According to this,

[辛い]{からい} means both spicy and salty. Where I live we associate spicy with pepper, not salt.

Is this something similar to the case of "ao", meaning both green and blue? (or something in between them).

Are there words for differentiating foods with too much salt than foods with too much pepper?

  • 2
    For the linked page, did you not read the example sentence for the meaning "salty"? It's not used to describe a quality of food (unless, perhaps the food has been so terribly oversalted, it's inedible but in that case it's liable to be 塩辛い). The example sentence gives a more figurative meaning of this word.
    – A.Ellett
    Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 20:02
  • 3
    @A.Ellett I'd be careful with those, there's a possibility that it's mixed up with 辛{つら}い sense 2. weblio.jp/content/%E8%BE%9B%E3%81%84%E6%80%9D%E3%81%84
    – siikamiika
    Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 20:10
  • @siikamiika Excellent point, thank you for pointing it out.
    – A.Ellett
    Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 20:16
  • @A.Ellett if you are sure you can post your comment as answer. If it gets voted up, I'll accept it
    – Pablo
    Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 20:32
  • I am not 100% confident now after @siikamiika 's comment. And digging about in some of my dictionaries, I'd decided someone more fluent than me (such as a native speaker) should answer this one.
    – A.Ellett
    Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 20:34

3 Answers 3


Yes, this is similar to 青 meaning green.

からい in modern standard Japanese almost always means spicy, but in the old days this word safely also meant salty. But somewhere in the past (most) Japanese people noticed spicy and salty are clearly different concepts, and started to use a different word for the latter; it's simply 塩辛い. (しょっぱい is another term for salty things.) (This story was not very strict. からい in archaic Japanese primarily meant salty, but as this word gained the meaning of spicy, a different word, 塩辛い, was made and assigned to the original meaning. A similar thing happened for かわいい.)

I remember my grandmother, who was born in the 1920's in a rural area of western Japan, often used からい for salty things, and she was also a person who often used 青い for green things.


1 トウガラシ・ワサビなどのように、舌やのどを強く刺激するような味である。「インド風の―・い料理」→五味 (ごみ) 
2 (鹹い)塩気が多い。しょっぱい。「―・い煮つけ」⇔甘い。

(辛い read as つらい means a totally different thing, and it happens to be close to salty as in "salty experience", but I don't think it's important now.)

Apparently, in some dialects, 辛い and 塩辛い are still not distinguished in daily life.



  • 4
    +1, I can confirm that 辛い is still used for saltiness in 関西. (We do know that saltiness and spiciness are quite different ;), we just use the same word).
    – Yosh
    Commented Aug 12, 2017 at 4:07
  • i didn't know 青 has meaning green as well. so its just like ひげ can has meaning both mustache and beard. so how do you guys avoid confusing? especially when talking on phone?
    – Kakashi
    Commented Aug 12, 2017 at 7:45

According to this, 辛からい means both spicy and salty. Where I live we associate spicy with pepper, not salt.

Agreeing with what @siikamiika stated, it could be a misrepresentation of 辛い【つらい】, but considering the dictionary you used was an English one, "Salty", in this case, can also refer to an upset person, in English terms.

So this sentence, given by the reference you provided with the meaning "salty":

彼女は多くの辛い思いを経験してきた。She has gone through many difficulties.

Could refer to her "upset" state referring to her experiences, or if replaced with 辛い【つらい】, her "painful experiences".

However, I am not certain that "salty" (in terms of emotion) in English, can also be 辛い 【からい】 in Japanese. 辛い【つらい】 makes more sense.

Are there words for differentiating foods with too much salt than foods with too much pepper?

There are phrases, but not specific words. However notice that salt (塩) is used along with 辛い.

Too much salt: 塩が辛い or おお塩辛い

Too much pepper: コショウを入れすぎた

  • 1
    "Salty" meaning "upset" in English is a slangy word and I doubt JMdict would use such a translation without an explanation. Rough trustworthiness scale I use: J-J dictionaries (can have dated definitions, though) > Japanese J-E dictionaries (some sites use JMdict so excluding that) > JMdict > example sentences in Japanese J-E dictionaries (excluding Tanaka Corpus) > example sentences from Tanaka Corpus > the indexing of Tanaka Corpus sentences in JMdict (jisho.org etc.). The one I doubted was the last one on that scale. (I wanted to clarify because OP didn't ask about the sentence)
    – siikamiika
    Commented Aug 12, 2017 at 6:16

I'd use 塩辛い when something is salty.

BTW, 激辛(gekikara) only means "extremely hot/spicy." We never say 激辛 for "very salty."

We call "too salty" 塩辛すぎる, とても塩辛い or 塩気が強すぎる(shio-ke ga tsuyo- sugiru).

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