What Does Ara Ara Mean? How Did It Gain Popularity?

by Anne B. Robinson

By this point, you’re probably perplexed about the “AraAra” hashtag on TikTok. That is especially true if you’re not an anime fan.

Frankly, even if you are, you might not understand why it’s used in so many different contexts. In one scene, a female character says it in an adorable way; in another, she says it while frowning.

What does ara ara mean, then? That’s what I’m about to explain, so stick around!

What Does Ara Ara Mean?

The word “Ara” on its own is a Japanese remark used mainly by females to express surprise. It’s considered the equivalent of “oh” or “ah.”

Some of you may recall that delicious nigiri you ate at a sushi restaurant with the similar name of ara. To clarify, there’s also a fish called Ara, which by the way I totally recommend trying!

Anyway, when ara is doubled to form “ara ara,” it conveys the following phrases:

  • Oh my
  • Oh dear
  • Oh no
  • Hmm

Basically, “ara ara” retains the surprise factor of “ara,” but its meaning solely depends on the situation and the tone of the speaker. Allow me to walk you through all of the feelings and attitudes that “ara ara” is used to express:

1. Astonishment

This is viewed as the basic way to say “ara ara.” When used in a situation to reflect surprise, it can be translated as “Oh wow,” “Well well,” or “My my,” you get the idea.

According to some, saying “ara ara” instead of just “ara” produces a relatively milder sound. As a result, “ara ara” can be used more in less intense situations of astonishment.

If you like Shonen manga or Slice of Life manga, you’ve probably read or heard this phrase a lot in this context. In fact, I first heard this phrase from the character Vanica Zogratis in one of my all-time favorite anime series, Black Clover.

That’s why I always assumed “ara ara” was exclusively used when something unexpected happened. Then I discovered that it’s more than that, as you’ll see in a moment!

2. Flirting

The second context for using “ara ara” is when a female anime character flirts. Although it fits the definitions listed above, it’s frequently used to imply cuteness, seduction, amusement, submissiveness, etc.

This explains why there are so many TikTok videos of female gamers saying it in a cute, rather than surprised, tone.

The flirtatious use of “ara ara” is most common in the ecchi and hentai genres. This is a common thing when a female character shows interest in a more youthful male character.

3. Compassion

You might notice that “ara ara” appears in situations of compassion as well. That is, especially obvious from maternal figures to their children. For example, Shikimori’s mother, Miyabi Shikimori, frequently uses it in the series “Shikimori’s not just a cutie.”

Aside from being a gentle way of showing affection, it’s also said to express sympathy for someone who has been through a difficult time. Mutsumi Otohime from Love Hina is a super emphatic character, so you’ll hear her say it a lot!

4. Frustration

Lastly, the expression “ara ara” can be said to describe frustration. To express their dislike for something or someone, the speaker will use it in a stiff tone. When that happens, “ara ara” will signify “Good grief,” “Tsk tsk,” or just “Huh!”

How Did Ara Ara Become Popular?

To be honest, “ara ara” isn’t anything new for anime fans. However, several TikTokers have recently begun using this phrase as a hashtag in their videos.

The content was mostly girls saying the expression in a feminine tone, many of whom were video gamers or anime cosplayers. This trend continued for a while, and the hashtag went viral, receiving millions of views!

I doubt many people would know what that is if it weren’t for this hashtag. It’s kind of a specialty for anime because Japanese people don’t really use the phrase “ara ara” very often. Being introduced to TikTok was like its chance to be popular outside of the anime fan club.

Can Men Say Ara Ara?

The short answer is no, not really. Men or anime male characters are not known for saying “ara ara,” and instead prefer other phrases. You’ll usually hear them say one of the following expressions:

  1. “Yare yare”
  2. “Oya oya”

In fact, “yare yare” is a well-known expression in Japan. Similar to “ara ara,” it can be used to convey subtle surprise, which translates to “Well well,” or disappointment, where it means “Good grief.”

Whereas, “oya oya” is more frequently used in the anime world and means “well well” or “My my.” If you’ve seen Made in Abyss, you’ve undoubtedly heard Bondrewd say it numerous times!

Wrapping Up

What does ara ara mean? I guess you’re all caught up on this topic! You’ll know exactly what the speaker means when he says it the next time you watch an anime or a TikTok video.

Now, “Mata ne” my friends! That’s another term I learned from watching anime and had to brag about, which means “Goodbye.”

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