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I've come across these two kanji in a few cases for "good/bad fortune" and even in combination with eachother. I'd really like to understand if there's a subtle difference that I'm missing so that I know when to use each. Up to this point I've seen: Good luck/fortune: 幸運/幸福 Bad luck/fortune: 不幸/不運

I've also seen 不幸 mentioned as "miserable" and 幸福 as "happy"

Some insight would be awesome... Thanks!

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

To the best of my knowledge, 幸 is 'happiness' and 運 is 'luck' (good or bad). English confuses the matter by using the words for 'luck' and 'fortune' with both neutral and good meanings, but the kanji's meanings are quite separate from each other. 幸 has very little to do with luck, actually, and pretty much just means 'happiness' (c.f. 幸せ 'happy, happiness'). 運 more primarily means 'movement' (c.f. 運動 'motion, movement, exercise', 運転する 'drive (a car)', etc), and the 'luck, fortune' meaning is secondary.

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幸い is related to happiness as if it was your destiny, 運 on the other hand is more related to being blessed. A good metabolism would be 運がいい but entering medical school would be 幸い.

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