I've come across something and always wondered about it, what is the meaning of


I assume (but I'm not quite sure) that it's this: to show disbelief or surprise

Also, is this something actually used? (and if it is, in what context?)

2 Answers 2



is a colloquial, slurred pronunciation of 「なんてことだい、これはいったい」

which is a reversed version (倒置) of 「これはいったい、なんてことだい?」

To break it down...

なんて -- pronoun [何]{なん} + case particle (っ)て; ≂「なんという」
こったい -- noun こと (事) + copula だ + sentence ending particle い (≂よ)
こりゃ -- pronoun これ + particle は
いったい -- noun 一体 (used for emphasis in questions; "on earth")

So it literally means... "What kind of thing on earth is this?" "What on earth is the matter?" -- used as an exclamation, like "What the hell is this?"

  • 1
    By the way the phrase sounds a bit funny to me cos こったい is rhyming with いったい ... なんか冗談みたいで滑稽な感じ?
    – chocolate
    Oct 2, 2017 at 2:17

Yes it is, but there your text has two parts:

なんてこった (い)

which is an exclamation that roughly translates to "oh no", and


which means "just what (is this)...".

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .