Japanese Proverb: 三日坊主

ことわざ kotowaza: proverb or saying

Today, I was reminded of a proverb:

「三日坊主」 mikka bouzu

literal meaning: a monk/priest for 3 days

What it really means is someone who seems enthusiastic about something at first, but then cannot stick with it for more than 3 days. Like someone who suddenly decides to be religiously devout, but then after 2 days of trying to be a Buddhist priest/monk they give up or lose interest by the 3rd day. So it is often used to describe people who give up on things easily. I cannot think of a really equivalent English phrase at the moment. Maybe faint of heart or fickle are somewhat close.




2 thoughts on “Japanese Proverb: 三日坊主

    1. In Japanese it is a “yojijukugo” (四字熟語), 4 character “phrase”… I couldn’t think of the best English equivalent, so I left it generically under the category “proverb” since Japanese yojijukugo fall under the category of “proverb” (kotowaza ことわざ); though kotowaza can include short sayings (言い習わし iinarawashi) and idiomatic phrases (慣用句 kanyouku) as well. But probably the more specific category of “idiom” or “saying” or “word combo” as you suggest is better. I don’t know if this specific yujijukugo can be considered a proverb, or maybe it is just an idiom, I am not sure, so maybe I need to come up with a new category (perhaps I will change it to proverbs and idioms). And many of these 4-character phrases came from Chinese literature!


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