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Sometimes I hear Japanese people say ういた in conversation when describing something (usually someone) unpleasant. I asked my coworker once "what is this word", but I got a very poor explanation (not her fault, it just seems very much like a "sense" thing).

The only impression I have of it is a word that describes someone (or their actions) that everyone else is thinking, "uhm, OK?" in sort of a dumbfounded way. Am I close?

Does anyone have a good example of this usage so I can get my head around it?

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Basically 浮く (うく) means to float, but has many other meanings.

When used for a person or an action of a person, 浮く can mean “being out of place,” “not belonging to the place he/she is,” “being the odd one out,” and “not being able to interact with others well.” For example:

  • 田中さんは会社で浮いている。 (たなかさんはかいしゃでういている。) Mr. (Ms.) Tanaka is out of place in his (her) office. / Mr. (Ms.) Tanaka does not really belong to his (her) office. / Mr. (Ms.) Tanaka is the odd one out in his (her) office.

We can also say 田中さんの行動は会社で浮いている (たなかさんのこうどうはかいしゃでういている), talking about what Mr. (Ms.) Tanaka does instead of the person him/herself.

I believe that this meaning arises from the basic meaning “to float” by considering figuratively that everyone else in the office is deep “inside” the office but Mr. (Ms.) Tanaka is “floating” on the surface of the office.

From Daijisen:

4 ある集団の中で仲間との接触が薄くなる。遊離する。「仲間から―・いた存在」

From Daijirin:

[5] 基盤を失って、遊離した存在となる。

大衆から―・いた存在

From the Eijiro on the Web:

他の子どもたちの中で浮いている can't interact with the other children

学級で浮いている be the odd one out in one's class

彼はちょっと浮いている。 He just doesn't belong.

  • 1
    This sounds like the Japanese equivalent of Sesame Street's "One of these things is not like the other; one of these things just doesn't belong" segments. :) – Derek Schaab Jun 6 '11 at 15:31
  • is うく trying to say that someone is not in the "in" crowd? (btw how do we use it.. あの人浮いてる?) – Pacerier Jun 15 '11 at 3:55

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