Japanese slang is often fun to learn. Not only are they fun, but they’re pretty useful in daily life. As a Japanese language learner, you see most Japanese sentences and dialogues written in a polite form like Ohayou Gozaimasu (おはようございます | Good morning) or Watashi wa genki desu (わたしはげんきです | I’m fine).
But do Japanese people actually talk like that in everyday conversation? The answer is… no.
Today, let’s find out more about slang words and phrases and get ready for the genuine way of Japanese communication!
- 1 Japanese Slang
- 2 Common Japanese Slang Words
- 3 Japanese Slang Words by Category
- 4 Frequently Used Japanese Slang List
- 5 Helpful Online Slang Dictionary
- 6 Sounds like Slang? Extra Grammatical Tips
- 7 The Real Life is Full of Slang and Casual Speech
Japanese slang words, also referred to as Zokugo (ぞくご), is a way of speaking that is delivered in a more casual way used in Japan. Although people are likely to communicate in a polite tone when you first meet them in Japan, they still talk more casually using Tamego (ためご | casual form) and Zokugo (ぞくご | slang) in day-to-day conversation. We’ll be learning more about this with example phrases in the next sections.
Before we head on to Japanese slang examples, these related words can also help you understand this concept better.
- けいご (Keigo | 敬語) — polite language, honorific speech
- ためご (Tamego | ため語) — informal language, casual speech
- ためぐち (Tameguchi | タメ口) — informal form, casual speech
- がご (Gago | 雅語) — refined and elegant words
- ひご (Higo | 卑語) — swear words
- ぞくご (Zokugo | 俗語) — slang words
- スラング (Surangu) — slang
- ネットスラング (Netto Surangu) — internet slang
- りゅうこうご (Ryuukougo | 流行語) — buzzwords
- しご (Shigo | 死語) — obsolete words
Things to know before learning Japanese Slang
Learning Japanese slang words is helpful for several reasons. We’ve listed some of the things that you should know before you begin learning this new set of vocabulary.
Does Everyone Use Slang in Japan?
Just like in English, slang lives more among younger people. However, language evolves and adapts, and some slang terms start to become standard words over the years. Each generation has its slang vocabulary reflecting the life the people have led until now. We’ll introduce some old-fashioned slang later.
When do Japanese people use slang?
For example, service people in Japan often employ advanced-level honorific speech, while people tend to omit subjects and objects when they have an everyday conversation in real-life. People don’t use Japanese slang on formal occasions, but you can encounter it in schools, offices, and among friends and families quite often.
Many Abbreviated and English-Influenced Slang
Japanese people are good at making up an English-influenced vocabulary and constructing shortened versions of original phrases. New Japanglish words could be a little challenging for native English speakers. However, it’s also fun to learn slang, so let’s get prepared.
- がいらいご (Gairai go | 外来語) — loanwords
- わせいえいご (Wasei Eigo | 和製英語) — Japanese pseudo-loanwords
- りゃくご (Ryakugo | 略語) — abbreviation, shortened form
- しんご (Shingo | 新語) — a new language, new words
Why Do We Need to Learn Japanese Slang?
Slang reflects the country’s culture, society, and native speaker’s point of view. One can understand plenty about Japan through slang phrases and common expressions.
In addition, getting in touch with slang is one of the most fun parts of learning the language. You have a wide variety of study materials, from your favorite anime series to recent YouTube videos. You never get bored!
Common Japanese Slang Words
Now, on to the Japanese slang words! Here are the ones that you’ll commonly hear.
15 Well-known Japanese Slang Words
Let’s start with the most common Japanese slang terms in everyday conversations. Perhaps you have already heard some Japanese slang like Hontou? (ほんとう | 本当 | Really?) or Baka (ばか | 馬鹿 | idiot, silly) somewhere.
The following slang is not only for young girls and boys but is widely exploited among diverse generations.
