” but it actually refers to a business that is unstable just like flowing water or a job that is completely dependant on things such as weather or popularity.

This term is mostly used to a job at a bar/night club to work as a hostess but sometimes even includes show business or sports industry etc.

For example:


My older sister has no money so she is working part-time at a night club.

I hope you found these idioms interesting. If you liked this post, make sure you also check out my podcast by clicking the banner on the right side of the page!

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