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What is the difference between の意味は何 and はどういう意味? When asking for the definition of a word, I've been told to use the latter, but I don't know why the former is incorrect.

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1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Use the latter if you want to speak and write "natural" Japanese. 「~~はどういう意味ですか。」 is how native speakers ask for a word's definition.

「~~の意味はなんですか。」, while grammatical, sounds SO "directly translated" from "What is the meaning of ~~?". It is not very natural, if not incorrect.

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Why do native speakers ask this way? Why not ask literally for the meaning, versus "How to say the meaning", or whatever どういう意味 would translate to. –  user3457 Dec 20 '13 at 22:51
The どういう is like "what kind of~", rather than "How to say", no? –  user1016 Dec 21 '13 at 3:49

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