- おやばか (Oya Baka | 親馬鹿) — a doting parent *parent fool
- おたく, ヲタク (Otaku | オタク, お宅) — a geek, nerd, fan *honorifics you
- べつばら (Betsu Bara | 別腹) — dessert stomach *separated belly
- ねこじた (Neko Jita | 猫舌) — a heat-sensitive tongue *cat’s tongue
- めんくい (Men Kui | 面食い) — people who like pretty faces or good looks *face eater
- だてめがね (Date Megane | 伊達眼鏡) — fake eyeglasses *stylish eyeglasses
- かんにんぐ (Kanningu | カンニング) — cheating
- ありがためいわく (Arigata Meiwaku | 有難迷惑) — unwelcome favor *thankful bothersome
- やじうま (Yaji Uma | 野次馬) — rubbernecking *heckling horse
- ねたばれ (Neta Bare | ネタバレ) — a spoiler *source exposes
- ゆきち (Yukichi | 諭吉) — 1,0000 Japanese Yen *Yukichi Fukuzawa, who is featured on the 10,000 banknote
- どたきゃん (Dota Kyan | ドタキャン) — a last-minute cancellation *shortened version of どたんばできゃんせる (Dotanba de Kyanseru | 土壇場でキャンセル)
- ぽいすて (Poi Sute | ポイ捨て) — littering *toss dispose
- やっつけしごと (Yattsuke Shigoto | やっつけ仕事) — a half-assed job *defeat work
- ぴーかん (Piikan | ピーカン) — clear and sunny sky
15 Classic Japanese Slang Phrases
If you’re familiar with Japanese TV programs or anime series from the 1950s to 1990s, you might recognize this slang from an entertainer or Japanese anime characters.
The following out-of-date slang is still loved by older people even though it’s considered to be typical Oyaji Gyagu (おやじぎゃぐ | 親父ギャグ | Japanese Dad Jokes) or Shigo (しご | 死語 | obsolete words) among young people. We collected the most famous ones, so let’s take a look.
- たんま (Tamna | タンマ) — wait a minute
- ゆるしてちょんまげ (Yurushite Chonmage | 許して丁髷) — forgive me *forgive me Chonmage
- そんなばなな (Sonna Banana | そんなバナナ) — no way *such a banana
- ばっちぐー (Bacchiguu | バッチグー) — perfect, just right *perfect and good
- ばたんきゅー (Batan Kyuu | バタンキュー) — a knockout from exhaustion
- ざぎんでしーすー (Zagin de Shiisuu | ザギンでシースー) — to eat Sushi in Ginza *Sushi in Ginza
- めんごめんご (Mengo Mengo | メンゴメンゴ) — sorry
- おそよう (Osoyou) — good late morning *late Ohayou
- ばいなら (Bainara | バイナラ) — goodbye *Goodbye and Sayounara
- ほのじ (Ho no Ji | ホの字) — to be in love with someone *the letter of Ho
- なうい (Naui | ナウい) — up-to-date, trendy *now-ish
- あさしゃん (Asa Shan | 朝シャン) — shampooing in the morning *morning shampoo
- はなきん (Hana Kin | 花金) — Happy Friday *flower Friday
- がりべん (Gari Ben | ガリ勉) — people who study too much *hard study
- まいぶーむ (Mai Buumu | マイブーム) — things one is crazy about *my boom
Japanese slang is full of Kotoba Asobi (ことばあそび | 言葉遊び | wordplay). For example, Yurushite Chonmage was originally Yurushite Choudai (ゆるしてちょうだい | 許して頂戴 | please forgive me).
As a result, switching a word to Chonmage (ちょんまげ | 丁髷 | the topknot Samurai haircut) made the phrase senseless and funny. Also, Sonna Banana was altered from Sonna Bakana (そんなばかな | そんな馬鹿な | what a crazy) to make it cuter and milder.
However, Batan Kyuu is a fully onomatopoeic word. It expresses a bang sound for falling into beds and the state of sleeping like a log after that. This phrase gained popularity through a video puzzle game called Puyo Puyo (ぷよぷよ).
Japanese Slang Words by Category
Below are more slang words in Japanese that you can add to your vocabulary. We’ve listed them by category so you can determine where each of them is more applicable.
15 Slang Greetings and Responses
The followings are abbreviated and contracted words of standard Japanese greetings. Ossu (おす | 押忍) is one of the greetings in Budou (ぶどう | 武道 | martial arts), and Ussu is derived from Osu.
Azassu is a colloquially shortened form of Arigatou (ありがとう| 有難う | thanks), and Chissu is for Konnichiwa (こんにちは | 今日は | hello, good afternoon). Such one-word greetings sound slightly vulgar and mannish. Please be careful a little, when you talk to native speakers.
