Honto (本当) vs. Maji (マジ): Meaning & Usage

Hontou (ほんとう/本当) or Honto is a Japanese adjective meaning true in English, and we often use the word to say I’m serious or for really/seriously as an intensifier or adverb.

In the latter case, we speak in different ways according to who the listener is, like Honto Ni (本当に), Honto Desu Ka (本当ですか), Maji (まじ/マジ), Maji De (マジで), or Maji Desu Ka (マジですか).

Honto (Ni or Desu Ka) vs. Maji (De or Desu Ka)

Honto vs Maji

Those phrases basically have the same meaning, as Maji (まじ/マジ) is short for Majime (真面目: serious) or Majime Ni (真面目に: seriously). But they differ in nuance and usage.

The abbreviation Maji is a slang word for Majime or Majime Ni and equivalent to “for real” or “no way” in English, not used in formal situations. 

Honto Ni (本当に) & Maji De (マジで)

Honto Ni and Maji De sound like emphases for Honto and Maji.

Honto and Honto Ni have almost the same nuance, and we use these phrases in formal or informal conversations, like

  • 君って本当(に)料理が上手いね (You are really good at cooking)
  • 佐藤くん結婚するって聞いたんだけど (I heard Sato Kun is getting married) 本当(に)?! (Really?!)

Also, Maji and Maji De have almost the same nuance, used interchangeably, and we speak these in casual situations, like with a close friend or family member.

  • おまえマジ(で)野球上手いな (You are really good at baseball)
  • 佐藤結婚するって聞いたんだけど (I heard Sato is getting married) マジ(で)?! (Seriously?!)

Honto Desu Ka (本当ですか) & Maji Desu Ka (マジですか)

Meanwhile, Honto Desu Ka is a polite expression for Honto?! or to say, Are you serious?!, used in formal conversations towards a boss, superior, stranger, or the like.

  • 君たちに良い知らせがある。我がチームはコンテストで最優秀賞を獲った (I have some good news for you. Our team got the first prize in the contest) 本当ですか?! (Are you serious?!)

On the other hand, Maji Desu Ka is a polite expression for Maji?! or to say, Is it for real?!, often used towards a close superior.

  • 俺ここのポスト離れてマーケッティング部に移動するから (I’m leaving the post here and moving to the marketing department) マジですか?! (Is it for real?!)


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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