What is “Saa…(Japanese)”?

I often hear Japanese people say “Saa…” before saying anything else. What does “Saa…” mean?

Answer by Japanese teacher


(1) Saa さあ
Come on, well, now ~
(2) Saa… さあ…
I don’t know, I wonder, let me see.


(1)Come on, well, now ~
“Saa” is said decisively to prompt others to act quickly. It’s similar in meaning to “come on”, “well”, “now”.


A: A, ame ga yamimashita yo. あ、あめがやみましたよ。 (Oh, the rain has stopped.)
B: Yokatta. よかった。 (That’s great.)
A: Saa, dekakemashoo ka. さあ、でかけましょうか。 (Come on, let’s go out.)

(2)I don’t know, I wonder, let me see.
When “Saa” is said hesitantly and the “aa” sound is slightly dragged, it indicates your uncertainty over the subject matter. In this case, it is used when one is unsure or cannot make up one’s mind. It’s similar in meaning to “I don’t know…” “I wonder…” let me see…”.

Wife: Kachoo no okusama tte, hataraiteiru no? 課長かちょう奥様おくさまって、はたらいているの?
(Does the wife of your Section Chief work?)
Husband: Saa… さあ・・・ (I’m not sure…)

“Saa…” is also used to indicate a negative reply without actually saying the full sentence. In fact, it is used to avoid saying no (iie) directly. Let’s look at the following example.

Detective: Doko ni kane o kakushitanda? どこにかねかくしたんだ?
(Where did you hide the money?)
B: Saa…. さあ・・・。(I don’t know.)

There are some points we need to be aware of when using “Saa…”. In the first case (where meaning is “come on”), there is no restriction in the usage of “Saa…”. However, in the second case (where meaning is “I don’t know”), overusing “Saa…” here may come across as uninterested, or pretending not to know while in fact you are fully aware of the subject matter. Using “Saa…” appropriately will make you sound more native. Try it sometimes in your spoken Japanese. That’s all for today.