When someone says something to me and I don't really understand the meaning, how can I respond?

What is the difference between:

  • 何て言う意味ですか。
  • 何て言うことですか。
  • どう言う意味ですか。

I might be wrong, I might mix everything from what I've heard, read, seen.

Environment: Polite, formal, informal, anything is fine.

Extra question, how to say it in keigo?

  • It's just なんていう, not 何って言う. Though it can also be なんという.
    – Angelos
    Nov 5, 2018 at 7:40
  • I see but shouldn't なんと be 何って since と=って for quotation?
    – None
    Nov 5, 2018 at 7:45
  • That would make sense, but it's basically almost never pronounced that way.
    – Angelos
    Nov 5, 2018 at 7:47
  • I see, how about 意味 and 事? Do my sentences have all the same meaning?
    – None
    Nov 5, 2018 at 7:56

1 Answer 1


何て言う意味ですか? means "What is the meaning?". For example, この漢字は、何ていう意味ですか?(What is the meaning of this kanji?).

I say 何ていうことだ rather than 何て言うことですか and it means "Oh my God".

どう言う意味ですか? has two meanings. One is the same as "何て言う意味ですか?" and the other is "What do you mean". The latter one often includes an offensive nuance.

  • Does 何て in 何て言う意味ですか? have the same meaning as など, なんか, なんて? Do we really write なん in kanji in that case?
    – None
    Dec 8, 2018 at 0:29
  • 何て doesn't have the meaning of など, なんか but どういう. You may write it in hiragana. Dec 8, 2018 at 4:58

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