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The Real Meaning of Japanese “Dattebayo” (だってばよ)

The Real Meaning of Japanese “Dattebayo” (だってばよ)

 Anime is an endless source of fascinating Japanese words and expressions.

Most of the time, these come from colloquial Japanese, making anime a useful way to make your Japanese more natural.

Sometimes, though, the things anime characters say don’t really make much sense.

Let’s take a look at「~だってばよ」(dattebayo), Naruto’s catchphrase, and see which category it falls into.

 

What does 「~だってばよ」(dattebayo) mean in Japanese?

Naruto’s catchphrase,「~だってばよ」(dattebayo), is replaced in the English version with “Believe it!” However, according to numerous Japanese Q&A websites, it is actually more or less meaningless and simply functions like the emphasis particle よ (yo).

The parts of the expression can be broken down to だ (da), the colloquial version of the copula, ってば (tteba), meaning “like I said,” and よ (yo), the emphasis particle.

While you could think of 「~だってばよ」 as meaning “It’s like I already told you!” or “Believe it!” based on that, it’s still not really an actual Japanese expression and you should probably avoid using it in your own speech.

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「~だってばよ」(dattebayo): The short version

Put simply, this phrase is simply a neat catchphrase from the Naruto manga and anime.

In Naruto, this expression is either spoken by itself or added onto the end of something else the main character Naruto says.

Although it’s translated as “Believe it!” in the English localization of the series, the actual phrase doesn’t mean much of anything and simply serves to add flavor and a unique, childish brashness to Naruto’s dialog.

That means you shouldn’t use 「だってばよ」 when speaking Japanese (unless you want to let people know you’re really into Naruto).

The individual parts of the expression do actually mean something, though. Let’s take a quick look at the components of だってばよ.

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だ (da): the colloquial copula

The だ (da) in だってばよ is the casual version of the copula です (desu).

Grammatically, です and だ function similarly to the English helping verbs “is” and “are,” filling in for a verb in sentences that simply state the existence of things.

Although that’s a bit of an oversimplification, it’s close enough for our purposes here.
 

Examples

「そうだ!」 “That’s right!”
「これはぺんだ。」 “This is a pen.”

In both these sentences, the だ serves simply to state that something exists.

In the second example, that thing is a pen.

The first is a little more complex. そう (sou) means something like “so” or “right.” Combined with だ, you get “That’s right.”

 

No, really: the meaning of 「~ってば」 (tteba)

「~ってば」 (tteba) is a colloquial expression used to reassert something the speaker has already stated. It can also be used to strongly emphasize something the speaker has implied.

To use ってば, simply add it to the end of a sentence, after either a conjugated verb or the copula. Because ってば is colloquial, you should also use the casual version of the copula, だ.

Alternately, だってば, can appear at the front of a sentence, where it just means something like “Like I said,” or “I told you already.”

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This expression can actually be broken down a little more, into って (tte), meaning “said,” and ば (ba), an emphasis particle similar to よ.

って can be used by itself to state that someone said something, as in「彼女は行きたいって。」 (she said she wants to go).

ば, on the other hand, doesn’t really appear by itself outside of expressions like だってば.
 

Examples

「大丈夫ですか?元気ないみたい。」

「だってば、昨日全然寝なかったよ。」

“Are you alright? You don’t look too good.”

“I told you already, last night I didn’t sleep at all.”

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Here, だってば serves to make it clear that the second speaker has already explained about their poor sleep.

「ああ、もう食べたいってば!」

“Geez, I want to eat already!”

The って part isn’t translated into English in this example, because we probably wouldn’t add “I said” to a sentence like this, but it sounds perfectly natural in Japanese.

 

よ (yo): The humble emphasis particle

The よ at the end of だってばよ is just the emphasis particle.

You can add よ to the end of any sentence to emphasize what you’re saying.

Be cautious, though, because overuse of it might make people wonder why you’re so worked up all the time.

There isn’t really an English equivalent to よ, so it’s usually just represented by an exclamation mark or a strident tone of voice.
 

Examples

「そうだよ!本当に!」

“That’s right! Really!”

「ナルトの『そうだってばよ』は現実に言わないよ。」

“Nobody says Naruto’s ‘soudattebayo’ in real life!”

 

Japanese people’s explanations for 「~だってばよ」 (dattebayo)

It might be a bit disappointing to learn that だってばよ doesn’t really mean anything in Japanese.

If it’s any consolation, judging from the number of questions about it on Japanese-language question and answer websites a lot of Japanese people don’t quite understand the phrase either.

Here is a selection of some of the more common, or just interesting, responses to the question of what だってばよ means in Japanese, sourced from Yahoo Japan’s Chiebukuro sevice.
 

It’s a made up expression

This is by far the most common answer.

Most Japanese people think だってばよ is a coinage by Masashi Kishimoto, the creator of the Naruto series, and that it basically is a stand-in for よ.

Frustratingly, I wasn’t able to hunt down an actual citation of Kishimoto explaining the phrase or saying for certain it’s a word he coined.
 

It comes from Naruto’s mother

One respondent to this question suggests Naruto’s catchphrase is something he picked up from his mother, who supposedly says ってばね (ttebane), a much softer expression that might mean something like “Don’t you think?”

Naruto, of course, is a very energetic young boy, so he swaps the ね for よ.
 

It’s a corruption of either Tokyo dialect’s だったらよ (dattarayo) or of the Kanto dialect’s だっぺよ (dappeyo)

User Hiroshi Kozou suggests that the phrase might have its origins in expressions common to two different dialects.

One is the phrase だったらよ (dattarayo), a common expression in the Tokyo dialect (the version of Japanese that’s officially taught in schools).

だったら (dattara) means “If that’s the case,” while よ, again, serves to add emphasis.

Another is the phrase だっぺよ (dappeyo), from だっぺ (dappe), a Kanto region expression that means roughly the same thing as でしょう (deshou) or だろう (darou).

In other words, it can be used as a softer form of です (desu) or だ (da) to state that something exists in a non-emphatic way.

However, as the answerer says, he hasn’t really heard either of these used in real life in the same way as Naruto uses だってばよ.
 

It’s something a teenage girl would say

Interestingly, one user, Tazaki Tatsuko, claims to have heard someone say だってばよ when she was a child, although she also repeats that it just means the same thing as だってば or よ.

However, she says it’s a very childish, girlish thing to say. This might seem farfetched if you only know this phrase because of Naruto, but in fact it’s pretty accurate.

「だってば」 has similar overtones in some cases to an English-speaking teenaged girl saying “Oh my god!
 

It marks Naruto as a “child of Edo”

In the lengthiest explanation I saw, an anonymous user says the expression marks Naruto as a “child of Edo,” an old name for Tokyo.

In the end, though, this user also agrees that だってばよ is basically just the same thing as よ.

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