I was watching the anime かんなぎ, and heard the following line:

"Men are all wolves!"

I was curious as to what it means to call someone a "wolf", so looked 狼 up in Daijisen and it came up with "someone who feigns being gentle, but in reality is a terrifying person" in the 2nd definition.

But why exactly did 狼 come to have this connotation? Does it have similar origins to the English phrase "a wolf in sheep's clothing"? Or something else?

  • Is it really specific to japanese culture? What about the Little Red Riding Hood.
    – oldergod
    Dec 16, 2012 at 10:07
  • 1
    @oldergod does calling someone a "wolf" in English really have connotations of feigning being gentle? (I've never heard it used that way, but it might...) But I guess that was why I was asking - to confirm whether that was/wasn't the case that it is specific to Japanese, and whether it might have similar roots to other languages etc (hence why I asked whether it has similar origins to the idiom "a wolf in sheep's clothing".)
    – cypher
    Dec 16, 2012 at 10:23
  • When I hear 男は狼,... it sounds to me like ... "guys are all スケベ so 年頃の女の子 have to be careful." (Cf. 「送り狼」and this old song youtube.com/watch?v=ltMCHeBXYEY) 英語でも、そういうニュアンスがありますか?
    – user1016
    Dec 17, 2012 at 10:02

2 Answers 2


Does it have similar origins to the English phrase "a wolf in sheep's clothing"?

Yes. A better dictionary would confirm that. From 日本国語大辞典:

狼, 2: (「狼に衣」のことわざから) うわべはやさしくよそおっていて実は凶悪な人。特に、破戒僧の異称。

Early citations for this are from c. 1780. Early citations for 狼に衣 may be found from 1638. Thus, the chronology is also in order.


Although Daijisen lists 狼{おおかみ}に衣{ころも} as a separate definition #3, from searching I think that it comes from that proverb.

Looking at this page for example, it says that proverb means "an atrocious, merciless person, but only outward appearances of dressing as (feigning) being a good, kind-hearted person", so I think that's likely where it comes from.

Further to this, there's also the proverb 鬼{おに}に衣{ころも}, which has two meanings, one of which seems the same as that of 狼に衣, so it might be that 狼に衣 comes from 鬼に衣 (though I can't find any hard evidence which came earlier out of the two). It comes from an 鬼 (demon) wearing priest's garb (僧衣{そうい}).

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