A while back we learned about jigajisan, which was all about tooting one’s own horn. This week’s idiom is on the other end of the humility scale. Fugenjikko is about getting the job done without complaint or expectations of praise.

Fugenjikko (不言実行 )

Meaning: Action before words, actions speak louder than words, work before talk, deeds not words, doing is better than saying, talk is cheap, what you do is more important than what you say, being proactive.

Literal translation and kanji breakdown: Let’s split fugenjikko into two parts. Fugen (不言) means no speech or no speaking, while jikko (実行) translates to action or implementation. This gives us — with a touch of word order adjustment — action without speaking, or deeds not words. 

Fugenjikko: The Origins

Alas, there’s not much information on when fugenjikko came about. It’s often used in similar situations to yugenjikko (being as good as one’s word) but fugenjikko is considered more positive. Keeping your word is important, but doing what’s necessary without announcing it beforehand is often considered more admirable. 

Fugenjikko: Related Expressions

有言実行 Yugenjikko Being as good as one’s word, carrying out one’s words, keeping a promise

言わぬが花 Iwanu ga hana Silence is golden, some things are better left unsaid

訥言敏行 Totsugen-binkou A good person speaks little but acts swiftly and correctly

有行無行 Yuko-muko (antonym) All talk, no action

Using “fugenjikko” in a sentence

Fugenjikko is exclusively used in a positive sense, usually when admiring someone for taking action without making a big fuss about it. It’s also important to note that this phrase does not carry the connotation of doing something illegal or immoral and not speaking out — it’s only used for positive actions or things that need to be done.

不言実行を心掛けている部長の姿がカッコイイと尊敬されている。Fugenjikko wo kokorogakete iru bucho no sugata ga kakkoii to sonkei sarete iru. The department chief is admired for her cool, no-nonsense way of getting things done. 

私の祖父は不言実行をモットーに、目標達成に向かってやる人だ。Watashi no sofu wa fugenjikko wo motto ni, mokuhyo tassei ni mukatteyaru hito da. My granddad achieves his goals by living according to the motto that says actions mean more than words.

Want more? Follow our weekly Yojijukugo Japanese Idiom series, published every Friday. Learn the meaning of “kanzenmuketsu” here, “fuminfukyu” here and “nisoku-sanmon” here.