Have you heard the phrase “mada mada?” Perhaps you’re a fan of the video game Overwatch, or you enjoy manga or anime. This article explains the meaning and origin of the idiom “mada mada,” how to use the phrase correctly in context, and other phrases you can use to convey the same meaning.
“Mada mada” is a Japanese slang phrase that means “not yet” or “not good enough” in English. However, in context, the phrase is most often said sarcastically in a deprecating way, meaning “pathetic.”
The phrase “mada mada” is a commonly used idiom in the Japanese language. It’s often followed by the word “desu,” and the combination of phrases generally indicates that one has a long way to go.
For example, when a music instructor compliments their student’s musical skill, the student may reply, “mada mada desu.” This would mean that the student feels that they have a long way to go before they feel confident in their skills.
Similarly, when asked whether their piece is finished, an artist might reply “mada mada” to indicate that they had more work left to do before it would be finished. Depending on the context, this may be a statement of fact or intended in a self-deprecating way.
“Mada mada” has been a commonly used term in Japanese culture for a long time. It frequently appears in anime and manga, such as in the show Jujutsu Kaisen, where you can hear it in the original Japanese.
Outside of manga and anime fans, the phrase “mada mada” became popularized in Western culture by the character Genji in the video game Overwatch. In the character selection menu, when Genji is selected, he says the phrase, “mada mada.”
Among Overwatch fans, this phrase is so commonly known that it’s become a meme. There are multiple YouTube videos where Genji repeats the two-second phrase for anywhere from 30 seconds to an hour.
Similar Phrases & Synonyms
The idiom “mada mada” has several nuanced meanings, most of which can be conveyed in English using other familiar phrases and idioms. Such examples include:
- “Not yet.” This phrase can suggest waiting before doing something or a statement that something hasn’t yet occurred.
- “Not good enough.” This phrase is similar to the taunting version of “mada mada,” as in telling someone else that their efforts aren’t good enough.
- “Not finished.” In manga and anime, this phrase often indicates that a confrontation isn’t yet over or that a person isn’t done fighting.
- “It’s not over until the fat lady sings.” This American colloquialism is a way of saying something isn’t over until it’s over.
“Mada mada” generally indicates that something is unfinished. To express the opposite, use phrases that suggest that something is completed, such as:
- “Voila!” In French, this phrase, which means “there it is,” is often said in pop culture during the big reveal of a completed work or project.
The phrase “mada mada” is supremely versatile and can be used in a variety of contexts. However, it’s not likely to be understood among most English speakers.
While there’s nothing technically incorrect about using the phrase in conversation with people from Western countries, it isn’t as effective as an idiom unless you use it with the right audience.