Big list of Japanese Mahjong terminology

Yo, this is UmaiKeiki once again. This post comes at the request of MOUIKKAI who wanted some kind of glossary of basic game terms so we can translate stuff.

This probably came about because Osamu and Fukuchi-sensei read each other’s blogs and discovered how English and Japanese abbreviate three-player mahjong:

三人麻雀 = 三麻 (sanma)
3-player mahjong = 3p

I’ll also try to include a list of common English terms that differ from the Japanese. Obviously I can only include the most common words or else this post would never end…

English list

Here’s a list of commonly used English terms that differ from the Japanese equivalent to some extent. In most cases this is due to the influence of card games like rummy and poker.

dealer oya (親) The name Mahjong refers to sparrows, so one person is the Oya (parent), and the others are Ko (children).
walls yama (山) Means “mountains”.
dead wall wanpai (王牌) Means “royal tiles”. Insert “wang tiles” joke here.
dragons sangenpai (三元牌) Means “three elements”. The individual tiles are often referred to by colour in the West because players are not expected to learn the characters.
suit shoku (色) Means “colour”.
meld mentsu (面子) “Meld” comes from rummy, the card game most closely related to mahjong.
set koutsu (刻子) “Set” also comes from rummy; a common alternative is “3 of a kind” from poker.
run shuntsu (順子) “Run” comes from rummy; “Straight” from poker.

Japanese list

Here’s the list of basic game terms in Japanese, with kanji given whenever possible. You probably won’t need many of the kanji, though, as mahjong terms seem to be frequently written in katakana. This list won’t cover yaku names (which you can get here) and slang terms (in which case the list would never end). I’m not a Japanese expert so don’t hesitate to make corrections or suggestions!

