Dame Japanese Meaning & Examples

Dame In Japanese Meaning

The word dame だめ、駄目 in Japanese can mean “stop it”, “that’s no good” or “it’s hopeless”. It sounds like this:

Dame is one of those words that is extremely common in Japanese, and is used in a range of everyday situations but doesn’t have one direct translation in English.

It’s kind of a cool word for foreign speakers of the Japanese language to learn because you can use it in all sorts of situations in place of words that might be more complex that you don’t know.

It’s like the Swiss Army Knife of saying “No” in Japanese!

What are the different meanings of the word dame in Japanese?

There are basically three ways you can categorize the main senses that dame is used in Japanese:

1. “It’s no good!”

In this sense, dame, can also mean useless, broken, had it, or no longer working.

So, for example, if your phone stopped working you could say:

dame Japanese examples:


kono denwa wa mou dame da

This phone has had it.

So in a similar way to the way we said mou dame da もうだめだ when talking about our phone above if you were, say, in a battle of some kind and you realized you were beaten you could say something like:


mou dame da. Nigerou!

We’re done for. Run for it!

Other examples include:


watashi wa hora- wa dame desu

I’m no good with horror.


konna koto o i tatte dame ne

It’s no use saying something like this.

2. Hopeless

In this sense dame means “all in vain”, purposeless,” “done for”, “wasted”.

dame Japanese examples:


ano hito wa damena yatsu da kara, tsukiawanai hō ga ii yo.

That guy is no good, so you shouldn’t hook up with him.


sonna damena fude de kaite mo, kireina ji wa kakenai yo.

There’s no way you can write well with a dodgy brush like that.


” watashi to issho ni ikemasu ka”” zannen nagara dame desu”

Do you want to come along with me? Unfortunately, I’m a no-go.


kurai to, kowakute damena n da.

I’m no good with the dark.


watashi wa anata ga inai to dame desu.

I’m no good without you.

3. “No, you cannot!”

This sense of the word dame is actually quite close to how the English word “No” is often used. It can be used for “no you can’t” or “you must not” or “it’s not allowed”.

So if, for example, a child was reaching out to take a cookie they were not supposed to be eating from the cookie jar, a parent might yell out:



Stop that!

In these contexts, it is a very convenient word, because it is so short and gets across the negation quickly – similar to the way that the word “No!” can be used.


sonna o seji o itte mo dame desu yo

Flattery will get you nowhere.


sonnani sotchi e iku to dame da yo, nami ga kudakeru to maki komareru yo

Don’t go too far that way, the waves will wash you away!


motto yasenai to dame desu yo ne.

I’ve really got to lose some weight, huh?

How to pronounce Dame in Japanese

Dame is pronounced in Japanese by a female voice as:

And by a male voice as:

The nuances of the Japanese word dame

dame is a useful word because it enables you to say that you don’t want to, or can’t do something as if things are beyond your control. This means you can be less direct about turning someone down or telling someone “no”.

So for example, if someone asked you if you wanted to do something Tuesday:


kayōbi ni nanika suru?

Do you want to do something Tuesday?

You could answer


kayōbi wa dame desu.

Tuesday is no good.

Note that you are not saying you don’t want to do something Tuesday, or even that you have something on Tuesday. You are just saying Tuesday, for whatever reason, wouldn’t work out.

Likewise with a phrase like:


asoko ni haittara dame desu.

You can’t go in there.

In English, you pretty much have to say “you can’t go in there” or “don’t go in there”, as if you are directly telling someone what to do.

If you use the phrase そこに入ったらダメです you are effectively saying “it’s no good if you go in there”, which sounds weird in English, but is totally natural in Japanese. It’s conveniently vague.

Nice one, Japanese.

Examples of the Japanese word dame in different forms and contexts

dame as a question


inku de kakanakereba dame desu ka.

Is it no good if it isn’t written in ink?


watashi de wa dame desu ka?

Am I not what you are looking for?

dame dayo meaning in Japanese

Putting dayo after the word dame is a casual way of exclaiming “you can’t do that”, “you shouldn’t do that” or “you are not allowed to do that”.

As with all Japanese sentence endings, ending in da is more casual than ending in the more formal desu です. Putting the yo よ on the end makes it a more emphatic, imperative statement. You are saying something like “you can’t do that!”.

For example:


sonna ni tabetara dame da yo.

You shouldn’t eat so much!

dame desu meaning in Japanese

If you were speaking to someone above you in the perceived social order, such as an elder or someone with a high-ranking job, you would be more likely to use desu です or than the more casual da だ to complete your sentence when using dame in Japanese.


sensei, watashitachi wa atama ga warui kara motto kantan ni setsumeishitekurenai to dame desu yo

Miss, we aren’t so smart, so you have to teach us simply!

dame da meaning Japanese

dame da is a casual way of saying “it’s no good”.


kono megane wa wareteite mō dame da.

These glasses are cracked, they’ve had it.

dame dame Japanese meaning

dame is often used repeated twice in a row as dame dame. When used this way, it is similar to the way that English speakers often say “no, no, no” multiple times in a row.

So if someone had just made a birthday cake and you made a gesture to preemptively cut yourself a piece, someone might, in Japanese say “dame, dame” where an English might say “no, no, no”.

Other uses of Japanese Dame



give it a go anyway


damemotode, kanojyo wo sasotte mita

I invited her anyway, expecting that she would say no.

Other Japanese words that you can use instead of “dame”

Dame is a very direct word to negate something in Japanese.

But there are lots of other ways to say dame, in its “Don’t do that” sense.

Some of these I’ve written about before and include words like yamete and yamete kudasai or, more forcefully, yamero. I’ve also done a whole page with options for how to say “stop it” in Japanese.

More polite alternatives to saying “Dame” in Japanese

A couple of more polite, and round-about, ways of telling someone to stop doing something are enryo kudasai and hikae kudasai:


go enryo kudasai

Please refrain from


o hikae kudasai

Please abstain from

Dame meaning in sexual contexts in Japanese

In the past, I’ve written about the questions of “no means no” in Japanese sexual contexts with phrases like yamete kudasai meaning “stop, please”.

In Japanese erotica, it is not uncommon to hear women imploring their partner to “stop”, while simultaneously seeming to be enjoying the experience. As always, it is best to take erotic media depictions with a grain of salt. After all, the target of this kind of media is generally males, and pandering to their fantasies is usually first and foremost.

In the context of dame being used in a similar way, there is a further level of ambiguity introduced. You might hear someone having sex saying something like mou, dame もう、だめ. This would generally mean something like “I can’t stand it anymore” or “I can’t hold on anymore” and could mean that they are saying they are close to climax.

In other contexts, the word dame is used without the mou part put in front of it, it is closer to saying “stop it!” in English.

Of course, it is the very ambiguity of the word dame that gives it its frisson in a sexual context.

That being said, the assumption should be that no really means no, in any language.

In this way, learning the meaning of the word dame in Japanese, it is good to also to learn how to say “are you okay” in Japanese.

In conclusion

Dame is an extremely versatile word that can be used to negative various things in Japan, without having to know a whole bunch of words for every occasion.

If you’re planning on going to Japan, to not know this useful little piece of vocab is, well, dame.