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Very bad or very good, depending on the context and the age of the speaker.
Yabai is an adjective denoting that something is bad or dangerous. Its original connotations were that the speaker felt he or she was in imminent danger or was about to be inconvenienced. The word is thought to derive from slang used by professional thieves and con artists and was already in use by the late Edo Period (1603-1868), when it was pronounced yaba. Some say it derives from the word ayabui, meaning dangerous.

Yabai began to take on a broader meaning in the 1980s as young people started using it to mean "uncool." As in the past, it still carried a negative connotation. That changed in the 1990s, however, when young people started using it in a positive sense to mean "very good" or "delicious," in much the same way that the English words bad and wicked have at times taken on positive connotations among younger generations. The colloquial pronunciation of the word, yabeh, is also popular.

An opinion poll conducted by the Agency for Cultural Affairs in July 2005 found that 18.2% of people use yabai to mean "great." The practice was particularly common among young people: More than 70% of boys aged 16-19 had used the word in a positive sense, while the ratio for girls in the same age range was over 60%. (November 1, 2005)