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Origin of arigato
Words nearby arigato
What does arigato mean?
Arigato means “thank you” in Japanese.
The phrase domo arigato, popularized in the West in the song “Mr. Roboto” by Styx, means “thank you very much.”
Where does arigato come from?
Despite popular speculation that arigato comes from the Portuguese for “thank you,” obrigado, arigato was in use in Japan well before any contact with Portugal.
Arigato (ありがとう) comes from the words arigatashi (“to be”) and katai (“difficult”). Arigato, then, has a literal sense of “being alive is hard.”
Arigato became used to express gratitude (in appreciation of goodness despite life’s challenges), eventually morphing into a more general expression of thanks over time.
Fast-forward to the United States in the 1980s. The Japanese economy was booming, Shogun was a huge hit on TV, and obsession with all things Japanese, especially electronics and sushi, swept the country.
Some were even paranoid that the Japanese were going to take over the U.S. Add in fears about the breakneck speed of technological advancements changing the way Americans lived, and you have the perfect environment for Dennis DeYoung’s prog rock anthem about a dystopian future full of robots. “Mr. Roboto” was the opening track on Styx’s 1983 concept album Kilroy Was Here and reached #3 on the U.S. charts.
The song’s chorus, “Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto” quickly became an earworm and catchphrase—and the only Japanese words that many English-speakers knew.
How is arigato used in real life?
In Japan, arigato is a simple way of saying “thank you” among familiars or peers. Politeness is highly valued in Japanese culture, so be mindful that there are more formal ways to say “thank you” to superiors or elders (e.g., arigato gozaimasu, which is a more polite way of saying thanks).
The fans here in Japan are amazing. So patient and polite. Thank you for all the love. Today’s a special 80th pole with you guys. Arigato 🙏🏾 🇯🇵 pic.twitter.com/5p2qwDS7BH
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) October 6, 2018
Westerners who don’t speak Japanese or have picked up some key phrases while traveling in Japan will likely know arigato from Styx or Japanese cultural products or establishments.
Fun fact: Styx apparently didn’t play “Mr. Roboto” live for 35 years, reportedly because guitarist Tommy Shaw hates the song, but as of May 2018, the band is back to domo arigato-ing on stage.
More examples of arigato:
“It’s no secret (secret, secret) that “Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto” is just one of those pop culture lyrical phrases pretty much everyone knows.”
—Doug Fox, Daily Herald, June, 2018
This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.