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?)



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 '17 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)...".

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