Created By: Silverfire526 on May 7, 2012 Last Edited By: Silverfire526 on May 31, 2012

Hiki Is Contemptous

In Japanese works, the use of the counter word for small animals instead of the one for people in order to show contempt for the target.

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One of the many ways in which Japanese differs from English is in its counting system. In order to count anything, it's necessary to add a special "counter word" to the end of the number. The counter for people, for example, is "人" (pronounced "ri" or "nin") [[hottip:*:hitori, futari, sannin, yonin, gonin, rokunin, shichinin, hachinin, kyuunin, juunin]]. In contrast, the counter "匹" (hiki) [[hottip:*:ippiki, nihiki, sanbiki, yonhiki, gohiki, roppiki, nanahiki, happiki, kyuuhiki, juppiki]] is used for small animals such as cats and dogs.

So when a character refers to a human being or group of human beings with the counter "hiki", it's more or less equivalent to treating that person as an animal. This can be compared to the use of "it" for human beings in English. It usually indicates contempt for the person/people being spoken of and incredible arrogance. It can also be used to indicate Fantastic Racism toward humans.

Listen for it!


  • In an episode of InuYasha, Kagura tries to tell Goshinki that "one or two children" are beneath his notice, using the 'hiki' counter. He tries to eat them anyway.
  • In the Fate/Zero anime, when Zouken taunts Kariya that Sakura is not worth saving, he refers to her as "ippiki no musume": "one daughter".
Community Feedback Replies: 13
  • May 7, 2012
    Needs A Better Title (that's not a snowclone).
  • May 8, 2012
    Honestly, this should probably go on the Japanese Honorifics page.
  • May 8, 2012
    ^ counters have nothing to do with honorifics.
  • May 8, 2012
    It's a suffix added to a name right? (Unless I misunderstood the description)
  • May 8, 2012
    It's a word added to numbers to precise the "type" of object counted, it's a separate system from honorifics. -hiki is the counter for small animals. To say "one mouse, two mice, three mice" etc., it will be "nezumi no ippiki, nezumi no nihiki, nezumi no sanbiki", etc.

    Now for examples... every Card Carrying Villain in a shonen manga ever, really. That's almost a sine qua non condition to be one!

    As for the title, maybe "Hiki Is Contemptuous" maybe?
  • May 8, 2012
    A counter is added to the end of a noun. Names are nouns, but that doesn't mean that counters are honorifics.

    This page would go under Japanese Language.
  • May 8, 2012
    I'm thinking that hopefully we can add an explanation of what counters are to Japanese Language, because counters themselves are definitely a topic appropriate for Useful Notes, and this way this page won't get bogged down in any more grammatical minutiae than is necessary. This trope describes a particular nongrammatical use of counters to achieve a particular effect.
  • May 28, 2012
    Does this have anything to do with the hikikomori?
  • May 28, 2012
    Absolutely nothing. Japanese is notorious for its homonyms.
  • May 28, 2012
    I don't believe this goes with Japanese Honorifics, but I do believe it is a case of Needs A Better Name.

    Counting As Animals. That way it also applies for other languages than japanese, too.
  • May 28, 2012
    ^^ English is just as bad with homonyms -- there/their/they're I/eye you/ewe and be/bee -- and that's only the most common words.

    I'm seconding the call for a page on Japanese counting words in general. It would be nice to be able to cite something on that one Blatant Lies quote on how you count Mokonas.
  • May 28, 2012
    Insofar as this is a trope, it's a trope that's only discernible to those sufficiently familiar with Japanese. There's just no way it'll be healthy. Also, to anyone not familiar with hiki as a counting word the name looks like it's talking about Hikikomori (I knew about counting words, but I didn't know what any of them are, so the name is just as meaningless to me as to the next random reader).
  • May 31, 2012
    ^^^ I know next to nothing about Chinese, but I think it might use the same "counter word" system--can anyone confirm this? If that's the case, the trope should probably be broadened to include other languages, with particular emphasis on Japanese since tropers consume a significant amount of Japanese media.

    ^ Yes, I understand that this is something that's really hard for most tropers to notice. But it's still a trope. It's the kind of thing that the second paragraph of Too Rare To Trope is describing: still a trope, not a meaningless coincidence.

    Anyone can feel free to edit the description, but please don't launch. This one will likely simmer in YKTTW for a long time.