agari 和がり Winning a hand, e.g. tsumo-agari, ron-agari.
aidayonken 間四軒 An interval of four between two discarded number tiles. Usually indicates dangerous waits.
akapai 赤牌 Red tiles that count as Dora. Usually (but not always) 5’s.
an Means “dark”, refers to tiles that are concealed in the hand.
anjun 暗順 A concealed Shun tsu.
ankan 暗槓 A concealed, but claimed, Kan tsu.
ankou 暗刻 A concealed Kou tsu.
anpai 安牌 Safe tile.
aotenjuu 青天井 No limits, e.g. 5-han 30-fu becomes worth 15400 points instead of being capped at Mangan (8000).
atama The pair in a standard mahjong hand (four mentsu and one pair). Also “jantou”.
atamahane 頭跳ね A rule that allows only one Ron at a time; the closest to the discarder in turn order takes priority.
atozuke 先付け A rule that allows hands without yaku to Ron if the winning tile would create a yaku.
awaseuchi 合わせ打ち Discarding the same tile as someone else, to avoid dealing into their hand.
ba A “wind round”, e.g. tonba (east round) or nanba (south round).
bakaze 場風 Round wind.
barai 払い A payment (also “furikomi”).
bazoro 場ゾロ The two base Han used when calculating score, given by default rather than from yaku.
betaori ベタ降り A strategy that focuses entirely on avoiding dealing into opponents’ hands, with no intention of advancing one’s own hand.
chakan 加槓 A Kan tsu that was upgraded from a Min Kou.
chii チー The call used to make a Min Jun from an opponent’s discard.
chombo 冲合 A penalty that results in a Mangan payment and restarts the current round.
chunchan 中張 The tiles numbered 2 through 8. Also “tanyao”.
daburon ダブロン A rule that allows two people to Ron the same tile.
daiminkan 大明槓 An open Kan made by calling a discarded tile.
damaten 黙聴 Tenpai without calling Riichi.
Digital デジタル A school of thought that opposes Occult and believes that the outcome of a game can be explained by probability and statistics.
dorahyouji ドラ表示 The dora indicator.
fu A unit used to measure the difficulty of a hand’s composition when calculating score.
furikomi 振り込み A payment, also “barai”.
furiten 振聴 To be Tenpai and waiting on a tile that you have already discarded.
fuutei 副底 The 20 base Fu used when calculating score, given by default rather than from composition.
genbutsu 現物 A 100% safe tile.
haipai 配牌 The distribution of tiles to all players at the beginning of a round.
haiteihai 海底牌 The last drawable tile in the wall.
haiyama 牌山 The “walls” from which tiles are drawn.
han A unit used to measure the value of yaku when calculating score.
hanchan 半荘 A game consisting of an East and South round. Most common in Japanese Mahjong.
harabote 腹ボテ A Shanpon or Tanki wait embedded inside a Shuntsu. For example, 4556 waiting on 5.
honba 本場 The number of consecutive Ren Chans, usually indicated by 100-point sticks.
houjuu 放銃 To deal into a hand.
houra 和了 To win a hand, e.g. Tsumo-hou, Ron-hou. Also found in a few yaku names like “Toitoi-hou”.
houteihai 河底牌 The tile discarded by the player who just drew the Haitei-hai.
iichan 一荘 A game consisting of East, South, West, and North rounds. More common in Chinese variants.
ikasama イカサマ To cheat using sleight of hand, etc.
inchiki インチキ To cheat using hacks, bug exploits, etc.
jantou 雀頭 The pair in a standard mahjong hand (four mentsu and one pair). Also “atama”.
jigokumachi 地獄待ち A wait in which all but one of the winning tiles are visible or claimed.
jihai 字牌 Character tiles (sangenpai + kazehai).
jikaze 自風 Seat wind.
jun The turn number within a round.
kabe A tile-counting technique that measures the possibility of someone making Shuntsu based on how many instances of a tile are visible.
kamicha 上家 The player to your left.
kantsu 槓子 A meld of four identical tiles. Must be removed from the hand to be claimed as a Kan.
kanchan 嵌張 A wait that completes the inside of a Shuntsu, e.g. 46 waiting on 5.
kandora カンドラ A rule that causes more Dora indicators to be flipped when a Kan is made.
kazehai 風牌 Wind tiles.
kikenhai 危険牌 Dangerous tile.
kiru 切る To discard a tile.
koutsu 刻子 A meld of three identical tiles.
kuikae 喰い替え A rule that allows you to call a tile, then discard another tile that could have completed the meld. For example, to Chi 123 and discard a 4.
kuisagari 喰い下がり A property of some yaku that reduces the Han value by 1 when the hand is open.
kuitan 喰い断 A rule that allows Tanyao to be open.
kyoku A round that begins with the dealing of tiles and ends with the declaration of a win or draw. 4 per wind round, e.g. East 1st round, East 2nd round, etc.
