“Dattebayo” is a phrase used to indicate that the speaker is very certain about what he’s saying, it doesn’t mean anything in particular and is rarely used, and only in an informal setting. The English translation – “Believe it!” – is arbitrary and doesn’t really translate to the Japanese phrase.
In the rest of the article, we are going to discuss the dattebayo meaning, the origin of the phrase, and its usage in everyday Japanese communication.
Origin of the Phrase Dattebayo
Catchphrases are not strange to the Naruto anime series. A lot of characters have their specific catchphrases, with dattebayo – the phrase used by Naruto – being the most famous one.
But there are some similar ones. (Da)ttebayo! (Japanese:「(だ)ってばよ!」), (Da)ttebane (Japanese:「(だ)ってばね」) and (Da)ttebasa (Japanese:「(だ)ってばさ」) are character-specific catchphrases used by Naruto Uzumaki, his mother Kushina and his son Boruto, respectively.
The first one is, as we’ve said, the most famous and widely-known among these.
Naruto uses his catchphrase at the end of most of his sentences as a way of making his speech unique and as a way of distinguishing him from the other characters; it is a very likable quirk. The habit seems to be hereditary, as Naruto inherited it from his mother Kushina.
His mother would instead use her catchphrase when she got excited or angry and she had hoped that her son would not inherit her trait.
As we have seen, he did, although the context in which he used his phrase was different from his mother’s. Likewise, Naruto’s son, Boruto, also inherited a variation of this verbal tic, further affirming that it seems to be hereditary.
What Does Dattebayo Mean?
Dattebayo, as well as its two variants, aren’t words per se and have no literal English translations.
However, the phrase “Believe It!” was used in the English dub whenever Naruto is making a big statement to keep a similar tone in the English version of the series, as the phrase is – as we are going to see later – used to stress out the speaker’s security in his own words, and Kushina’s was “You know!” in the English dub, used when she was excited or flustered.
This translation was also used to match the lip movements from the original Japanese release. Yet, around the start of the Chūnin Exams, however, “Believe It!” fell out of use in the English dub.
While Dattebayo is not a proper word in its own right and therefore has no specific meaning that would be easy to directly translate, it does have a broader general meaning that adds a specific undertone to Naruto’s lines. As Narutopedia explains, this is how we can linguistically analyze the phrase:
- When the Japanese copula “-tteba” is added to the end of a sentence by a speaker, it is done for emphasis of the speaker’s point, and is generally understood to have a meaning within the realm of “I told you” or “I’m telling you”. This generally gives the sentence a confident or exasperated tone.
- Since many Japanese sentences end with the standard copula “desu”, which has an informal alternative in the form of “da”, it would be common to see “-tteba” added onto a sentence ending with “da”, hence forming “datteba”. However, this is not necessary for the “-tteba” copula to be linguistically correct, hence why “da” is sometimes omitted from the “dattebayo” in Naruto’s speech – the “da” in itself is technically not a part of the verbal tic, but is simply a standard way to close a sentence that the “-ttebayo” is then added onto. The sentence does not have to end with “da” for “-ttebayo” to be added to it.
- Finally, the “yo” in “dattebayo” is a simple flourish – again added for emphasis. The copula “-yo”, much like “-tteba”, is frequently added to the ends of sentences in standard Japanese speech, and it signifies the speaker’s confidence in what they’re saying. Kushina’s “-ne” and Boruto’s “-sa” serve a similar purpose.