Terrible or awful.
Hiragana
さんざん
Romaji
sanzan
Kanji
Reading
Meaning
  • さん
  • to scatter, a scattering
  • ざん
  • kanji iteration mark​
な-adjective , adverb

さんざん translated literally means “scatter, scatter” as the character 散 itself means “to scatter” and 々 is a shorthand symbol we use for repeat the sound of the word before it. Figuratively, さんざん is used to express the degree or extent of how bad something is - in English, we’d generally translate this as “terrible” or “awful”.

さんざん works as a な-adj. For example, if we say さんざん (日 here means “day”), then that would mean “a terrible day”. さんざん can also work as an adverb. Sometimes に is attached after さんざん, e.g. さんざんに. When used as an adverb, though, it can’t be used to modify other adjectives in an attempt to extend their meaning - so for example, saying さんざん大きい to mean “terribly big” would not be correct.

さんざん often has a negative connotation, but sometimes we use this word to simply express the meaning of “a lot” or “throughly”. such as パーティーでさんざんべた (“I ate ‘a terrible amount of food’ (a lot) at the party”. However, this type of usage is a bit tricky, so it is better to use it when describing an action you take for yourself, and not for actions that involves the others, as it may be taken the wrong way!

Example Sentences
  • JLPTのけっさんざんだった。

    The result of the JLPT test was terrible.

  • まゆみさんはひとわるぐちさんざんって、いやぶんにさせる。

    Mayumi trash talks an awful lot, and that makes me nervous.