machi 待ち A tenpai hand’s wait, e.g. Ryanmen, Kanchan, etc.
manzu 萬子 The suit consisting of a kanji number plus 萬, meaning 10000.
mawashiuchi 回し打ち Attempting to both win a hand and deal only safe tiles. Pretty hard unless you have really good radar.
mentsu 面子 The melds: Kou tsu, Shun tsu, and Kan tsu.
menzen 門前 A fully closed hand (no open melds).
min Means “light”, refers to tiles that have been exposed by calling.
minjun 明順 An open Shun tsu made by calling a discarded tile.
minkou 明刻 An open Kou tsu made by calling a discarded tile.
naki 鳴き Calling a discarded tile (Pon, Chi, or Kan).
nan South.
No Ten bappu ノーテン罰符 A payment made at the end of a round by those who are not Tenpai (or choose not to reveal their hands) to those who are Tenpai.
nobetan 延べ単 A double Tanki wait, e.g. 4567 waiting on 4 or 7.
nukidora 抜きドラ A tile that counts as Dora when extracted from the hand, e.g. flower tiles or the Pei in Tenhou’s 3p.
Occult オカルト A school of thought that opposes Digital and believes that the outcome of a game is affected by luck, flow, Mahjong demons, etc.
oikakeriichi 追いかけリーチ Riichi roulette. To make a Riichi declaration after someone else rather than defend.
okurikan 送り槓 A Kan left undeclared in order to use the tiles for other melds, e.g. 333345 = (333) (345).
oorasu オーラス The final round of a game (South 4th round in a Han Chan). Probably a contraction of English “all last”.
otakaze 客風 Non-bonus winds. For example, if you are South seat in East round, then your Otakaze are West and North.
pao A property of certain yakuman that causes one person to be responsible for the whole payment if they discarded the tile that made it a yakuman.
pei North.
penchan 辺張 A wait consisting of 12 waiting on 3, or 89 waiting on 7.
pinzu 筒子 The suit consisting of dot patterns.
pon ポン The call used to make a Min Kou from an opponent’s discard.
renchan 連荘 A continuation of dealer position because the dealer either won or was tenpai at the end of the round.
riipai 理牌 Arranging the tiles in your hand.
rinshanpai 嶺上牌 The tile drawn after making a Kan.
ron A win using an opponent’s discard.
routouhai 老頭牌 The tiles numbered 1 and 9.
ryankan 両嵌 Two Kanchan shaped taatsu merged together, e.g. 357 which can be completed by either 4 or 6.
ryanmen 両面 A two-sided wait, e.g. 56 waiting on 4 or 7.
ryuukyoku 流局 A drawn game.
saikoro 骰子 The dice.
sangenpai 三元牌 Haku, Hatsu, and Chun.
sashikomi 差し込み Intentionally dealing into an opponent’s hand.
shaa 西 West.
shabo シャボ Abbreviation of Shanpon.
shanten 向聴 Number of tiles needed to reach Tenpai.
shanpon 双ポン A wait consisting of two pairs, one of which must be upgraded to a Kou tsu.
shibori 絞り Holding on to tiles that an opponent would otherwise be likely to Pon or Chi.
shimocha 下家 The player to your right.
shonpai 生牌 A “live tile”, i.e. has not yet been discarded this round.
shuntsu 順子 A meld of 3 tiles in sequence.
shuupai 数牌 Number tiles. Also “suupai”.
souzu 索子 The suit consisting of patterns of bamboo sticks.
suji The tiles that complete Ryanmen waits. The basis for many discard reading theories. Means “muscle”.
suteru 捨てる To discard a tile.
suupai 数牌 Number tiles. Also “shuupai”.
taatsu 塔子 A tile pattern that can be turned into a Shun tsu with one more tile. For example, 46 can be completed with a 5.
tanyaohai 断幺牌 The tiles numbered 2 through 8. Also “chun chan hai”.
tanki 単騎 A wait on a single tile to complete the pair (jantou).
tenbou 点棒 Point sticks.
tenpai 聴牌 A hand that needs only one tile to win.
toitsu 対子 A pair of identical tiles.
toimen 対面 The player sitting directly across from you.
ton East.
tonpuusen 東風戦 A game consisting of an East only round.
tsumo 自摸 A self-drawn tile. Usually announced when winning a hand, but can refer to any drawn tile.
tsumokiri ツモ切り Discarding the tile that was just drawn.
uradora 裏ドラ Additional dora which can be earned by winning with Riichi.
wanpai 王牌 The “dead” section of wall that can’t be used except for Dora indicators and Kan draws.
wareme 割れ目 A rule that doubles any payment involving the player whose wall was broken at the start of the round.
yakitori 焼き鳥 A rule that requires players to win at least one hand or pay a penalty.
yaku A scoring pattern in the hand that awards Han, such as Tanyao or Toitoi.
yaochuuhai 幺九牌 The tiles numbered 1 and 9 (routouhai) plus characters (jihai).
zentsuppa 全ツッパ A strategy that attempts to win a hand at all costs while ignoring the possibility of dealing into an opponent’s hand.

