Umami vs. Umai vs. Uma: Meanings of the Japanese Words

Umami is one of the best-known Japanese words, but do you know the term has two different meanings?

One is represented as 旨味/旨み (Umami), and the other is うま味 (Umami). 

Umami vs. Umai vs. Uma

Oishii or Umai or Uma

Today, let me explain how the two differ in meaning.

Further, I will talk about how Japanese people use the words Umai (美味い) and Uma (うまっ).

Umami (旨み or 旨味) 

First off, Umami (旨味 or 旨み) is the Japanese word for deliciousness, like making the eater say Umai (美味い).

Umami (うま味)

On the other hand, Umami (うま味), also known as savoriness, is one of the five universally accepted basic tastes, together with sweetness, saltiness, sourness, and bitterness.

Umami (うま味) is a taste derived from amino acids (glutamate), inosinate, guanylate, or the like.

Umami (旨味 or 旨み) and Umami (うま味) are represented differently, but they have the same pronunciation.

Umai (美味い)

Umai (美味い: pronunciation), which has the same meaning as Oishii (美味しい: pronunciation), is a Japanese word for delicious/tasty.

While Oishii is commonly used by both males and females, the use of Umai by females is limited.

If you want to know more about Delicious in Japanese, this article will help.

Uma (うまっ)

Uma (うまっ) pronounced this way has the same meaning as Umai (美味い). But the former is a much more casual expression than the latter.

(Reference Page: Ajinomoto )



Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

2 Responses

  1. Willy says:

    Thank you for explaining “umai”.I hear people say it on NHK World cooking shows and YouTube videos, but didn’t understand it’s use. I feel a little smarter!

    • Tomo says:

      Konnichiwa Willy san! Thanks for the comment!
      By the way, the antonym of “umai” is “mazui (不味い: taste bad)”!
      But people hardly use the word on Japanese TV shows 🙂

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