In the first episode of Death Note, the main character utters:


which means

Completely worthless

I'm assuming "くだらねえ" is the masculine-slang-negative of 下る, which means "to descend" or "to be inferior to".

Question: Since 下る already means "to be less than", why is this in the negative? Wouldn't that change the meaning of the sentence to be something like:

Completely not-less-than

and hence reverse its meaning?


1 Answer 1


下る had an obsolete meaning "smoothly understood". Think of it like "digestible" in a figure of speech. 日本国語大辞典 says:


下らない was originally the negation of this meaning: "hard to make sense", then "nonsense", then "worthless".

 と記されています。つまり、「くだらぬ」は、「意味が分からない」という意味で、昔から使われていたのです。意味の分からないものは評価が低くなります。そこから今の「取るに足りない」という意味の「くだらない」につながるのです。 (source)

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