26 thoughts on “Big list of Japanese Mahjong terminology

  1. Hi! I’m Benjamin. I don’t think we’ve corresponded before, but I’d like to say that I think your blog is really excellent. This entry in particular is a great resource; thanks for taking the time to put it together.

    I’ve always wanted to put together a comprehensive list of these but could never get started. In the hopes that you can make one, here’s some additions/corrections:

    first section

    discard kiru 切る (to cut)
    discard area kawa 河 (river)
    self-draw tsumoru 積もる (to pile up)

    second section

    aotenjuu 青天井 *should be aotenjou

    ariari アリアリ *rules which allow kuitan and atozuke. Most common basic set of rules in Japan.

    atozuke 先付け A rule that allows hands without yaku to Ron if the winning tile would create a yaku. *(This close, but not quite accurate. Playing without atozuke means you can’t claim a tile with a hand that doesn’t *already* have a yaku. So no calling for a shuntsu and *then* claiming a white dragon if that dragon is the only yaku you win on. It gets kinda complicated since if you have the dragon pon in your hand you’re fine even if you drew into it later)

    bakahon バカホン Slang for honitsu with no extra yaku. Generally a hand made only by beginners

    kawa 河 discard area
    kaze hai 風牌 wind tiles

    (kanzen) sakizuke(完全)先付け opposite of atozuke

    ikasama イカサマ To cheat using sleight of hand, etc.
    inchiki インチキ To cheat using hacks, bug exploits, etc. *(These are often used interchangeably. I think that inchiki is cheating in general, whereas ikasama is generally specific to physical mahjong. You rarely hear the latter in other contexts. I’ve heard the former at other game tournaments that didn’t involve computers)

    mawashiuchi 回し打ち Attempting to both win a hand and deal only safe tiles. Pretty hard unless you have really good radar. *(is also known as mawasu)

    mentanpin メンタンピン Abbreviation for riichi-tanyao-pinfu, a very common set of yaku

    nashi nashi ナシナシ opposite of ari ari

    oikakeriichi 追いかけリーチ Riichi roulette. To make a Riichi declaration after someone else rather than defend. *(I’m pretty sure this is okkake. 追っかけ)

    oka オカ bonnus for 1st place

    tenpin/tengo/tensan テンピン etc. Monetary rate of exchange in a Mahjong game. These three terms are the most common, 1000 points is converted to 100 yen, 50 yen and 30 yen respectively.

    uma ウマ bonus for people in 1st and 2nd paid at end of game by 4th and 3rd

    yamiten 闇テン same as damaten

    (pon and chi have kanji as well, although I’m sure you know they’re rarely used)

    There are lots more terms out there, but this is everything I could come up with right now. I hope it helps. Keep up the great work!

  2. Why hello there.

    Very nice list. At some point I’ll add them in along with some tenhostats terms that Alvin wanted.

    Also thanks for the corrections (although Senechal found some first — I’m just lazy.)

    I agree that there are lots more terms out there and we probably couldn’t list them all if we tried. I hope we can get a good solid list of the common ones, though.

  3. Here are some more terms (picked up from Saikyo no Mahjong 3D rule settings):

    ryanhan shibari 二飜縛り After 5 renchans, a 2 han minimum hand is needed for others to win against the dealer
    shaanyuu 西入 If after tonnansen no player has above 30k points, west round is started, with west as round wind
    hakoten (dobon) ハコテン (ドポン) Game ends when player or players drop below 0 points
    kandora sokunori 積ドラ即乗り Allows flipping of a new dora indicator after calling a kan
    tochuu ryuukoku 途中流局 Allows drawing the game in the middle of a round, for example after 4 same wind discards, 4 riichi calls, etc.
    karaten カラテン Situation in which a player waits for a tile to finish his hand, but that tile was already discarded 4 times. Depending on rules this can be perceived as no-ten or tenpai. Most often it’s tenpai, since usually tenpai does not take discarded tiles into account.
    kiriage mangan 切り上げ満貫 Dunno what it is, I’d like an explanation myself :)

    Cheers UmaiKeiki!

