What does ‘Deku’ mean in Japanese and English?


Izuku Midoriya, the central character of My Hero Academia, is widely recognized in the anime and manga community. However, his more famous moniker isn’t his birth name.

In the early stages of the series, Katsuki Bakugo, Izuku’s peer, coins the nickname “Deku” to mock and belittle him. Initially, Izuku dislikes this label, but during his time at U.A. High School, he undergoes a transformative shift in perspective. He chooses to reclaim and redefine the name, a significant testament to his personal growth.

Presently, Izuku is predominantly known as “Deku,” both among the people he rescues within the series and the audience that follows his journey. Yet, many individuals may overlook the deeper significance behind this name.


So, what does “Deku” mean? In the absence of a direct English translation, the term “Deku” is derived from the Japanese word “dekunobou,” which refers to antiquated wooden dolls or puppets. This term carries negative connotations, implying uselessness or incompetence when directed at a person. Initially used derogatorily by Bakugo, it implies someone as inept or foolish.

However, through his interactions with Ochaco Uraraka, whose upbeat personality and encouragement resonate with him, Izuku begins to view the name differently.

Uraraka highlights a linguistic twist—“deku” bears a resemblance to the Japanese verb “deriku,” akin to the English word “can,” signifying capability or potential. This fresh perspective presented by Uraraka offers Izuku an alternative interpretation of the name, one that he embraces and internalizes.

During a confrontation with Bakugo, Izuku asserts his ownership of the name, declaring that “Deku” doesn’t signify incompetence anymore. To him, “Deku” now embodies the belief “you can do it,” symbolizing his unwavering determination and relentless effort to excel and overcome challenges.