A person asks another if he knows the meaning of a certain word and he replies:


No, I somehow use it but ??? ...

My guess is that it means "Why do I say it?" but なんて doesn't mean "why". Can this phrase be decomposed or is it a fixed thing I should learn?

3 Answers 3


なんていうか (or なんというか) in this context is a filler phrase used when one is trying to find an appropriate phrase. It's an equivalent of "let's see", "what can I say" or "you know", and you should memorize it as-is.


It's a filler phrase.

It doesn't really mean much, but it's like asking yourself "How should I put it?" The speaker doesn't quite know what to say next, so they say that. We do the same thing in English sometimes.


The other two answers are literally correct: なんていうか... is an idiomatic phrase that may be translated as "how should I say..." but may vary depending on context.

That said, I'll offer a dissenting opinion: without more context it's hard to say, but it's reasonable to guess that the speaker actually has a fairly negative opinion of this thing they're using, but doesn't want to complain or be directly negative about it. This is not an uncommon trend: for example, the word "いまいち" is now by convention understood to mean "not passable" even though it's thoroughly indirect.

As a listener, being asked to complete the trailing sentence, I would assume that the speaker is definitely not having a fun time with whatever it is.

This doesn't conflict with the interpretation offered by either of the two answers prior to this one.

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