- おす、おっす | オス、オッス (Osu or Ossu | 押忍) — hi, yes sir
- うっす、うぃーす (Ussu, Wiisu | ウッス、ウィース) — hey
- あざす、あざっす (Azasu, Azassu | アザス、アザッス) — thanks) *Arigatou
- ちっす、ちゅーす (Chissu, Chuusu | チッス、チュース) — hi, hello *Konnichiwa
- ちわー、こんちわっす (Chiwaa, Konchiwassu | チワー、コンチワッス) — hi, hello *Konnichiwa
- さっせん、さーせん (Sassen, Saasen | サッセン、サーセン) — sorry, excuse me *Sumimasen
- おつ、おっつー (Otsu, Ottsuu | 乙、オッツー) — good work, thank you for your hard work *Otsukaresamadesu
- ちょりーす (Choriisu | チョリース) — hello, roger
- ごっつぁんです (Gottsuandesu) — thanks for the meal *Gochisousamadesu
- おそよう (Osoyou) — good “late” morning
- まいどあり (Maido Ari | 毎度あり) — thank you for your continuous support *Always Thanks
- あけおめ (Ake Ome) — Happy New Year *Akemashite Omedetou
- ことよろ (Koto Yoro) — Please take care of me this year as well *Kotoshimo Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu
- おたおめ (Ota Ome) — Happy Birthday *Otanjoubi Omedetou
- めりくり (Meri Kuri) — Merry Christmas *Merii Kurisumasu
*standard Japanese phrase
Have you watched and read any sports Anime (アニメ | animation) or Manga (まんが | マンガ | comics)? If so, you might know the following expressions already.
A genre focused on sports is called Supo Kon (すぽこん | スポ根), and it often emphasizes team spirits, diligence, and achievement. Much sports-related slang is combined with Japanese and foreign words.
- おい、おーい (Oi, Ooi | オイ、オーイ) — hey, hi there
- ドン マイ (Don Mai) — don’t worry, never mind *don’t mind
- ファイト (Faito) — hang in there, go for it *fight
- ばっちこい (Bacchikoi | バッチ来い) — bring it on *batter, come on
- かかってこい (Kakattekoi | 掛かって来い) — bring it on, come on
- がたい (Gatai | ガタイ) — body, physique
- ざこ (Zako | 雑魚) — small fish, feeble opponents *small random fish
- じりひん (Jirihin | ジリ貧) — a gradually worsened situation *slowly poor
- まけいぬ (Make Inu | 負け犬 ) — looser *losing dog
- だふや (Dafu Ya | ダフ屋) — scalper, ticket reseller *ticket shop
- おかさーふぁー (Oka Saafaa | 陸サーファー) — wannabe surfer *land surfer
- おーびー (OB | オービー) — male graduate or retired club member *old boy
- おーじー (OG | オージー) — female graduate or retired club member *old girl
- たいいくかいけい (Taiikukaikei | 体育会系) — jock, militaristic *sporty type
- まっちょ (Maccho | マッチョ) — people with muscular body *derived from the Spanish word macho
Find Out More about Supo Kon Slang,
- きょじんのほし (Kyojin no Hoshi | 巨人の星) from the 1960s
- えーすをねらえ! (Aim for the Ace! | エースをねらえ!) from the 1970s
- あしたのじょー (Ashita no Joe | あしたのジョー) from the 1980s
- ぴんぽん (Ping Pong | ピンポン) from the 1990s
- くろこのばすけ (Kuroko’s Basketball | 黒子のバスケ) from the 2000s
- はいきゅー (Haikyu!! | ハイキュー!!) from the 2010s
15 Juvenile Delinquent “Yankii” Japanese Slang
The Japanese word Yankii (やんきー| ヤンキー) doesn’t mean the New York Yankees but the juvenile delinquents. Previously, Yankii was a colloquial term for Americans though it adjusted its meaning.
In a broad sense, it includes Furyou (ふりょう| 不良 | punk), Bousouzoku (ぼうそうぞく | 暴走族 | biker gangs) now. Despite a declining number of Yankii in recent years, they are still known for their unique fashion styles, behaviors, and consumption tendencies.
