July 13, 2023

Understanding and Using ある意味: A Guide to Expressing “In a Certain Sense” in Japanese

The Japanese phrase ある意味(いみ) means:

  • in a sense
  • in some way
  • to an extent
  • In a manner of speaking

About ある意味(いみ)

"ある意味(いみ)、…" is used to look at a situation from a specific perspective. It is similar to English phrases like "in a certain sense" or "in some respects". This usage allows the speaker to provide a nuanced or subjective take on the situation.

It can be used in contexts like "ある意味(いみ)天才(てんさい)" which translates to "Genius, in a certain sense." In other words, the person labeled “genius” did something most would consider foolish but by thinking of the action in a certain way, you could make the argument, in a certain sense, it was “genius.”

Similarly, you can take something that isn’t exactly true but draw some truth from it.


That’s true in a sense.

Sarcastic Usages

It is often used in a ironic or sarcastic sense.

For example, what child has not been traumatized when Bambi’s mother gets it?


In a sense, you could call Bambi a horror movie, couldn’t you?

Or when your friend fails his test, but flunks in a spectacular fashion:


Getting every single question wrong on the test is, in a certain sense, an impressive feat.


This kind of somewhat difficult to understand phrase is best learned through examples. Here are a few longer examples that give a context for the reason for the ある意味(いみ) meaning. If you are a Makoto+ member, see this link for many more examples!


In a certain sense, we are all travelers. It's because we are experiencing the journey of life.



This old house is beautiful in a way. It's because you can feel its history and charm.


Want more example sentences? 

Makoto+ members can unlock several more all with vocabulary breakdowns.

Makoto+ Members, click here to download all the sound files and PDF with many more example sentences broken down and explained. Practice makes perfect!

And... we have ある意味(いみ) t-shirts!

Don't just study 「ある意味(いみ), wear it!

Now that you know the meaning, have fun explaining it to others when they ask about your shirt. A great conversation starter!

「ある意味(いみ)天才(てんさい)」 “I’m a genius! In a way.”

(わたし)金持(かねもち)ちだ!ある意味(いみ)で」 “I’m rich! In a sense.”

(わたし)(あたま)がいい!ある意味(いみ)で」 I’m very smart... to some extent.”

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