Different Ways to Say “Fat” in English

I’ve been noticing changes in my body in the last several years.

When I was in high school, I used to run 5 miles (8 km) almost every day. As long as I had 8 hours of sleep, I could  wake up next morning feeling fresh and energetic.

But now, I jog for 5 minute and I get out of breath.

When you become older, you notice that it takes you longer to recover from physical activities.

Then on Sunday, I met with one of my Korean students. We haven’t talked for about a year. She was happy to see me, and as she approached me she said with a smile, “You’re fatter.”

Yes, I’ve gained about 17 pounds (8 kg) in the last 9 months.

When I was in the United States, my friends rarely commented on my physique. But it seems commenting on your friends’ (or teacher’s) weight must be a normal thing to do in Korea. It’s like a greeting or conversation starter.

Today, I’ll teach you different ways to say “You’re fat” in English, and then I’ll discuss whether commenting on someone’s weight is appropriate or not.

Different Ways to Say “You’re fat”

Generally, calling someone “fat” is too direct, or even rude, in some situations.

Instead you could try saying these phrases because they sound less direct, but nonetheless they mean the same thing.

“You’ve put on a little weight.”

“You’ve gained some weight.”

There are also phrases like,

“You’ve grown.”

“You’ve filled out.”

But this word has a negative connotation. It really means you're fat.

“Overweight.”

What if someone is so fat to the point that it’s unhealthy?

“Obese.”

For example,

“Child obesity is a growing problem in America.”

How do you know if you’re obese or just overweight?

Calculating your BMI (body mass index) is the most popular method to indicate the proportion of weight to height. The formula used to calculate your BMI is:

weight (kg) / height (m)^2

The following are the BMI categories according to the World Health Organization.

Healthy weight range | 18.5 – 24.99

Overweight BMI | 25 – 29.99

Obese Category 1 BMI | 30 – 34.99

Obese Category 2 BMI | 35 – 39.99

Obese Category 3 BMI | 40 and over

If you are 165 cm tall and 80 kg,

80 / 1.65^2 = 29

You have a BMI of 29, so you’re technically overweight. But if you’re not careful, you might be Obese Category 1 soon!

How do you say when someone has become muscular?

Any of these would work, and it’s usually a compliment when directed to a man.

“You’ve become muscular.”

“You’ve gained some muscles.”

“You’ve become buff.” (Informal)

“You’re ripped!” (informal)

“You are jacked!” (“You got jacked” could mean you got robbed, hijacked, muscular, beaten up, or you’re high on drugs)

“How did you get so ripped in just three weeks?”

Should you ever tell your friends that they are fat?

In my opinion, “You’ve put on some weight” is ok to say to a close friend. But generally, I think you should avoid commenting on other people’s weight.

It also depends on your cultural upbringing. When I was a child, my older Japanese relatives used to say I’m skinny all the time.

In Korea, people casually say, “You’ve gotten fat!” or “You’ve gotten skinny!” to their friends and coworkers. It’s just a conversion starter. It’s like saying, “The weather is nice today.” Also, older relatives might tell her niece to lose or gain more weight. Korean grandmas literally say, “You should eat less” or “You should eat more.” An older male boss sometimes tells a younger female employee to get a nose job or double-eyelid surgery. Saying these things might not be a big deal in Korea, but they are usually considered rude and offensive in the United States. I would avoid saying those things unless I’m with a very close friend or I’m joking.

If you’re interested, this article “How language defines us” compares Japanese speakers to English speakers and how they think and speak differently.

Then what can we say?

I think it’s safe to say,

“You look great, did you lose weight?”

Don’t forget to say, “You look great!”

Oh, by the way, the student who said, “You’re fatter” – she meant to compliment me. She meant to say that I look better now that I’ve put on some weight.

So yea, next time you could also say, “It seems you’ve gained some weight and you look great!”

About Josh

뉴욕 출신 일본계 미국인. 현재: 비즈니스 영어 강사로서 활동. 전: 서울교육대학교, 파고다 어학원, 현대백화점, 인천도시공사, 동시통역사. 출연: EBSe, JEI 재능, 한국일보. 영어, 한국어, 일본어 가능. 좋아하는 음식은 타코스. Read more »

무료 구독하기 →