- よろしく (Yoroshiku | 夜露死苦) — Hey, Hello
- きたくぶ (Kitakubu | 帰宅部) — go-home club
- なめてんじゃねーよ (Nametenjaneeyo | 舐めてんじゃねーよ) — don’t get cocky
- やんまま (Yan Mama | ヤンママ) — former Yankii mother *Yankii mother
- ぐれる (Gureru | グレる) — to become delinquents
- しめる (Shimeru | シメる) — to teach a lesson
- ふける (Fukeru | フケる) — to escape, to leave
- ばっくれる (Bakkureru | バックレる) — to play dumb or innocent
- ちくる (Chikuru | チクる) — to inform somebody
- まぶい (Mabui | マブい) — cute, pretty, beautiful, real
- たいまん (Taiman | タイマン) — one-on-one fight
- おれいまいり (Orei Mairi | お礼参り) — to take revenge, to settle a score *gratitude visit
- かつあげ | カツアゲ (Katsu Age | 喝上げ ) — shakedown *threaten up
- まぶだち (Mabudachi | マブダチ) — good friends, close friends *genuine friends
- こうこうでびゅー (Koukou Debyuu | 高校デビュー) — to start something in high school as if reborn *high school debut
Find Out More about Yankii Slang, and Japanese Swear Words,
- きょうからおれは!! (Kyou Kara Ore Wa!! | 今日から俺は!!) from the 1980s
- ジーティーオー (Great Teacher Onizuka, GTO) from the 1990s
- すらむだんく (Slam Dunk | スラムダンク) from the 1990s
- さきがけ!! クロマティこうこう(Cromartie High School | 魁!! クロマティ高校) from the 2000s
- とうきょうりべんじゃーず (Tokyo Revengers | 東京卍リベンジャーズ) from the 2010s
15 Japanese Words for “Very”
Below are some Japanese equivalent words for Totemo (とても | very) and Sugoi (すごい | very). Some words were initially regional, but it’s widely known all over Japan now. When you speak Japanese, which word do you prefer to use?
- すごく (Sugoku | 凄く) — very, tremendously
- まじで | マジで (Majide | 本気で) — very, seriously
- めちゃくちゃ (Mechakucha | 滅茶苦茶、目茶苦茶) — very, terribly *Osaka, Kyoto
- ちょう (Chou | 超) — very, totally *Tokyo
- めっちゃ (Meccha) — very, extremely *Osaka, Kyoto
- ごっつ (Gottsu) — very, extremely *Osaka, Nara
- でら | デラ (Dera)— very, extremely *Aichi
- ぶち | ブチ (Buchi) — very, extremely *Hiroshima, Yamaguchi
- おに (Oni | 鬼) — very, unbelievably
- かみ (Kami | 神) — very, unbelievably
- やばい | ヤバい (Yabai) —very, dangerously, terribly
- かなり (Kanari) — very, considerably
- けっこう (Kekkou | 結構) — very, quite, sort of
- ふつうに (Futsuuni | 普通に) — very, pretty, sort of
- まるっと (Marutto) — very, completely
*the area frequently used
15 Slang Only Subculture Lover Knows
Japanese culture and subculture have been a big surprise to the world for some reasons. Japan is well-known for holding many Kosupure (こすぷれ | コスプレ | cosplay) events and Aidoru (あいどる | アイドル | Japanese idol) concerts.
Likewise, the country is leading the production of animations, comics, and video games for a long time. Can you recognize any of the following slang?
- それ な (Sore na | 其れな) — that’s right, I totally agree
- ふじょし (Fu Joshi | 腐女子) — female fans of boys’ love story *rotten girl
- おし (Oshi | 推し) — my favorite *recommendation
- とうとい (Toutoi | 尊い) — precious, valuable
- ぬま (Numa | 沼) — addicted to something *swamp
- れきじょ (Rekijo | 歴女) — female history enthusiast *history girl
- りあじゅう (Riajuu | リア充) — sociable people, people enjoying the real-life, hipster *real fullness
- もえる (Moeru | 萌える) — to feel affection, to find something cute or fascinating
- なえる (Naeru | 萎える) — to feel down, slightly depressed
- かみげー (Kamigee | 神ゲー) — a great game, masterpiece *god game
- むりげー (Murigee | 無理ゲー) — an unreasonable game or extremely difficult game *impossible game
- しゃちく (Shachiku | 社畜) — corporate slave *company slave
- しおたいおう (Shio Taiou | 塩対応) — unfriendly attitude, cold and distant *salty reaction
- なかのひと (Naka no Hito | 中の人) — a voice actor or suit actor *someone inside
- じたくけいびいん (Jitaku Keibiin | — 自宅警備員) — people who stay at home a lot *home security guard
Frequently Used Japanese Slang List
Below are common Japanese slang words you might hear repeatedly. There are many words with multiple meanings, so it’s necessary to understand the context correctly to get what the native speaker means.
