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Why “dame” is written as katakana (ダメ) in manga?

The question title kinda says it all! This confuses me, as I thought katakana was used exclusively for loan words. For example,

ホウキ雲 (the name of a J-Pop song)

Isn't ほうき a native word already?


2 Answers 2


Well, one reason I know this happens is to emphasize the word you are reading. There will be cases, in some manga, where you will see — for example: まじで!(really, seriously) as マジで!

The example above creates an emphasis, it's like reading something in caps.

As shown in the pic.

Bonus: The small っ at the end of the expression is also a sort of emphasis, but in this case, it's as if you were emphasizing last sound as a hard-stop. Say the word, out loud & calmly, "stop." Now say it with a little anger and a hard-stop at the letter "p," "stop!"

Make sense? 頑張ってっ!

  • Oooh, I see. Thanks for the bonus. I was going to ask about っ used like that, actually. :) Do you think that katakana can also be used in place of hiragana to "sound cool?"
    – user1316
    Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 21:26
  • ウソ!ほんとう? Man, this really got me once I started reading manga. I couldn't find anything on Google on the actual Katakana (ウソ) but then I actually googled for the question and thank goodness for your amazing response. This made me wonder for days!
    – Tek
    Commented Jun 20, 2014 at 21:55

Katakana is thought of by Japanese people as conveying the sound of something. When you see a word not normally written in katakana in katakana it is because they are trying to convey it as more of a sound effect. This most often to display loudness or roughness/toughness in the speakers voice.

On a similar note, when the choice is hiragana or kanji, the kanji is normally seen to convey an educated or upper class tone, while the hiragana is your standard voice.