Okay, not finding a definite answer online, what is the word for FISH in Japanese?

BTW - When I say FISH, I mean, if you had a pet fish, I do not mean eating a fish, make sense?

According to my research, I think it should be uo (うお) but most sites suggest to say fish in Japanese you should say sakana (さかな) but, near as I can tell, sakana is fished fish, not a pet...


1 Answer 1


さかな is the answer.

Strictly speaking, it really depends on the kind of fish. If you're keeping a goldfish as a pet, it's [金魚]{きんぎょ}. If you have a tropical fish, it's [熱帯魚]{ねったいぎょ}. But in general, it's fine to say [魚]{さかな}を[飼]{か}っています. By using the verb [飼]{か}う, you are indicating that you keep the fish as a pet.

うお is also a word for fish, but it tends to be used in specific words like [魚市場]{うおいちば}、[飛]{と}び[魚]{うお}、[魚座]{うおざ}, etc. So さかな and ギョ are much more common readings. You have to get used to the idea that in Japanese there are often several different ways to express a single concept in English, for example.

  • Okay, I guess some context would have helped - I am wanting to know the word in t he context of teaching young children what the word is in hiragana for different animals, not in a food context... So I have dog (inu / いぬ), cat (neko / ねこ) and fish was the other I was going for, not providing context or specific species, just the general word for a living animal...
    – Darren
    Commented Nov 5, 2017 at 22:51
  • 2
    Then さかな is fine. It can mean fish that is eaten or fish that is kept as a pet. It's a bit like the word chicken in English. It can mean the meat of the animal, or the animal itself.
    – kandyman
    Commented Nov 5, 2017 at 22:57
  • So never Uo (かな)? When would Uo be used? I'm just curious now...
    – Darren
    Commented Nov 5, 2017 at 23:03
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    Originally, うお used to refer to fresh fish and living fish, while さかな used to refer to fish as a food. But in recent times that distinction has become obsolete and さかな refers to both. うお is still used, particularly in words involving fresh fish, like 魚市場.
    – kandyman
    Commented Nov 5, 2017 at 23:12
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    Just like you did in a comment above, maybe I would stress better in the answer as well that さかな is what the OP is looking for here.
    – Tommy
    Commented Nov 6, 2017 at 1:30

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