I am learning Japanese and helping a Japanese person with English. (My English is not very good, but she still wants me to help her.)

She needed to describe someone's personality and she used "big person". And I didn't understand what she meant by that. I asked her what she meant by "big person" and she said she meant "broad-minded person".
So I told her using "big" for someone's personality is wrong. Then she asked me why, I told her it's used for describing something's size, but she didn't understand even though I told her several times.
So I wanted to tell her the word that Japanese people use for describing something's size.
I searched for it on the Internet, but there are so many words that mean "big".

So... I don't know which one to choose. I would be so happy if someone can tell me which one I should use. Also, I am really curious why she used "big person" instead of directly saying "broad-minded person". Is that a saying in Japanese?

  • 1
    大きい (おおきい, ookii) is the most basic word meaning 'big'. But I don't think it's wrong to describe someone as having a 'big personality' in English. It doesn't generally mean broad-minded though. Perhaps you should ask about that on English Stack Exchange. Commented Feb 5, 2017 at 14:15
  • As a native English speaker, I can say that "big personality" does not easily make sense. If I had to force it, I would assume it meant "overbearing personality".
    – G-Cam
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 16:00
  • @G-Cam I disagree actually that it doesn't easily make sense. While I agree its similar to overbearing, I think it conveys that message without the negative connotation that overbearing would imply. This explains it better than I (although I disagree with the physical implications): urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Big%20Personality
    – Andy
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 23:18

2 Answers 2


大きな/大きい are the most basic word that means "big". For the difference, see: What's the difference between 大きいケーキ and 大きなケーキ?

In Japanese, 大きな人 and 大きい人 refer to either one's physical size or one's broad-mindedness/capacity, depending on the context. You can say 体が大きな人 or 心が大きな人 to avoid ambiguity. There are also other expressions that mean only one thing. 大柄な only means physically "large". 寛大な and 心が広い only mean "broad-minded". So you can explain to her using these words and phrases.

The same is true for 小さな/小さい. 小さい人 means either a (physically) short person or a petty-minded person, depending on the context.

By the way, English "big" can refer to an important person in a certain field (cf. Big Three), but such people are rarely referred to as 大きい人 in Japanese.

  • Well, I used "おおきい" to explain this to her . I told her if she says , " big person " It is hard to understand that she meant "broad minded person .Because "big " is used for size . Thats the same as "おおきい person" and she said she understand but I hope it wasn't wrong ?
    – Colin
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 5:37

If she'd like to say "度量{どりょう}の大きい人" in English, it should be "a person of great capacity."

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