Umami vs Umai vs Uma: Meanings of Japanese Words

Umami is one of the best-recognized Japanese words, but do you know there are 2 different meanings of umami in Japanese? Actually, one is represented as “Umami (旨味 or 旨み)” and the other is “Umami (うま味)”. 

Umami vs Umai vs Uma: The Difference in Meaning

Oishii or Umai or Uma

Today, in addition to the meanings of “Umai (美味い)” and “Uma (うまっ)”, let me explain how these 2 Umami are different from each other.

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 “Delicious” or “Umai (美味い)”.

Umami (うま味)

On the other hand, “Umami (うま味)”, also known as savoriness, is one of the 5 universally accepted basic tastes, together with sweetness, saltiness, sourness, and bitterness.

“Umami (うま味)” is a type of taste that comes from components like amino acids (glutamate), inosinate, and guanylate.

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

Umai (美味い)

As I mentioned above, “Umai (美味い: pronunciation)”, which has the same meaning as “Oishii (美味しい: pronunciation)”, is a Japanese word for delicious.

Oishii is often used by both males and females, but the use of the word Umai by females is limited.

Uma (うまっ)

“Uma (うまっ)” has the same meaning as “Umai (美味い)”. But “Uma (うまっ)”, which is pronounced this way, is a much more casual word to say “delicious”. 

(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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