The introduction of the term ‘moteki’.


The term moteki/モテキ (see note 1)  is a Japanese slang term for a period of time, usually a one-and-only period of time, where one becomes popular with the opposite sex. Although it’s written in katakana (see note 2) the signifier is a composition, contraction, of two Japanese words. To be able to fully understand this signifier we’ll look at the words of which it is composed.

1) The first part of the signifier Moteki (モテキ) ‘mote/モテ comes from the verb ‘moteru/モテる’. モテる is the contemporary orthography of 持てる. Let’s take a closer look at the original orthography and the kanji.

When 持 is used as a compound, it is pronounced as ‘Ji/じ’.This ‘ji/is the on’yomi, the sino-Japanese way of reading the kanji. When used with other Kanji’s this ‘ji /じ/持 can have three ‘different’ (categories of) meanings: 1) hold, grasp, have, have with one [the original meaning], 2) remain or cause to remain in a given condition (hold out, hold up, last, endure), and 3) hold in one’s possession, possess, have, hold on to one’s opinion, adhere to.

The  kun’yomi, the Japanese reading of 持 is motsu/もつ/持つ, -mochi/もち/持ち and moteru/もてる/持てる. For the most part, the meaning of mo(tsu)/も(つ) corresponds with the first category of meaning explained above. -mo(chi) designates 1) a person who has something, a possessor or 2) something which is suitable for carrying on one’s person, designed for (see note 3). Mo(teru)/持(てる) means be made much of, be welcomed, be popular.

2) The second part of the signifier moteki is’ ki/キ. This second part, this ‘ki/キ‘ corresponds with one of the on’yomi, sino-Japanese ways of reading the kanji 期 –this kanji doesn’t have a kun’yomi,  Japanese reading. This on’yomi reading has three categories of meaning. 1) [also suffix] term, school term, period, season, quarter; stage, phase; session; (deadline)  term, time limit, appointed day, 2)[also suffix] period, age, time, occasion and 3) expect, look forward to, anticipate, hope for.  Besides used in a combinatory way or as a compound ki/キ/期 is also used independently. Ki/期 means time, date, occasion, while 期する designates to fix a date, to determine; to resolve; to promise; to expect, to hope for.

The second sino-Japanese way of reading of the kanji 期 is ご. This reading is only used in an independent way. ‘期/ご/go’ means an inevitable moment. When this reading, ご, is used to form a verb,  期する, this verb means to wait expectantly for.

Conclusion It’s the verb moteru/持てる/モテる that delivers the first part, ‘mote/モテ for the signifier moteki. This introduces the signified of ‘(to) be popular’ into moteki. Nevertheless the change in orthography and its apparent shift in meaning obliges us to question the origins of ‘moteru/モテる’ and its current meaning: ‘to be popular’. We’ll try to research this question in ‘On the possibility of the phallus/phallic meaning in the Japanese language’.

The meaning of the second part of the signifier ‘moteki’ is delivered by the kanji 期. In this case it means a period (of time). When we put ‘mote/モテ’ and ‘ki/キ together, we’re able to define ‘moteki/モテキ‘  as a period (of time) when one is popular. This definition is unfortunately incomplete and fails to reveal the fact that it’s used to designate a period of time when one is popular with the opposite sex. The fact that the combined compounds fail to convey this crucial ‘with the opposite sex’ supports our decision to research the origins in moteru/モテる in ‘On the possibility of the phallus/phallic meaning in the Japanese language’.


Note 1: The research into the signifier moteki is a part of the main examination of the J-drama Moteki. You can read this post also on the main Moteki page.

Note 2: Katakana is the syllabary that’s derived from components of more complex kanji and is used primarily for the transcription of foreign words.

Note 3: Mo(tsu) and mo(chi) have other meanings listed in the dictionary as well. For Mo(chi) for example those are: 1) [suffix] charge, expense and 2) the state (of a person’s feeling) e.g. Kimochi/気持ち.


Halpern, J. (1993). NTC’s New Japanese-English Character Dictionary. Chicago: National Textbook Company.

Kenkyūsha’s New Japanese–English Dictionary (5th ed.). (2003). Koh Masuda (ed.). Tokyo: Kenkyūsha.


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