In a Japanese dictionary entry for the word なにか, I came across the following definition:


The example sentence is


Some questions:

  1. Does this mean 何か can be used to literally mean "No"? If so, is it like a more polite "no" (rather than saying "いえ", which is too direct or something)? Or perhaps it's a "no" but with less certainty (more like "hmm, not sure")?
  2. I'm unable to read the example sentence. Is it written in an old/classical style? And in general, when Japanese dictionaries use classical Japanese for an example sentence, does that signify that the way the word is being used isn't as common in modern Japanese?

1 Answer 1


This usage of 何か isn't used at all in modern Japanese, it's used in the classical.

The example sentence is from the famous classical literary work 枕草子, all written in the language of the Heian period (794 - 1185).

「何か, この歌よみ侍らじとなむ思ひ侍るを」

can be translated as:


  • I'm general, when sentences from classical Japanese are provided as the only examples in Japanese dictionary entries (for a particular usage of a word), is it safe to assume that that usage of the word is archaic/not used in modern Japanese?
    – George
    Mar 19, 2023 at 21:45
  • 1
    @George It depends. Different dictionaries have differnt policies. A dictionary that explicitly points out old usages as old would be more useful for learners of Japanese, but many large dictionaries do not do that.
    – naruto
    Mar 20, 2023 at 2:06

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