Normally ごめんなさい is translated as sorry or excuse me, but that seems like a translation for non-native speakers. In the same way, しつれいします can also be translated as excuse me or pardon me. But it really means "I'm being rude". So... what does ごめん really mean?

  • Do you mean the "dictionary" meaning or the "sense" meaning? I think a good translation would be "sry" or "soz", like when we bump into people.
    – Pacerier
    Commented May 28, 2012 at 13:24
  • 1
    Perhaps not very helpful, but similarly すむ (as in すみません or すまなかった) could be translated as "to be at ease".. Interesting way of apologizing. I don't know if a listing of these words/"phrases" in a question would be a too open ended question, but it would be interesting.
    – gibbon
    Commented May 28, 2012 at 13:28

1 Answer 1


めん(免) in ごめん(御免) means 'forgiveness/to forgive', like in the verb '免ずる/免じる' (which I think is the literary or archaic form of '許す'). なさい makes it imperative, so ご免なさい literally means 'Please forgive (me)', like 免じてください/許してください.

  • I would just like to add that adding ご in front of the word makes that word more formal (similiar with the お in お名前, etc), So literally, ごめんなさい could mean: I humbly ask for your forgiveness
    – Keale
    Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 5:20
  • Actually, ご・お・御 in this case makes it honorific (so that it matches with なさる・なさい) to the referent, not humble (which would be with respect to yourself). So you are exalting the person because you're asking them to do the forgiveness action (as opposed to focusing on the forgiveness of you). Certainly, 御 often just makes something more formal (e.g. お茶), but it perhaps more often makes it polite (and of the polite forms, I think the honorific one is more apt to take 御 than the humble one). Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 6:57

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