What Does Doki Doki Mean In Japanese And Can It Have More Than One Meaning?

What Does Doki Doki Mean?

Doki doki is a common Japanese expression used when someone is excited or anticipating something that’s about to happen.

The term is supposed to mimic the sound of a racing heartbeat. This particular expression is meant to describe how certain emotions can make your heart rate increase, rather than the way that strenuous physical activity does. 

Does Doki Doki Have More Than One Meaning?

Even though doki doki is most often used when describing a racing heart, the phrase does have a couple of other meanings sometimes assigned to it.

Just as it can represent happiness and excitement, it is also seen often when depicting romantic feelings in popular Japanese media

Doki doki can also describe a racing heart when someone is fearful of something, as well as when someone is nervous, embarrassed, or feeling anxious. 

Where Did The Phrase Doki Doki Come From?

There is some speculation as to when doki doki came about as a common Japanese phrase. It can be difficult for some people outside of Japan to understand how doki doki can sound like a heartbeat. 

One unsubstantiated theory is that doki doki is a derivative of the word douki, a word often used in the Edo era that meant throbbing heart.

Edo Era Street

The Showa era saw the phrase douki-douki appear very often in literature, and it’s suspected – though not confirmed – that doki doki inspired that phrase or the other way around. 

When you break down the syllables of doki, one can see another possibility for where doki doki came from. First, you have to analyze the possible derivative douki.

Dou translates to movement, and ki translates to pulsate. Together, they make up pulsating movements, which can very aptly describe a racing or pounding heart. 

How Is Doki Doki Written?

Doki doki is usually written using the katakana way of Japanese writing. This particular type of Japanese writing style was developed as Japan tried to find their own verbiage for words they learned from other countries. 

Often, the romaji style of writing these words focuses on the way the words are pronounced.


Katakana words usually sound very similar to the word in the language it is borrowed from, such as English, but it is said with a Japanese accent. Romaji is the spelling of Japanese words using the Latin alphabet. 

The Japanese language has been a proponent of playing with pronunciation and sound when it comes to developing new words and phrases, as can be seen with doki doki. Doki doki is an example of onomatopoeia, something the Japanese language is full of. 

How Is Doki Doki Used?

The phrase doki doki is very prominent in popular Japanese literature such as manga or anime. It’s often used for emphasis to further explain a character’s state of being.

It can easily be compared to English comics’ usage of the word boom when emphasizing a very loud, sudden sound. 

Manga Shop In Akihabara

In popular Japanese media, doki doki is most often used to express romantic feelings of some sort, whether that be to show that someone makes you nervous or someone is very excited to see the person they admire.

However, since this phrase can explain so many emotions, this is not the only way it’s depicted; just one of the most popular uses. 

Doki doki can also be adapted into everyday speech by making it more grammatically correct. It can be used as an adjective or an adverb in place of words like excited or nervous. Some people will even make a hand motion above their heart to physically describe a heart beating out of a chest. 

Another phrase used is doki doki suru, which roughly translates to “I am nervous” or “I am excited.” As mentioned, it can also be incorporated into simple sentences to describe how something makes you feel.

For example, you could say “When I watch horror movies, my heart goes doki doki.Doki doki shiteru means my heart is beating fast, and doki doki shita means my heart went pitter-patter. 

What Is Onomatopoeia?

Onomatopoeia is the term used for words that are spelled and pronounced similarly to the thing or the sound they are describing.

Some well-known examples of English onomatopoeia are boom, meow, beep, and tick tock. 

The closest English translations that can be used for doki doki would be thump thump or boom boom to mimic a heartbeat. 

How Japanese Onomatopoeia Differs From English 

Onomatopoeia is actually a little bit more complicated in the Japanese language. This is because their words and terms that fall into this pattern are actually categorized. There are five types of onomatopoeia in the Japanese language. 

Doki doki is a unique example of a word that falls into two of these categories; gijou-go and gisei-go. The gijou-go category describes a person’s state of being or emotions.

Gisei-go encompasses words that sound like those made by living or animate things such as people and animals. 

Gion-go words are ones that sound similar to the sounds made by non-living things, while gitai-go words are words that are assigned to things that don’t actually make sounds but still make sense regardless.

An example of a gitai-go word would be fuwa-fuwa, which is used to describe soft and squishy things. 

Finally, giyou-go words are ones that describe a person’s actions or behaviors. These ones don’t necessarily sound exactly like the action, but are often understood in Japan more than they might be in other countries. 

What Are Other Examples Of Japanese Onomatopoeia?

The Japanese language has a vast array of its own onomatopoeia, which is not surprising given how they categorize the words that follow this speech or writing pattern.

It allows their language to be expressive and descriptive, just as onomatopoeia does for the English language. 

Kira kira is one such word that falls into the gitai-go category. This term is used to describe the way that glitter, bright lights, or stars twinkle. Uki uki is another example used to add emphasis to someone’s anticipation or hope. 

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My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.