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The only 達磨 I'm familiar with is daruma dolls, however I've seen/heard this used in a descriptive sense in anime and novels.

I can recall seeing a character using it in a novel for example, I don't remember the exact Japanese but she was scolding her colleague in a restaurant saying "hurry up and finish the dishes you hairy daruma!" (Her colleague has wild hair and a funny looking goatee.) Or in another book where the author wrote "筋肉達磨になった男" in reference to a man who had become stupidly muscular.

So what sort of meaning is it supposed to take on in contexts like that? Is there some metaphorical meaning?

  • In addition to the answer blow, Daruma is a Buddhist practitioner and a representative for those who devote themselves for one thing. You call a shogi player who is heavily attack-oriented 攻めダルマ. – user4092 Mar 4 '18 at 16:11
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(I always write 「だるま」 in kana, so that is what I am going to do here, too.)

Used in the contexts described by you, 「だるま」 simply means a "guy" or "person". The metaphorical usage of the term is usually well-intended as the だるま itself is an item of good omen to begin with. A humor factor is generally there as well. All in all, it helps make a fun and animated expression.

When I had a full beard several years ago, I was called ヒゲだるま by a few people around me. It made me smile each time, too. It would not have made me smile if someone had called me ヒゲじじい, for instance, instead.

I assure you, though, that 「〇〇だるま」 is not a phrase pattern you would use on a daily basis. It would easily lose its charm if you overused it.

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