Kimetsu No Yaiba meaning - The full story behind Demon Slayer’s Japanese Name 鬼滅の刃
What does the Japanese name of the cult Japanese anime Dragon Slayer, Kimetsu no Yaiba kimetsu 鬼滅の刃 mean?
Simply translated, Kimetsu no Yaiba means “Demon Killing Blade”. “鬼 ki” means “demon”, “滅 metsu” means destroy, “の no” means “of” and “刃 yaiba” means “blade”. So to do an extreme literal translation it would be “Demon Destroying, the Blade Of”.
That doesn’t have much of a ring to it, so the translators wisely opted for something a little more catchy for Kyoharu Gotoge’s homage to zombie-like undead extermination, “Demon Slayer”.
If you’re interested in knowing more about the Demon Slayer Opening Theme 鬼滅の刃主題歌 Gurenge 紅蓮華 with lyrics in english translation then look here.
Are 鬼滅の刃 Kimetsu no yaiba and “Demon Slayer” the same meaning?
At first glance, “Demon Slayer”, makes us think of a person that kills demons. But given the Japanese original meaning of Kimetsu No Yaiba, it is likely that Demon Slayer refers to the blade itself. It is totally natural for “Demon Slayer” to refer as much to an object as a person in English. Think other swords with names, such as “Excalibur” or “Kusanagi No Tsurugi”.
So, if you look at the name this way, it is actually a fairly close translation of the original.
The series seems well named, given the centrality in the story of swords such as the “日輪刀” Nichirintou、or Blade of the Sun, to the plot. It is the only device capable of truly destroying the “demons”.
Breaking down the words and characters in Kimetsu No Yaiba
The term “刃 Yaiba” is a fairly rare, somewhat archaic sounding, word for blade or sword. It was one of a long list of words that can be used to describe a sword in Japanese. A partial list of words you could choose from to either refer to a sword in more or less generic/specific variations include:
刃 Yaiba, Jin, Ha
And that’s only carving out a small chunk of the options that could be expanded by including more specific words such as:
脇差 Wakizashi for a sword you keep close to your “waki”, underarm area, or a 直刀 chokuto, meaning a straight sword.
It is not too long a bow to draw to say that Japanese have a bit of a thing for sharp weapons.
That being said, the English speaking world also puts up a good fight with words like sword, sabre, cutlass, scimitar, rapier, dagger, hanger, claymore, backsword, broadsword, greatsword.
Maybe it is more accurate to say that humans are a cut above when it comes to knife-talk.
Etymology of “刃 Yaiba”
The Yaiba, in Kimetsu no Yaiba, is also interesting in that it is the result of a phonetic change in a composite word 焼き刃 Yakiba. Yaki means, to fire something, such as in a kiln or forge. It can be seen in words like 焼き物 Yakimono for pottery, or more common food words that many non-Japanese people would be familiar with such as 焼き鳥 “Yakitori” for coal roasted chicken skewers or at the end of words like お好み焼き “Okonomiyaki” – which basically means “Fried Whatever-You-Want” (the Japanese equivalent of Bubble & Squeak).
The 刃 “Ba” part means “blade”, and is pronounced “ha” whenever not attached to another word. Interestingly, the other thing that is called a 歯 “Ha” are these, our teeth. So the language reminds us either that our teeth are really little slicing blades, or that our swords are extensions of our ability to cut people up with our teeth.
So Yakiba could be literally translated as a “smelted blade” or “fired blade”. Over time, we can only assume that badass Samurai through the ages just didn’t have time to deal with all those consonants when dealing out hot feudal justice and cut “smelting blade” “Yakiba” to the somewhat sharper “Yaiba”.
The Chinese characters that are used to express the word Yaiba, or “Ha” or “Jin” as it can also be read, shows us connections in the language by being literally just one little dot stroke on one of the other words for sword 刀 katana. I like to think of it as being like a little drop of blood, but maybe that’s just me.
“Yaiba” can be used in a more specific sense to mean the pointed end of the sword, or meaning blade, or more generically as “sword”. As with most of the words for sword in Japanese, there is a lot more fluidity in their range of meanings than our “sword”.
“鬼滅 Kimetsu” Meaning
If you look “Kimetsu” up in most Japanese dictionaries, you won’t find anything. The word is a creation of the title’s author made by combining the characters for 鬼 “Oni”, roughly translated as “Demon”, and 滅びる “Horobiru” meaning to destroy or “overthrow” in its transitive form or to “die out” or “be extinguished” in it’s intransitive form. Of course, all Chinese characters used in Japanese have their 訓読み Kunyomi readings derived from Japanese, and their totally different 音読み Onyomi readings derived from Chinese, so Oni can also be read as “Ki”, and “Horobiru” as “metsu”. Hence, “Kimetsu” becomes a newly cut coinage destroying demons. Or “slaying”, if you prefer.
It is said that William Shakespeare made up somewhere in the vicinity of 1700 words. One of the cool things about Japanese is that the language makes this process of word creation easy by making it possible to kind of throw together any two characters that people will already know the meaning of to and have them get the gist of what the new word must be. I guess these are the equivalent of nualism portmanteaus in English such as “workcation”, “listicle” or “romcom”.
