Say What? Snakes and Prawns

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Introducing a new segment on Nihongo Manabu!

Say What? aims to discuss words and phrases that are easily confused.

In this first post, let’s talk about two fairly similar sounding words, へび (hebi) and えび (ebi).

The two words might sound similar, and they do indeed both refer to a type of animal, they couldn’t have more different meanings. While you would often encounter the word ‘ebi’ in sushi restaurants, you are much less likely to be dining on ‘hebi’.

Let’s see what they mean.

Ebi and Hebi, prawn and snake

蛇 (へび, hebi) – snake

海老 (えび, ebi) – prawn; shrimp; lobster; crayfish

Ebi is most commonly used to refer to prawn or shrimps, whereas hebi means snake.

Now that you know the difference, don’t get confused and order a snake at the sushi bar instead of prawns!

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