Kimetsu No Yaiba meaning – The full story behind Demon Slayer’s Japanese Name

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.

Approx Japanese level

Themes

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

刃 Yaiba

The term “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:

 

剣 Ken

剣 Tsurugi

刀 Tou

刀 Katana

太刀 Tachi

日本刀 Nihonken

刀剣 Token

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 “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”.

nezuko cosplay

“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.

You may also be interested in our Demon Slayer Costumes and Cosplay page here or my Japanese language learning resource list here.

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Moshi Moshi Yusuke Conversation Transcript

The next one is 鬼滅の刃

 

ですね。

 

刃、はい。鬼滅の刃 これはアニメですね。

 

見ましたか。

 

ええと見ていないです。今映画館でやってるみたい

なんでそろそろ観に行こうかなとは思ってます。

 

映画館でやってるんですか。

 

映画館でもやってるしテレビもやっていないですか。

 

テレビもやってますよね。

 

英語では何て言うんですか。

 

Demon Slayerでした。

 

昨日ちょっと

 

これだけは、ちょっと見ました。 1 話2 話ぐらい見ました。

結構面白そうと思いました。

 

そうですね。

これはすごく人気があって。

 

これからもたぶん人気続くんじゃないかなと思いますね。

 

これは人気があるのは映画にもなって映画館でもやってるんで。

 

特に今これが話題になってるんで流行語に入ったんだと思います。

 

昨日ちょっと見てみて

 

映像がものすごくきれいと思いました。

アニメとしてのアニメーションはすごいなと思いました。

 

おそらく進撃の巨人よりも絵がきれいだと思いますね。

 

そうかもしれないですね。

 

この言葉自体なんですけどはいこの

 

刃って初めて聞いたんですけど刀のことですね。

 

そういうことですね。刃は刀のことです。

 

刃を聞いて改めて思ったんですけど日本では刀を表す単語多いですね。

 

そうですねやっぱり刀を使っていた時代が長いですから多いですよね。

 

剣とか刀とか

 

そうそう。

 

特に刃っていうのは

 

刀があったら刃の部分を言う場合が多いですね。

 

鼻部分を言う場合が多い、刃だったら

 

刃というのは鼻部分言うことが多い。

 

刀というと持つところがあって刀を入れるケース鞘と言うんですけどそれを

 

全部含めて刀なんですけど刃というと鼻部分だけを言う場合が多いですね。

 

尖っている先っぽ

 

そう、切れるところ特にそういうふうに言う場合が多いですね。

 

刃でなんとなくなんというかな。やまと言葉っぽい気はしますけど。もともと日本

 

にあった昔からあった言葉っぽい感じはしますけどどうですか。

 

どうなんでしょうね。語源に関してはちょっとなんとも言えないですけど

どうどうなんでしょうね。あまり考えたことないですね、それは。

 

 

刃で、この

 

鬼滅も初めて聞いたんですけど。

 

辞書で、僕が持ってる辞書で調べたときは出てこなかったですね。

 

当然出てこないですね。おそらくこれはある種の造語だと思いますね。

 

日本人は鬼滅と言われてこの漢字を見させられれば内容

が分かるからこのタイトルにしたんだと思うんですね。

 

鬼滅というのは鬼を滅する、つまり鬼を倒すという意味ですね鬼を倒す。

 

の刃ですから鬼を倒す刀。

 

という意味ですね。

 

この「滅」は絶滅の滅?

 

そう滅亡の「滅」

 

じゃちょっと英語

 

の説明しましょうか。

 

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…

 

鬼ですよね, この「鬼」「鬼ですね」

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。

鬼ではないですよね、これ。

 

ね、でも何かそれが新鮮

 

な感じはしました

 

。So that’s something that has become very popular in Japan this year.

The next word we are looking at is

 

Kimetsu no Yaiba.

 

Yaiba, yes.

Demon Slayer.

 

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?

 

Demon Slayer.

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,

 

so

I

 

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.

 

That’s correct.

 

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”.

Yes, yes.

 

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.

 

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 wonder.

I’ve never really thought about it.

 

Yaiba

 

Yaiba

 

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.

 

It

 

‘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

“annihilation”.

 

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?

 

That’s correct.

 

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

pretty zomby-ish.

 

They’re not really “oni” are they?

 

So that’s something that has become

very popular in Japan this year.

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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).

ピータージョセフヘッドです。3年間京都市立芸大の大学院として、一年間ワーキングホリデーとして日本に住み、6回日本で音楽ツアーをし、日本語能力試験で1級を取得しました。要するに日本好きです。

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