Japanese Slang List: Feelings and Mental State
The ones you’ll find below are slang words related to emotions or feelings that a person may have.
- やばい (Yabai | ヤバい) — dangerous, terrible, cute, fun, sad, cool
- うざい (Uzai | ウザい) — annoying, unpleasant
- きもい (Kimoi | キモ い) — disgusting, creepy *きもちがわるい (Kimochigawarui | 気持ちが悪い)
- ださい (Dasai | ダサい) — out of fashion, unsophisticated *うざったい (Uzattai)
- はずい (Hazui | ハズい) — embarrassing, shameful *はずかしい (Hazukashii | 恥ずかしい)
- むずい (Muzui | ムズい) — difficult, complicated *むずかしい (Muzukashii | 難しい）)
- えもい (Emoi | エモい) — feel sentimental, moving
- せつない (Setusnai | 切ない) — feel nostalgic, heart-aching
- うける (Ukeru | ウケる) — funny, amusing
- いけてる (Iketeru | イケてる) — cool, fashionable
- むかつく (Mukatsuku | ムカ つく) — to feel nauseous, to feel annoyed
- いらつく (Iratsuku | イラつく) — to get annoyed and frustrating
- きれる | キレる (Kireru | 切れる) — to get angry
- びびる (Bibiru | ビビる) — to get surprised, to be scared
- てんぱる (Tenparu | テンパる) — to freak out, to get nervous
- ぱにくる (Panikuru | パニクる) — to panic, to get nervous
- でぃする (Disuru | ディスる) — to deny, to speak ill of
- もる (Moru | 盛る) — to decorate, to embellish stories
Japanese Slang List: People and Relationships
Here are slang words that describe people and relationships.
- いけめん (Ikemen | イケメン) — pretty boy, hot guys *cool men
- いくめん (Ikumen | イクメン) — men who are active in childcare
- いけおじ (Ikeoji | イケオジ) — good looking middle-aged men *cool Mister
- びまじょ (Bimajo | 美魔女) — beautiful middle-aged women *beautiful witch
- あらさー (Ara Saa | アラサー) — people around 30 years old *around 30
- あらふぉー (Ara Foo| アラフォー) — people around 40 years old *around 40
- あらふぃふ (Ara Fifu | アラフィフ) — people around 50 years old *around 50
- もとかれ (Moto Kare | 元カレ、元彼) — ex-boyfriend
- もとかの (Moto Kano | 元カノ、元彼女) — ex-girlfriend
- いまかれ (Ima Kare | 今カレ、今彼) — current boyfriend
- いまかの (Ima Kano | 元カノ、今彼女) — current girlfriend
15 Japanese Slang Phrases
Lastly, below are different slang phrases.
- まじ | マジ (Maji?| 本気) — Seriously?
- うそ | ウソ (Uso! | 嘘) — You’re kidding!
- ほんとう(Hontou? | 本当) — Really?
- ぶっとばすぞ (Buttobasuzo! | ぶっ飛ばすぞ) — I’ll kick your ass!
- そっこうでかえろう(Sukkou de kaerou. | 速攻で帰ろう ) — Let’s go home right away.
- おやにまじぎれされた (Oya ni Majigire sareta | 親にマジ切れされた) — I was seriously scolded by my parents.
- じみにかわいい (Jimini kawaii. | 地味に可愛い) — It’s not flashy but cute.
- ふつうにおもしろい (Futsuuni omoshiroi. | 普通に面白い) — This is pretty funny.
- ちょうおいしい (Chou oishii. | 超美味しい) — It’s super delicious.
- わんちゃんまにあうかもしれない (Wan chan maniaukamoshirenai. | ワンチャン間に合うかもしれない) — I may make it on time.
