“Wait” in Japanese — Essential Phrases for Social Situations

Today we tackle the topic of how to say “wait” in Japanese. It’s a simple expression that goes a long way, and there are a few ways to get the job done. In this article, we give you all you need to know about the different ways to say wait in Japanese and the context in which they are used.

two girls sitting down while waiting

So kick back, get those thinking caps, and let’s get learning!

What is “wait” in Japanese

The verb for “wait” in Japanese is まつ (matsu | 待つ). This is an (u)-verb – it is a regular verb and follows all of the normal conjugation rules. It is a really popular Japanese verb to come across just by the imperative nature of this command in any language.

Moreover, it’s one of the simplest kanji characters to be found in the language (N5 level), so if you haven’t already, you’re likely to be getting a handle on this one in no time!

Different ways to say wait in Japanese

As long-term students of the language know, Japanese is all about status. In a very real way, you could say that every single expressive thought in Japanese has a polite and impolite equivalent – and there are even levels among those!

That being said, it’s super important to make the distinction between levels of respect and formality as you grow to master the language. Here are all the ways to say “wait” in Japanese, from formal to informal.

Note: Keep in mind that many of these endings are applicable to other verbs and expressions, so this doubles as a mini-grammar lesson as well!

“Please wait” in Japanese

This is the more formal way to say wait in Japanese. It is something said by professionals – shopkeepers, civil workers, businessmen, etc. – to guests or those who are being served when they are being requested to wait. Since it is so high on the formality charts, it’s usually a little excessive to say unless you’re stationed at one of these positions.

Remember that the Japanese お(o) is an honorific prefix added to certain words for extra politeness and respect. This is a set expression used thusly and usually used all on its own.

おまちください (omachi kudasai | お待ちください)

Please wait.

Another way to say “please wait” in Japanese

All things considered, this is the most common way to ask someone to wait in Japanese. It’s just formal enough to be used to with strangers in practically any situation, but it’s also informal enough to be said to friends and family.

Remember that the て (te) form of any verb, when used in this way, makes it a command. Adding ください (kudasai) to the ending simply makes it more polite. Learn more about using Japanese Verbs if you need a refresher!

うんてんまえにくるまはきれいになるのをまってください (unten mae ni kuruma ha kireininaru no wo matte kudasai | 運転前に車はきれいになるのを待ってください)

Please wait until the car is clean before driving it.

“Wait a minute” in Japanese

Here’s another super common way to say wait in Japanese. This expression can be heard everywhere where the culture is to be found. This phrase is placid and normal… it’s what you’d say to your friends or family members on a regular basis, in a simple way. This expression usually stands on its own as a command.

ちょっとまって (chotto matte | ちょっと待って)

Wait a minute. / Just a moment.

If you want to add “please,” just add ください (kudasai) at the end.

ちょっとまってください (chotto matte kudasai | ちょっと待ってください)

Please wait a minute.

What does まってて (mattete) mean in Japanese?

You may have heard this double て (te) used in place of the regular solo て (te)-form in Japanese, especially with this verb. Well, this expression is actually the shorthand version of (matteiru) which is the continuous action of the verb まつ (matsu|待つ).

(matteiru) means to “be waiting.”

Therefore, 待ってて is more of a “wait here (for a bit), and someone or something will be with you shortly.” Usually, when this is used plainly between friends, it kinda just means, “Be right back (brb)!”

Saying “wait” as a command

Last but not least for today, we have the strong command form of wait in Japanese, which is まちなさい (machi nasai|待ちなさい). This is primarily used toward kids from parents, angry higher-ups toward their inferiors in the office, or in a joking manner.

Remember, the なさい (nasai) form follows the ます(masu) form, or base form of a verb, and reflects a strong command by the speaker. Sometimes, when the honorific お precedes the command, it becomes a very polite command used in the most honorable way.

Is it okay to use おねがいします (onegaishimasu)?

You are probably wondering whether or not we can use おねがいします (onegaishimasu | お願いします) in place of ください with this expression. Well, the truth is that it would sound kind of weird to say this in Japanese.

Some expressions are so commonly said with ください (kudasai) that using a more formal substitute sounds weird (unless it’s another set phrase that’s commonly used, of course). In these cases, just follow the cliche and stick to the commonly-observed expression, or risk sounding like an uninformed foreigner!

Other words that mean “wait” in Japanese

Finally, these expressions for “wait” in Japanese have particular contexts and are rarely used, but here they are anyway!

たいきにする (taiki ni suru|待機にする) – to standby

きゅうをできない (kyuu wo dekinai|急を出来ない) – it can wait (literally “it can’t be a rush”)

まちどうしくてたまらない (machidoushikute tamaranai | 待ち遠しくてたまらない) – to say that you “absolutely can’t wait” for something


In conclusion, mastering how to say “wait” in Japanese opens up a world of possibilities in social situations. Whether you need more time to get ready while your friend is ready to go or you’re still thinking about what to order while the waiter patiently waits, this versatile phrase comes to your rescue.

But remember, the level of formality matters. Respecting Japanese etiquette ensures smooth interactions and avoids unintentional offense. How will you use this handy phrase in your everyday interactions? Share your thoughts below!

がんばってください (ganbatte kudasai)! ^^

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