Why Gaki (ガキ/餓鬼) Means Child in Japanese

Although we usually use the word Kodomo (子供) when describing a child, we sometimes refer to an ill-mannered/annoying kid as a Gaki.

Gaki (ガキ/餓鬼) is a vulgar Japanese term for brat in English, but why is the badly-behaved kid called so?

Meaning of Gaki (ガキ/餓鬼) in Japanese 

Gaki Meaning in Japanese

Gaki (餓鬼) is originally the Japanese Buddhist term for preta in Sanskrit.

A preta is a ghost suffering from hunger and thirst who fell into Gakidou (餓鬼道) because of misdeeds during its lifetime.

The Gakidou or Pretas is among the six classes of beings, or the Rokudou (六道) of Buddhism, consisting of

  1. 地獄道: Hell beings 
  2. 餓鬼道: Pretas (hungry ghosts)
  3. 畜生道: Animals
  4. 人間道: Human beings
  5. 修羅道: Asuras (demi-gods)
  6. 天道: Devas (gods)

In Japan, Gaki got the meaning child/brat, for children tend to eat much, like pretas or hungry ghosts.

(Reference Pages: Wikipedia 餓鬼, Weblio 餓鬼 (ガキ) )


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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