- まぶだちとのみかいにいった (Mabudachi to nomikai ni itta. | マブダチと飲み会に行った) — I went to a drinking party with my close friends.
- くうきをよもうよ (Kuuki wo yomouyo. | 空気を読もうよ) — Why don’t you read the atmosphere?
- じょうしにどんびきした (Joushi ni Donbiki shita. | 上司にドン引きした) — I was turned off by my boss.
- りょうかいどうちゅうひざくりげ (Ryoukai Douchu Hizakurige! | 了解道中膝栗毛) — Roger!
- ぶるどっぐはぶさかわいい (Burudoggu wa busakawaii. | ブルドッグはブサ可愛い) —Bulldogs are ugly cute.
Helpful Online Slang Dictionary
If you would come across unfamiliar slang words, these are helpful resources that you can refer to. There are dictionaries specifically used for Japanese slang.
Nihongo Zokugo Jisho (にほんごぞくごじしょ | 日本語俗語辞書)
It’s a Japanese-Japanese dictionary where you can find the Romaji reading, how and when the word was born, and which category the word belongs to. This online dictionary covers a broad range of Japanese slang phrases and words.
Japaslang: Japanese Slang Dictionary
You can learn Japanese slang thoroughly in this online dictionary. It offers pronunciations, meanings, and synonyms for each slang. In addition to that, there is example Japanese sentences with Furigana (ふりがな | 振り仮名) and English translations.
Sounds like Slang? Extra Grammatical Tips
As we know already, language continuously grows and adapts. The Japanese language has tendencies called Fluctuation of Japanese or Discrepancy of Japanese (にほんごのみだれ | Nihongo no Midare | 日本語の乱れ). It could be useful information for learning Japanese, so let’s take a quick look.
Widely Misapplied Sounds by Younger Generation
There are some letters native speakers often leave off or add extra while they talk and write. It’s grammatically wrong, but some people use it without realizing the impropriety. There are numerous words listed in these.
Knowing verb conjugations and further grammatical terms is required to understand these precisely, but we will give you some easy-to-recognize tips here. For instance,
◯: Grammatically Correct Japanese
- たべられる (Taberareru | 食べられる) — can eat
- しっている (Shitteiru | 知っている) — to know
- いわせる (Iwaseru | 言わせる) — let say
- かける (Kakeru | 書ける) — can write
△: Misused Japanese
- たべれる (Tebereru | 食べれる)— can eat *Ra Nuki Kotoba
- しってる (Shitteru | 知ってる) — to know *I Nuki Kotoba
- いわさせる (Iwasaseru | 言わさせる) — let say *Sa Ire Kotoba
- かけれる (Kakereru | 書けれる) — can write *Re Tasu Kotoba
Ra Nuki Kotoba (らぬきことば | ら抜き言葉) means a word without Ra (ら) in the potential verb form. Similarly, I Nuki Kotoba (いぬきことば | い抜き言葉) is without I (い), mainly in Japanese adjectives and verbs. There are also Sa Ire Kotoba (さいれことば | さ入れ言葉) and Re Tasu Kotoba (れたすことば | れ足す言葉), which add an unneeded sound to certain verbs.
Words with the Transposition of Sounds
Have you heard the term metathesis? It’s the transposition of sounds or syllables in a word. It’s called On I Tenkan (おんいてんかん | 音位転換) in Japanese, and not a very uncommon phenomenon.
The left-side words are the correct pronunciations and spelling, but you might occasionally hear and see them differently. Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro has some scenes of children mispronouncing common words. For instance,
◯: Correct pronunciation → △: Metathesis
- とうもろこし (Toumorokoshi | トウモロコシ) — corn → とうもころし (Toumokoroshi |トウモコロシ)
- げんいん (Genin | 原因) — cause, reason → げいいん (Geiin | 原因)
- ふんいき (Funiki | 雰囲気) — mood, atmosphere → ふいんき (Fuinki | 雰囲気)
The Real Life is Full of Slang and Casual Speech
Knowing polite speech and expression are vital features of a language. Although, learning casual conversation and slang will support your Japanese language skills and extend your view of the world.
If you are interested in learning the Japanese language quickly, try some Japanese comics, TV programs, and YouTube videos. In a short while, you’ll recognize dozens of new Japanese words, and you will be able to understand a lot more about the language and people.
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