Do you know what the Japanese proverb means? : 借りてきた猫( Karitekita Neko)



Many of you may think that it’s very useful in daily conversation to use proverbs, four-character idioms, when you speak in Japanese.

Each of them has a different meaning and origin.

How many do you know?


Today, I’m introducing a famous Japanese proverb “借りてきた猫 (Karitekita-neko)

Do you know what it means, and how it is used?


I’m telling you the meaning and the origin of the Japanese proverb, and the way it is used.

I hope you have fun using the proverb!



1. The meaning and the origin of the Japanese proverb “借りてきた猫”



借りてきた猫(Karitekita-neko)” literaly means a cat which I borrow.
The proverb is frequently used when you want to describe that someone is quieter than usual.


The proverb stems from the old custom that people often borrowed a cat for the purpose of catching mice or rats in their house.


Though people wanted to eliminate mice and rats and took a cat from a neighbor, the cat often became quiet in a house which was not his or hers and he/she didn’t work well.

It’s because a cat is an animal that has a strong territorial instinct, so it often doesn’t chase and catch rats in a different territory.


People found that a cat didn’t act as usual in a different environment, and created the proverb “借りてきた猫(Karitekita-neko).”

This is the origin of the Japanese proverb.



2. The way the Japanese proverb “借りてきた猫(Karitekita-neko)” is used.



You can use the Japanese proverb, when you want to describe that;


* a person becomes quieter when the environment around him changes

* a person becomes too cautious because of a different environment.


Usually the proverb is put at the start or the middle of a sentence, like “~借りてきた猫みたいに~.”

(“みたいに(mitaini)” means “it’s like ~” in English.)


Here, I give you some examples.


* うちの子は友達の家に行くと、借りてきた猫のようにおとなしくなる。
My son, as he is a cat I borrowed, becomes quiet when he visits a friend.


* 高校へ進学し環境に慣れず、借りてきた猫のようである。
After entering a highschool, he is like a cat borrowed because he hasn’t get accustomed into the atmosphere of the school.
* 女友達といる時はよく喋るのに、男性の前では猫のようになる。
She talks a lot with her girlfriends, but she becomes like a cat I borrowed, when she meets men.



The proverbs can express the situation that a person can’t open up to anyone, feels stressed and is different from usual, since he goes into an unusual environment for him.



How was it?

Maybe some of you may feel easy to describe what you feel, using widely-used Japanese proverbs and idioms, and also they sometimes work effectively when you want to tell someone exactly what you think in Japanese.

I hope you find something interesting in things what you know today, and have fun using it!