Literally meaning dried fish woman, the popular slang 干物女 is used to call a woman in her twenties or older who, as nicely summarized in Wikipedia, has many of the following traits:

メールの返事が極端に遅い、短い (Her text replies are very slow and short.)

簡単な食事なら台所で立って食べる (If it is something simple, she will eat it standing in her kitchen.)

忘れ物を靴を履いたまま、膝立ちで部屋に上がり取りに行く (She will go to take forgotten stuff in her flat on her knees keeping the outdoor shoes in the air rather than put them off.)

休日はノーメイクでノーブラ (She won't put on her makeup and bra on nonworking days.)

半年ほど美容室に行っていない (She won't visit a beauty salon for half a year.)

冬場は毛の処理を怠る、又はしない (In winter she won't shave or wax her body hair properly or at all.)

1人で居酒屋に入れる (She has no problem going to a pub alone.)

最近ドキドキしていない (She rarely gets so excited that she experiences an increased heartbeat.)

What is the German equivalent? In other words, how are such women commonly or idiomatically called in German?

  • 7
    Sorry, but most of these traits are very specific to Japanese customs. The general idea is covered by the term Mannweib, which may also mean she can drink a lot before passing out, is loud, does tough sports as boxing and rides a motorbike.
    – Janka
    Jul 13 '19 at 16:37
  • 8
    Eine pragmatische Frau. Die Sitten und Rollenerwartungen in Deutschland und Japan(?) gehen zu sehr auseinander, als dass diese Punkte in Deutschland einen Typus beschreiben könnten, geschweige denn, dass wir ein Wort dafür haben. In vielen Branchen (Film, Theater, Mode, ...) ist es auch möglich, dass Frauen ohne BH zur Arbeit gehen, eine lockere, moderne Atmosphäre vorrausgesetzt. Auch ist brasilian waxing und Arm-/Beinrasur in Deutschland nicht so endemisch. Nachfrage: Tun das Japan die meisten Frauen, bis sie einen Partner gefunden haben, oder setzen sie d. Verhalten i.d. Partnerschaft fort? Jul 13 '19 at 20:26
  • 3
    Cross link english.stackexchange.com/questions/504940/…
    – Criggie
    Jul 14 '19 at 9:07
  • 1
    "verhärmt" could be a suitable adjective depending on context.
    – Jan
    Jul 15 '19 at 9:21
  • 1
    Those sound like the traits of a normal German woman to me
    – Helena
    Jul 17 '19 at 17:17

This is a very pejorative use of imagery already at the Japanese source, it seems. As such it is quite specific to Japanese culture as well. A direct translation or one-word translation or even a very short combination in German seems to not exist.

If one equivalent catches up in German it will probably be a loanword from manga-Japanese?

The fish-part especially seems to give it a twist that together with the list of traits ascribed to it is a bit too unique for a direct fit.

As the Japanese, Chinese and Korean Wikipedia entries – which are the only Wikipedia languages having an entry for this concept – explain: this is a description of women who 'lost love' or

The dried fish woman ( Japanese : dried woman Himono Onna [ * ] ) is a Japanese coined word meaning a woman who abandoned love.

The dry woman comes from a Japanese buzzwords and is used to describe a young woman who is as dry as scallops and mushrooms. It refers to a group of women who can't afford to love and think that many things are very troublesome and only have to be done. This name is derived from the Japanese name for dry fish, and the words that are close to 'funeral' and 'defeated dogs.'

(Machine aided translation, please excuse me, and please improve if you can)

Which I would take to mean that these are relatively young women, disillusioned with the marriage market and societal expectations, especially for private relationships.

There is a very close combination of words in German which expresses a similar concept:

vertrocknete Jungfer (literally 'dried-up maiden') – but this is without context or explanation one standing idiom to refer mainly to somehwat older women, not those in her twenties, and a few other mismatching connotations, among them the pejorative undercurrent.

Jungfer f. today only in psychologically evaluating sense for '(older, unmarried) sensitive, prudish woman'. Mhd. juncvrouwe is shortened to late juncfer (14th century) by concentration of the emphasis on the first compositional element and applies (like Jungfrau (virgin), s. ?jung) to the unmarried lady of knightly rank, soon becomes the name of the unmarried daughter, later the unmarried bourgeois woman (also in the salutation) as well as the sexually untouched girl, cf. deflower, virginity (17th century). An disparaging sense developed alongside this already in the 17th century (young 'prudish, squeamish', old maid). The meaning 'servant, maid' (preserved in Kammerjungfer, 15th century) comes from the custom that young girls come up to noble ladies. Brautjungfer (Bridesmaid) f. 'single friend or relative of the bride as companion in the wedding procession' (18th century).

If you want to express such a concept in ideally few German words, other adjectives than *vertrocknet *might fit better: verzagt, entmutigt, niedergeschlagen?

Just anecdotal data: after reading only the descriptions of 'traits' from the question to 3 native speakers, asking the very question here they all responded "alte Jungfer", with a grimassed face that formed a question mark with wrinkles and raised shoulders. The main difference in responses was to be observed in how long it took them to follow up with "Wasn Quatsch!" and then detailing how strange a few of the Japanese details sounded to them.

  • Is this word still used in the past 40–80 years?
    – gerrit
    Jul 14 '19 at 11:03
  • @gerrit For newspapers: dwds.de/r/… so it was no longer common before 80yrs ago and is therefore 'in use' but obscure enough to be revived with such a meaning as here, given the limitations mentioned; not recommended anyway? Jul 14 '19 at 11:08

In short: There is none

At least none which barely covers more than two or three of all these aspects.

But, as japanese wiki says it's a term originated from the manga Hotaru no Hinari by Hiura Satoru. Some japanese words already made it into German youth culture through manga. They are not common, but words like kawaii are known + used by fans and are sneaking into our passive vocabulary. Even translators of mangas and animes are starting to add -chan, -kun, -sama, etc to names. Things which were omitted a few years ago.

So ... maybe in a few years (and when this manga/anime is available in German) there will be the japanese word, or it will be adapted from the english translation.


Please note, that other terms for people like Otaku おたく/オタク or Hikikomori ひきこもり aren't translated as well, when there is no (western) equivalent behaviour covering all aspects.

  • 16
    Seeing this from the Hot Network Questions list, I have to say that it's funny to see an English question about the German translation for a Chinese translation of a Japanese anime concept. Could we maybe find some way to extend this into Code Golf so some esolangs can get in on the fun?
    – Nat
    Jul 14 '19 at 4:05
  • The English Wikipedia spells this as Hotaru no Hikari
    – Arsak
    Jul 14 '19 at 7:24

The psychological background given in your comments could be regarded as »Resignation«. The dried fish would therefore be

eine Resignierte (nominalized from »resigniert«)

but this is no common expression.

Related term: »innere Kündigung«


Well, in dutch there is a sort of similar term, slons. In German it could be Schluderer, basically someone who doesn't take care of him/herself, appearance wise or household cleaning wise, who kind of avoids work or does it half assed.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.