  4. >kiriage mangan 切り上げ満貫 Dunno what it is, I’d like an explanation myself :)

    Evil Dragon, by name, I’m assuming it is “mangan by approximation.” i.e., 30fu 4han becomes mangan instead of 7700, and such. A few videogames and places use it.

  5. I have some nice ones for the list that I seem to be reading a lot lately:

    高目(たかめ、高め、タカメ) takame – The specific tile in a multiple wait that gives you the most points. (11123789m789p78s, the takame would be 9s)

    安目(やすめ、安め、ヤスメ) yasume – The specific tile(s) in a multiple wait that gives you the least points. (11123789m789p78s, the yasume would be 6s)

    安手(やすで、ヤスデ) yasude – Cheap hand. Literally, and it is what it is.

    染め手some-te – A one suit (hon/chin itsu) hand. To “go for one suitters” would be 染める (someru). (Ever wondered why 染谷まこ Mako *Someya* only goes for one suitters?)

    Tenpane テンパネ (If I got this right off the website of the Japanese Mahjong Association… Your hand’s score gets powered up by the resulting fu from the agari. Kinda like, a takame but not because it gives off more fan, but because it gives off more fu. But I’m not a hundred percent sure this is the only or most definite deffinition for this)

  6. I saw fuhane for that last one, but let’s be honest… some concepts in Japanese mahjong don’t exist in the Western World, and others don’t really need to be translated. (that’s why I’m not sure if Tenpane is for the fu breaking over (12 fu … + 20 base + 10 menzen-ron*) or for a hand that can be worth haneman)

  7. I’m possitive tenpane is not haneman-wise. This is the explanation for the term:

    テンパネとは、加符要素が12符以上あって基本符から2回繰り上がりをすることを指す麻雀用語です。

    Which I would translate as, well, what I said up there. Taking advantage of the kiriage (“rounding up”?) of the fu when it becomes 12 instead of 10 to take the hand up a notch or whatnot. I came across this term twice in the same day (in the quiz answers and in the Mahjong Pro Association website) so I decided to throw it in.

    If we’re going to be possitive about it, no term needs translation, we could just say “13 orphans… all bumps… three concealed bumps” it’s all translated, really, but knowing terminology means more power to you, IIRC. Yay.

    I would say takame and yasume are great and useful terms on their own. How would you go about it? “your best out”? “Your worst out”? Then, I could come from a different region, and ask “what the hell is an ‘out’?”

    Also, if you want to understand what the heck the mahjong commentators are saying. In case you do.

    まぁ、せやけど、日本語分からへんかったらもっと難しくなんねんでぇ。ええわ。笑

  8. so fuhane and tenpane are the same thing, I don’t have my big glossary list that I was working on to check… there are a lot of terms that say the exact same thing.

    I’m not trying to say it’s wrong for say you or me to know what takame, yasume, sannoko or other terms mean. It’s just that a glossary should have a way to separate terms essential to game comprehension, to intermediate knowledge, to advanced language comprehension related to the gaming lexicon. I also trust your knowledge on this, as I’ve browsed your beginner’s guide “The 94 pages of everything a beginner should learn and love about Mahjong” in Spanish, of course, I pretended it was French and just kept reading. (I could still understand 98% of it.)

  9. If you say “fuhane” has the same definition, I’ll take your word for it, as I have yet to see the term, and makes a fair amount of sense. (as for fu are just [mini/basic] ten)
    These are terms that aren’t even on my mahjong books, so I have to thank the Japanese internetz for finding the terminology for me.

    Yeah, I’m well aware this isn’t basic knowledge, hence it’s not in the list but in a comment to it. w
    Thank you for reading even though it wasn’t on your native language. While our languages aren’t so different, I can imagine it takes some effort, even if it was on the same language. I’m thinking on translating it to a few more languages, but it already took me a year to do the Spanish version, and I still have to revise it for things I forgot to mention (Pinfu Ron/Pinfu Tsumo scoring, and what happens to the tsumo fu in case of rin shan).

