I came a cross the expression かげぐち【陰口】(backbiting) and found it in my dictionary as follows

人の陰口をきく[たたく]|[speak ill of a person / run a person down] behind his back / backbite

When I tried to look up the meaning of きく the only transitive verbs that seem possible are 聞く& 聴く. However these relate to listening or at best "asking" which does not seem to be quite same thing.

Should I just accept such expressions as idioms? Even if that is the correct course it seems odd that the entry for 聞く does not mention this use.

  • 6
    Actually, it's not 聞く(listen). Try "口を利く".
    – Sindry
    Jan 14, 2013 at 5:32
  • 1
    Found it. Thanks. (For some reason when I looked at this before I could only find intransitive uses of 利く.) If you make an answer I'll give you credit.
    – Tim
    Jan 14, 2013 at 5:49
  • For posterity's sake, here's a direct link to a native definition of 口を利く。 kotobank.jp/word/%E5%8F%A3%E3%82%92%E5%88%A9%E3%81%8F
    – Ncat
    Jan 16, 2013 at 3:53
  • theres that 陰 kanji again :/
    – yadokari
    Feb 19, 2013 at 4:37
  • @yadokari We all have a 陰 following us around...
    – user1478
    Feb 19, 2013 at 5:40

1 Answer 1


As per meta, I shamelessly take Sindry's comment and make it an answer.

My dictionary (gjiten) says 口を利く means "to speak, to utter, to mediate".

The same dictionary says 利く is intransitive, so it is probably an idiom.

口を利く in another dictionary.

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