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It seems strange to me that in Japanese the preferable question is どういう意味 while in English we ask "what is its meaning", rather than, "how do you say it's meaning." Although you can ask 何とかの意味は何、 can you say 何とかはどういう意味? This statement of making meanings how's and not what's is difficult for me to understand. Any suggestions?

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In spoken language, it's usually "◯ってどういう意味?" – Earthliŋ Jul 14 '13 at 13:33
But why isn't it 何の意味 or something along those lines? – user3457 Jul 14 '13 at 17:33
Compare: 科学の意味 (the meaning of science), 科学という意味 (the meaning 'science' / it means 'science'). 何の意味 usually means "what's the meaning in it?" (何の意味がある? what's the point?) or comes with も+negative (何の意味もない it's meaningless). – Billy Jul 15 '13 at 2:20

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

こういう、そういう、ああいう and どういう are pretty much fixed constructions with meanings similar to こんな、そんな、あんな and どんな. They're not limited to 意味. For example, you can say

What kind of house do you live in?

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This, it's basically idiomatic. You can ask the same thing about English, like "why don't you say 'what sort of meaning does that have?' instead of 'what does ~ mean?'" – ssb Jul 16 '13 at 5:56

Some examples.

friend 1: ねぇねぇ、天真爛漫ってどういう意味?
what is '天真爛漫' meaning.

friend 1: ~Hard to understand explanation~
friend 2: え?つまりどういう意味?
like a 'What did you say?'.

friend 1: 大丈夫、君なら女だと気づかれずに通り抜けられる。
friend 2: ちょっと、それどういう意味?
What do you mean?

I usually use this word in situations of 'ask something's meaning.', 'tell me again, more simply.' or 'ask for an explanation.'.

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