Itchy or ticklish, which one is it?


Today’s theme:

A Chinese person once asked me:

「虻に刺されたところが(  )ので、ドラッグストアに薬を買いに行った。」

(There was a time when I was bitten by a moth I felt __ , so I went to the drugstore to buy medicine.)

Is the correct choice: 1.「かゆい」( Itchy ) 2.くすぐったい 2. ( Ticklish)

Which is the right choice?


Both of them are vocabulary words for the feelings you get on your skin.

The correct answer is “itchy”.



“Ticklish” means to be tickled. This is caused by the receiving an irritant to the skin. “Today I was bitten by a moth so I feel itchy” simply means that the skin felt itchy.

Here are some examples of “tickling”.

  • 「友達がふざけて、自分の腹を触ってきてくすぐったい。」 Your friend is messing around and touches your stomach.
  • 「愛犬に足を舐められてくすぐったい。」 Your dog licks your leg
  • 「足の裏をくすぐらないで。くすぐったいよ。」 The grass touches your foot and it tickles.

How is ticklish written in characters then?

You may write “ticklish” in Japanese as “擽ったい” but typically Japanese don’t write this and won’t be able to read it. Let’s write it in Hiragana.

By the way “itchy” in Japanese is written with the character 痒い. The country has decided that there is no need to write and remember the character, so it’s completely fine to write it with hiragana. However I think there are many Japanese that can read the character痒.

So how can we write ticklish?

If we try to describe “ticklish” with another word, we could say “むずむずする” or こそばゆい, which a health care provider will both be able to understand I think. Everyone please remember this by all means.

Another meaning for くすぐったい or ticklish (in Japanese):

In addition, くすぐったい could mean “shy” or “embarrassed”

褒められるとくすぐったい。(Feeling shy by being praised)

“Itchy”, on the other hand, means something that won’t just go away when touched. In this same sense it’s something that if you just leave it won’t feel comfortable.

In the same sense, in the phrase褒められるとくすぐったい the feeling is similar. If you are praised, you feel humbled to receive a compliment like this. Although by denying it, it feels fake and in the end I don’t know what I should say after all. Therefore it is くすぐったい (ticklish).

In summary, we learned the difference between “かゆい” (kayui, itchy)、and くすぐったい(kusuguttai, tickled)

If you have any questions about it, feel free to contact me.

First Picture: Photo by スシパク on PAKUTASO
Second picture: Photo by カズキヒロ on PAKUTASO, and his website
Third picture: Photo by Photo by Larm Rmah on Unsplash