I am in a Japanese 101 class. We are supposed to translate the following sentence:


I am having trouble with that word イケメン. So far, I have:

The Japanese culture professor is ______ but he/she is not lenient at all so I don't like him/her very much

I am pretty sure we haven't had イケメン in class. Also, "ikemen" doesn't sound like an English borrowed word (at least to me).

Google translates it as "Twink" and I have found some places that say "handsome", "cool", etc. But I don't know what to trust. Can anyone explain to me the meaning(s) of the word?


6 Answers 6


イケメン is a new word which means "Good looking male person".

イケ comes from イケてる which roughly translates to "cool", "good" etc. メン is a word play, and has two meanings; メン as in "men" i.e. the English word for men, and メン as in 面(めん) i.e. the Japanese word for "face".

It is used exclusively to refer to the physical attractiveness of males.


It's not a loan word, it means "good looking". This illustrates a common problem with basic Japanese teaching, they tell you that words written in katakana are loanwords, but don't go into all the other uses of katakana (though loanwords is the most common and 7 times out of 10 that is the case).

Specifically in this case, certain colloquial words whose kanji is sufficiently outdated use katakana.

  • @RachelG. Yea, that's totally fair. he answered halfway through my typing this answer :P Commented Dec 2, 2012 at 3:03
  • While you are correct in general, it's worth noting that the selected answer indicates that 'メン' is (or at least could be) a play on English 'men/man'. Commented Dec 31, 2020 at 17:32

As the others have said, イケメン is basically a word that describes a male as being attractive/good-looking. Don't use this for females.

As sort of a supplement, I've also seen the word イケてる been used, which can function as a verb too. This was in a book though, I've never heard a native Japanese use this in normal conversation, but it may help you get a feel for the usage of イケ.

I think this plot is quite 'cool'.


Ah, hadn't seen Enno's anwer describing イケてる yet. Guess you got the question covered now ;)

  • re:"このプロットをイケてると思う。 I think this plot is 'cool'."-- I believe your japanese sentence is not grammatical. Perhaps このプロットはイケてるだと思います。would be better.
    – yadokari
    Commented Dec 2, 2012 at 6:16
  • 1
    I got this sentence from a native Japanese book (from a library, don't have the exact title here), which would make it a bit unlikely that it's incorrect. Though, don't get me wrong, I'm not fluent in Japanese by all means, (or perhaps I made a mistake in copying). The original sentence (stripped it down for the example): 僕はこのプロットを結構イケてると思うんです。 だ seems unnecessary, イケてる can function as a verb (jisho.org), the use of the を particle seems slightly off to me too. If any more advanced users would like to comment on this, I'd be glad to edit :) Commented Dec 2, 2012 at 12:09
  • 1
    yes I too am mainly wondering about the を. I don't see how that works there. you should ask that as a question or I will if you do not.
    – yadokari
    Commented Dec 2, 2012 at 19:53
  • I'll go to the library this week and check that book again. If it turns out I copied the sentence wrongly, I'll put up a question :) Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 1:59
  • 3
    Took a bit longer than expected, but nonetheless: I miscopied the sentence indeed, originally it had no particle. Adjusted the post. Commented Dec 12, 2012 at 7:47

Ikemen is "handsome guy". But from first hand experience, not just any type of handsome. Think the kind of Hiroshi Abe (or Brad Pitt). So I wouldn't use this for the Korean mop-hair gayish types.


I agree with all of these answers, but would add that the attractive maleness being described by ikemen would be like how guys look in J-pop and K-pop bands. It's a beautiful handsomeness. The distinction is a weird one, but I think it's important. In English. When you use the word "handsome," it can imply what we in the west think of as "manliness", but in Asia men can be good looking AND beautiful. "Beautiful" isn't something most western men want to be thought of as. But in Japan, masculinity and also be lovely. This can be seen a lot in Anime, right?

A cute place I've seen this word used was on an episode of the anime Beast Saga, when a white cat male character gets insulted by an enemy, and argues back "ORE WA IKEMEN DESU" He yells it back several times, and the joke is how desperately he wants to be seen as beautiful.


As for the actual meaning of the word, look no further than @Enno Shioji's answer. As a sidenote,

「ブサメン」— A male with unfortunate looks.

  • Etymology: 不細工 (ブサイク) ugly + (メン) same as イケメン

「フツメン」— A male with average looks.

  • Etymology: 普通 (フツウ) average + (メン) same as イケメン

I will add that in Japan, social caste is determined by how good looking (or not) you are. This is true to some degree in most of the world, but this is especially the case in Japan.

For example, you might getting bullied for being ugly. Even worse, if you are working for a company, you will get hired / get promotions based on how good looking or ugly your face is. It is sad, but it is the truth.

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