Imo: 2 Different Meanings of the Japanese Word

“Imo (いも, イモ, 芋)” is a Japanese word for beginners of the language, which generally refers to or has a meaning of “potato”.

Imo (芋)

Imo (Jaga-Imo)

Imo is actually not the name of a variety but is the umbrella term for edible plant roots and rhizomes that have stored nutrients and enlarged, except for bulbs like an onion or “Tamanegi (玉ねぎ)”. 

The tuber Imo is a nutritious food rich in carbohydrates such as starch and its cultivation is easy. Because of that, today, in many parts of the world, Imo has been a staple in the diet.


Yama-Imo (Jinenjo)

The varieties of Imo commonly used in cooking in Japan include below.

  • Jagaimo (じゃがいも): “white potato” in English
  • Satsumaimo (さつまいも): “sweet potato” in English
  • Satoimo (里): “taro” in English
  • Yamaimo (山): “Japanese mountain yam” in English
  • Nagaimo (長): “Chinese yam” in English
  • Konnyakuimo (こんにゃく): “konjac potato” in English

Another Meaning of Imo

Actually, the word “Imo (芋)” is also used for a person, often in the form of “Imoppoi (っぽい: like Imo)”, in which case it means “unsophisticated” or “uncool“.

This Imo has a negative or sarcastic meaning and can give offense to the targeted individual, so please be careful when you use it.

Sentence Examples

  • あの男性歌手は芋だ。: That male singer is uncool (or unattractive in appearance).
  • 彼女は芋っぽい。: She is unsophisticated (like Imo).

(Reference Pages: Wikipedia 芋, Goo Japanese Dictionary )


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.

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