Once again I have some examples from a Death Note episode [10].

The main character says:

しかしおどろいたよ流河{りゅうが}。親睦{しんぼく}を深{ふか}める為{ため}に、突然{とつぜん}テニスなんて。[Note, Ryuuga is a character's name, the one he's speaking to here.]

Later the same character, thinking to himself:


I think I grasp the overall meaning of these sentences, but would like to understand how なんて operates in them and how it connects to the other verbs, specifically する and ある in the second quote and the omission of a verb in the second sentence of the first quote. I would also like to understand what なんて means generally, as dictionary entries haven't really helped me figure it out.

How I understand the quotes:

  1. I was surprised, Ryuuga, that you asked me to play tennis so that we can get to know each other better.
  2. He will not be able to profile me with this game of tennis!

3 Answers 3


なんて has two meanings in Japanese which function as two different parts of speech,

  1. to express surprise on the part on the speaker at some event that they are commenting on. This form usually occurs at the beginning of a sentence, but not always. Usually this is translated in the sense of "He's so fast", or "What/such a fast runner!".

  2. to modify a phrase by giving it the sense of "like that...", or "such as...". The connotation is to diminish the significance of the preceding clause, or imbue a sense of vagueness. This meaning is derived from 等 [など]. Both of your examples fall into this category.

    But I was surprised, Ryuuga. You suddenly asked me to play tennis of all things in order to deepen our friendship

    There's no way he'll be able to do something like profile me by playing tennis like this.

It's hard to tell without context, but I assume/vaguely remember that Light was trying to figure out why L asked him to play tennis. Which is why he used なんて, in the sense of "if he's not profiling me, then what is his goal?"

Thanks to Chocolate for setting me straight on the two distinct uses of なんて.


なんて can means "such as" in some sentences, or "like that" from the context.

And also remember thar we japanese also use it for suprise interjection, but this is not the case.

Some other examples:

  • はい、今度はこれね!これとこれの組み合わせなんて超いけてるかも

  • 「なんて言ってるの?」「祝詞も知らないのか?」「祝詞?」「神道の呪文のようなもん。」

  • I'm not sure I follow you fully. Can you explain in greater detail? Oct 31, 2016 at 22:23
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    Ok. Look at this phrase: 本物のノイローゼの奴がノイローゼだなんて自称するのかね?- which translation is "Do you think real neurotics really go and call themselves such? As you can see we use なんて and じしょう [自称]. That will make call themselves such. But they are not literally speaking, they are not real neurotics, they are acting like. It os the same way, to say: You are like a lion. You are not literally a lion (the animal) Oct 31, 2016 at 22:32
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    The second one it is because of the profile word. It is not total real profile itself. It is not liking you filling up a real profile with real information. It means analyse. When i mean that, the profile may be wrong, it is just guessing game. The other scenario is more like Really??! Or Wow!! You asked such thing. That is the real usage, but really informal. Oct 31, 2016 at 22:45
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    「なんて言ってるの?」 <- This なんて is a different word with a different meaning and origin from なんて in question here. なんて in なんて言ってるの? is an adverb [何]{なん}て deriving from [何]{なに}+と, while なんて in 「突然テニスなんて。」「プロファイルなんてするわけない。」 is a particle なんて deriving from [等]{など}+(と)て.
    – chocolate
    Feb 4, 2019 at 3:23
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I think in the examples you provided なんて is an expression of disbelief or surprise. It is another way to say なんと, which I believe you can find more easily in a dictionary.

So you could translate it this way...


But I was surprised Ryuga; I can't believe (you would take up) tennis to get closer to (me).

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