What does という言葉 mean?

I stumbled across this expression many times already, and I don't know what いう means here.

Taking this sentence as a basic example:


  1. Would it be possible to say (a) "「大変」と言葉、普段の会話の中で結構使いませんか?" or (b) "「大変」の言葉、普段の会話の中で結構使いませんか?"

  2. What would be the difference between the basic sentence and the modified sentences (a) and (b) in 1)?

Nb: I saw the discussion on ていう言葉, but it doesn't answer my question because (1) it is not about という言葉 per se (2) the meaning of という言葉 is not discussed, although this expression is mentioned (3) the meaning of いう is discussed, but it is a bit vague to me

1 Answer 1


「大変」という言葉 means:

the word "taihen"

A translation of the sentence 「大変」という言葉、普段の会話の中で結構使いませんか? could be:

I bet you use the word "taihen" a lot in conversation, don't you?

Of your proposed alternatives, と言葉 is definitely grammatically incorrect, whereas の言葉 is grammatically OK and would probably be understood but is just not as common or idiomatic as という言葉, which is the best choice for this sentence.

Just think of という as being the preposition that is used in the context. It literally translates as 'the word that says "taihen"' but we don't say that in English so the translation is 'the word "taihen"'.

  • Thank you very much. Btw, this "preposition" also appears together with other words, such as 答え. See in the same text as the basic sentence "でも「大変だよ」**という答え**も、とってもよく耳にすると思います。"
    – Starckman
    Sep 19, 2022 at 6:13
  • So if I want to say something like "the word XX", I must definitively use this preposition? I cannot simply juxtapose XX to 言葉 ("XX言葉", or "XXの言葉", for the latter I saw your remark on it)?
    – Starckman
    Sep 19, 2022 at 6:15
  • 1
    Another use I can think of is in front of 字 for "the letter X", as in the opening line of the Perfume song omajinai★ペロリ: jpopasia.com/perfume/videos/16261/…
    – ljdyer
    Sep 19, 2022 at 6:20
  • 1
    XX言葉 is also grammatically wrong. Searching Google for "の言葉", we can see that it is usually used in a different way with a different meaning. The first couple of hits contain "偉人たちの言葉" ("the words of great people") and "感謝の言葉" ("words of thanks"/"words that express gratitude"). Can you see the difference? They're not saying "the word 'ijin'" or "the word 'kansha'".
    – ljdyer
    Sep 19, 2022 at 6:24
  • Understood, the "という" correspond to a silent in English expressions such as "the word "culture"" ("文化"という言葉), while の basically corresponds to "of" in English expressions such as "the words of mystery" ("謎言葉")
    – Starckman
    Sep 19, 2022 at 6:35

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