All three of these words – totemo, chou and meccha, mean “very” in English. As in – “It is very confusing trying to figure out when to use which word”. In order to truly master a language, it’s important to understand in what context to use a word, and what connotation it holds.
Japanese is just like English, there are so many ways to say very. In English we say things like:
“This cake is sooooo good”
“You are extremely late to work today”
“That movie was totally awesome”
How do we use these three words in Japanese?
Meccha originated in the Kansai area and became known through Kansai-born entertainers spreading it on television. It’s casual slang, often used be younger people to express “very” in a more casual way. You would not use this in a business scenario.
Example usage of meccha:
You might say something like “Wow, I love the present, I’m so happy!”
この ケーキは めっちゃ おいしいです。
Kono keeki wa meccha oishii des.
This cake is so yummy!
Chou is used in pretty much the same way as meccha. It is a casual word used amongst friends to place emphasis on something. For example, a friend may exclaim that her friend’s new baby is “chou kawaii” (super cute). In general, chou is often used more by females than males, especially those under 50.
Example usage of chou:
あの 女の子は ちょうかわいい！
Ano onnonoko wa meccha kawaii!
That girl is super cute!
Totemo is what beginner Japanese learners are often taught first to use to say “very”. But just like we don’t actually use “very” all that often in English, Japanese people find totemo to be too basic and lacking emphasis. If in doubt, or in a more business-like situation, you should stick with totemo as it is less casual than chou or meccha.
Example usage of totemo:
Ano hana wa totemo kirei des yo ne.
That flower is very pretty isn’t it?
この ケーキは とても おいしいです。
Kono keeki wa totemo oishii des.
This cake is very delicious.
If you have been playing it safe and sticking to totemo, why not try using chou or meccha instead? If you’re taking classes at Toranomon Language School, our teachers will be glad to practice with you, or check any example sentences you might want to write for practice.