In the course of localising an app for the Japanese language I have been tasked with translating the Google-style error string "Oops", which will presumably be used as in

Please check your password and try again

Presuming we want to preserve this conversational interface style (such is the brief), would しまった be an appropriate translation?

Given that this app will be used by children, I would like to know if this is considered acceptable language or not. If not, are there some good "family-friendly" alternatives?

  • 3
    I always understood しまった as meaning something more like "damn!", but milder. How about おっと?
    – Billy
    Nov 23, 2012 at 14:15
  • @Billy: Isn't it also like, "oh no! I messed up!"? Nov 23, 2012 at 22:19
  • @silvermaple: Sure, that kind of thing. Doesn't really feel appropriate for "oops!" here. :)
    – Billy
    Nov 24, 2012 at 17:36
  • As an aside to the actual question, you may want to use some other phrase instead of trying to literally translate "Oops". For example, an incorrect password on Facebook gets you パスワードが間違っているようです (with some additional wording afterward).
    – istrasci
    Nov 26, 2012 at 15:57

3 Answers 3


I agree with Dave's answer and don't feel しまった quite fits here, because the computer/device gives out the error.

There are

  • Billy's おっと, which I feel can be used by bystanders, who empathize with the person who made the error.
  • あらら, which is usually used by bystanders. I don't know why, but I feel that あらら is used by people, who wouldn't have made the same mistake, but are empathizing with the person who did make the mistake. あらら feels stronger than おっと. (You usually say あらら、大変ですね.)
  • ブブー (or ブッブー) which is the counterpart to Tim's ピンポン and is the sound associated to giving an incorrect answer. I would use ブブー for your application, since giving an incorrect password is just inconsequential and comes pretty close to giving an incorrect answer.

Or you could use all three in the order

  • ブブー
  • おっと
  • あらら

for people who enter their password incorrectly for up to three times, which is quite cool, coming to think of it. (But then, I am obviously no computer programmer...)

  • Thanks for the great alternatives! Using all three in order is a neat idea (maybe the fourth time would just be バカ!!, lol), but I don't think the developer would be too keen on the idea of implementing this :P In the end I went with Billy's おっと.
    – ジョン
    Nov 25, 2012 at 13:16

I would say しまった is very close to 'Oops', except for one provision that applies in your case: to me it is a word that the person who made the mistake would use, not people around (unlike 'oops', where it seems OK for bystanders to be using it after witnessing a blunder).

Using しまった when talking to your user, about your user's actions, might sound ever so slightly judgemental: "You messed up!"

As for speech level: it is of course familiar, but not rude (when applied to oneself), although I have encountered ōbachans that would get (very) mildly shocked upon hearing young girls using it.

As a kid-friendly alternative, perhaps ばつ (×)... Or simply one of the many words that mean "incorrect (input)".

  • Actually I learnt the kanji with an electronic flashcard program that used to give ばつ along with a number of other jokey comments for wrong answers (eg ばっか) so it is not unprecedented.
    – Tim
    Nov 24, 2012 at 5:06
  • Thank you for the insight into when to use and when not to use しまった. I've gone with user1205935's answer because it had some great alternatives, but really your answer combined with his would be the "perfect answer" :)
    – ジョン
    Nov 25, 2012 at 13:12

I use しまった in that context but it does feel a bit strong for your task. I have to check how it is written but what about the duck-like quack (or more likely a horn) which is used in game shows to indicate a wrong answer? The opposite sound for a correct answer is a bell sounding "ping-pong". Both get used in conversation and if this message it given after hitting the "enter" key then it might work quite well.

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