Anyway, I hope that gives you a bit more of a deeper sense of what Kimetsu no Yaiba actually means. I actually first heard of the phrase, and the anime and manga, in 2020 when it appeared on the list of the 30 most popular words in Japanese for that year. You can listen to the original discussion I had with fellow Youtuber Moshi Moshi Yusuke at the time.
Moshi Moshi Yusuke Conversation Transcript
The next one is 鬼滅の刃
これだけは、ちょっと見ました。 1 話2 話ぐらい見ました。
So this is Kimetsu no Yaiba which has been translated into English as “Demon Slayer”, it’s a very popular anime. I guess we should take a look at what it looks like for people that haven’t come across this yet. So it’s an anime about people fighting “Oni” which is…
So another reading for “oni” is “ki” and “metsu” being to…”destroy”ですかね、「滅」or “kill”.
And “Yaiba”,being sword. And we’re talking about how this is one of the many words for “sword” in Japan. They seem to have a lot of them including “Ken”, “Tou”, “Katana”, so there’s a lot of words that seem to mean sword. We’re saying that the “Yaiba” is particularly used about the end of the sword, the part, so not like the hilt of the sword or the sheath of the sword but the actual sword itself, and especially the end, the point of the sword. So “ki” being “oni”, “metsu” being “destroy”, “The Sword That Destoys the Oni”. でこの番組を見たときこの鬼は結構ゾンビー的な感じでした。
。So that’s something that has become very popular in Japan this year.
The next word we are looking at is
Kimetsu no Yaiba.
This is an anime.
Did you see it?
No, I haven’t seen it.
I heard it’s playing in theaters now,
so I’m thinking of going to see it soon.
Oh, it’s in the movie theaters?
Yes’ it’s in theaters…
It’s not on TV?
It’s also on TV? How do
you say it in English?
I watched a little bit of this yesterday.
I watched one or two episodes.
I thought it looked pretty interesting.
Yes, it is.
It’s very popular.
I think it will probably continue
to be popular in the future.
It’s so popular that it’s even been made
into a movie and played in theaters.
It’s especially popular now,
think that’s why it made it into the list
of the most popular words.
I watched it yesterday and I thought
the images were really beautiful.
I thought the animation was amazing.
I think the pictures are probably
better than Attack on Titan.
I think you might be right.
This is the first time I’ve
heard the word “Yaiba”,
but it refers to a sword right.
A Yaiba is a sword.
When I heard “Yaiba”,
I thought again that there
really are a lot of words
for swords in Japan.
Yes, there are a lot of them because
swords were used for a long time.
Words like “Ken” and “tou”.
Especially, “blade” often refers to
the blade part of the sword.
Often say the nose part,
if it was a blade.
The blade is often referred
to as the blade part.
A sword has a place to hold it
and a case to put the sword in.
The pointed tip?
Yes, the cutting part
is especially associated with Yaiba.
I feel that it sounds like a Yamato word.
It sounds like a word that has
existed in Japan for a long time.
I don’t know about that.
As for the etymology of the word,
I can’t say for sure,
I’ve never really thought about it.
And this is the first time
I’ve heard of this “Kimetsu”.
When I looked it up in the dictionary,
which I have, it didn’t come up.
‘s only natural that it would not come up.
I think this is probably some
kind of newly created word.
I think that Japanese people can
understand the the meaning from looking
at the kanji characters for “Kimetsu”,
and that’s whey they chose the title.
kimetsu means to “mesu” the “Oni”, meaning
to defeat the demon.
It is referring to a sword
that can defeat the demon.
Is this “annihilation” the annihilation
that can be find in the word “extinction”?
Yes, the same one that is in
So let me explain a little
bit about English.
So this is Kimetsu no Yaiba which has been
translated into English as “Demon Slayer”,
it’s a very popular anime.
I guess we should take a look at what it
looks like for people that haven’t
come across this yet.
So it’s an anime about people fighting
“Oni”. This “Ki” is “Oni” right?
So another reading for “oni” is “ki” and “
metsu” being to” It’s “destroy” or “kill”.
They seem to have a lot of them including
“Ken”, “Tou “We’re saying that the “Yaiba”
is particularly used about the end
of the sword, the part, so not like the
hilt of the sword or the sword itself.
We’re saying that the “Yaiba” is
particularly used about the end
of the sword, the part,
so not like the hilt of the sword or
the sheath of the sword but the actual
sword itself, and especially the end,
the point of the sword.
So “ki” being “oni”, “metsu” So “ki” being
“oni”, “metsu” being “destroy”,
“The Sword That Destoys the Oni”.
So when I saw this show,
this I thought the demons were
They’re not really “oni” are they?
So that’s something that has become
very popular in Japan this year.
Recently I had a chat with few of my favourite musicians from Japan: Saya from Tenniscoats, Yuko Ikema and Sota Tateishi from Jon No Son on the radio show “Kikeru Radio”.
Here’s a transcription in Japanese & English.
Transcript and pictures here:
Original recording of chat appeared on Minna Kikeru Radio here:
Sayas – New Home
Ikema Yuko 池間由布子 Albums
Japanese music and Albums mentioned in the recording:
Kanako Numata –
Kohost Sota Tateishi’s 立石草太 album with Jon No Son ジョンのサン:
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Who is behind this site?
I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).