Miso (味噌): 4 Possible Meanings of the Japanese Word

Miso (みそ/味噌) reminds many people of a brown seasoning paste used in Japanese cooking, typically made from soybeans fermented with salt and koji. 

But do you know the Japanese word has three other meanings, different from that one, used depending on the context?

Meaning of Miso (味噌)

Kani Miso

Today, let’s see the meaning of Miso (味噌) from Goo’s Japanese dictionary for those curious. According to the source, the word can refer to four things.

  1. A seasoning paste typically made from soybeans fermented with salt and koji
  2. Stuff that looks like the seasoning paste found in the shell of the crab or the prawn (Ex. Kani Miso)
  3. What something boasts (Ex. 万一の場合、手動に切りかわるところが味噌だ/In case of an emergency, it switches to the manual mode, which is what it boasts)
  4. A coward or wimp (Ex. 弱味噌/Yowa-Miso, meaning 弱虫/Yowa-Mushi)

The usage of the 2 and 3 is not uncommon, but I have never heard people use the word in the meaning of the 4 (though that usage, or Yowa-Miso, appears in the manga Kimetsu no Yaiba). Instead, we often use Yowamushi.


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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