Abunai vs. Yabai: Meaning & Usage in Japanese
Abunai (危ない/あぶない) is a word that Japanese learners should memorize during the early stage of studying, meaning dangerous.
But in everyday conversation, young Japanese generations often use Yabai (やばい) instead of Abunai to mean dangerous.
Abunai vs. Yabai
Yes, Yabai is a kind of slang word preferred by young people. You can express “dangerous” with it, but in official situations, you should use Abunai.
Based on Goo’s Japanese dictionary, the usage of Abunai/危ない is like this.
- 危ない遊び/dangerous play, 危ない目に遭う/get into danger
- 経営が危なくなる/management is at risk, 命が危ない/life is in danger
- 明日の天気は危ないようだ/it looks like the weather will be bad tomorrow
- その話は危ないなあ/the story is doubtful
- 危ない足取り/unsteady footsteps
As you can see in the examples, although the literal/core meaning of Abunai is dangerous, we interpret it by replacing it with a similar phrase, depending on the context.
And you can rephrase all the sentences with Yabai/やばい like this.
- やばい遊び/dangerous play, やばい目に遭う/get into danger
- 経営がやばくなる/management is at risk, 命がやばい/life is in danger
- 明日の天気はやばいようだ/it looks like the weather will be bad tomorrow
- その話はやばいなあ/the story is doubtful
- やばい足取り/unsteady footsteps
Another Meaning of Yabai
You can use Yabai the same way as Abunai if you want to say something is dangerous or on the not good side.
But unlike Abunai, Yabai is a contronym that can also mean “awesome” or “very good” used like this.