    Even though, I find it ironic that “head bump” is alright while “pon” as “bump” isn’t, as the original chinese “peng” does mean bump. I’m not familiar with English terminology (except for the one used in the GameDesign flash game), so I wouldn’t be sure what’s alright and what’s not. I actually thought I saw something like “all bumps” in some English yaku chart somewhere, or I could have imagined it.

  10. Found it on konchan.
    てんパネ 点跳ね   符ハネのこと
    ふハネ 符跳ね 1 符が繰り上がること。点パネ。 「32符は~で40符」  
    2 門前のロンあがりなら50符以上、その他の場合40符以上になること。点パネ。 「自摸のみだけど~だから400・700だね」

    Given that, it’s not limited to 40fu (50fu for menzen ron) but that’s the basic threshold. 12 minipoints+ Makes you have to learn at least the second point column, and third. (1300 > 2600 > 5200 > 8000 and 1600 > 3200 > 6400 > 8000)

  11. wareme 割れ目 A rule that doubles any payment involving the player whose wall was broken at the start of the round.

    It means exactly as it says. Any payment, wins and losses.

    A mangan share would be doubled (2000-2000-4000 becomes either 2000-4000-4000 for 10k or 2000-2000-8000 for 12k if the wall cut on the dealer’s side. If you win a hand and have the wall cut in front of you, then it’s like scoring baiman (4000-4000-8000) for 16k.

    You can attempt to aim for rons on a certain player because essentially, you’re doubling the value of the hand (ignoring a haneman ron from player A because it could be worth double (sanbaiman equivalent) from player B.)

    That should be clear enough.

  12. Excellent info up there !

    Could you post some nice social expressions for playing, like :

    Well played !
    Nice try !
    Your turn
    I can’t decide !

    thanks

    1. You would be better off learning Japanese.

      #2 and #4 would never be said around a mahjong table with serious players. #1 even less so: if Mahjong is meant to gamble one’s pride or money (many people are physically incapable of doing either), “nice yakuman” isn’t an appropriate response to “I have to pay this guy 32000 points !? fuuuuuuuuuuck”.

      #3 I believe is “ban” for player’s turn. The action itself is also called “moda” (pick, discard). The “jun” mentioned above is one full turn of the table until/unless interrupted by a call.

      The lexicon is meant to translate technical mahjong terms, not jansou slang (tsume-shibo for cold towel) or to translate someone’s manga by proxy.

      1. Sorry I know this is almost a year late but oh well.

        who says he is playing with serious people? I only ever play with friends. He doesn’t have to play with mafia and hardcore gamblers.

        here are the answers (my translation anyways):

        well played – よく出来た yoku dekita
        nice try ! – 惜しい oshii (it technically means “close” as in you almost accomplished what you were trying to accomplish)

        your turn – 貴方の番です anato no ban desu
        I cant decide – (im going to give you a few options see below)

        決めれない kimerenai (literally, i can’t decide)
        どうしよう? dou shiyou? its like saying “what to do? what to do?”

        enjoy

    1. uke-ire is a bit nuanced, if I’m not mistaken it’s the amount of tiles you can draw to progress one shanten closer to tenpai or into tenpai. Note that it isn’t how many types of tiles, but the actual number of tiles left that you can account for. Tenhou.net has a page for calculating the uke-ire of any hand you give it, very useful for testing yourself or seeing if you made a mistake during a game.

      Here’s an example hand: http://tenhou.net/2/?q=23367m4457p23468s It shows us that discarding the 7p leaves us with 32 different instances of a tile that would progress our hand, along with the alternatives. Of course, this tool only knows the whereabouts of these tiles, and not the ones we would be able to see in a game such as the pond, called tiles, dora indicator(s), so sometimes your decision might be right even if it disagrees due to the information you have that it doesn’t.

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