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I realized I didn't know the Japanese word for the concept which has three very interchangeable words: "kind", "sort", and "type".

By looking in my usual resources such as WWWJDIC, English Wiktionary, and Googling, I found three candidates for the Japanese word or words I should use for this:

  • 分類{ぶんるい}
  • 種類{しゅるい}
  • 類い{たぐい}

Each has at least some other functions, just as each of the three English words do. But for this function are they equivalent, is one or the other not really this meaning, too rare or technical, etc, or have a missed altogether a better term for this job?

Here's some random uses I found via Google to illustrate the common sense I have in mind:

  • not that kind of girl
  • What kind of man are you?
  • These aren't the sort of things you imagine happening to someone like you.
  • The Bunker Diary is the sort of book you just want to talk about for ages.
  • This book will tell you what type of work environment you need.
  • The health care provider will choose the best type of insulin for you ...
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2 Answers 2

Don't forget about words like そんな, どういう, あのような, etc! I think you mostly don't need a separate noun.

For a sense like

The health care provider will choose the best type of insulin for you ...

where there may be specific describable "versions" or "types" of something that come to mind (with different purposes etc.), 種類 seems like a good fit. It doesn't seem to apply well to people.

分類 feels more like "category" or "classification"... a bit more technical. You can use it when you talk about what group something falls into. It can also be used as a verb, unlike the other two.

たぐい is a generally applicable word for "kind" -- but maybe a bit verbose feeling since you introduce an unnecessary noun? その類の話・人. You're explicitly categorizing by introducing the noun and yet being vague at the same time by using "that kind" instead of saying what you really mean, so it has the potential to imply a stereotype or be a bit judgmental... hmm. It's not always like that though, and is probably the closest to "kind" as a noun.

Not a native speaker so I hope my intuition isn't too wrong on this one.

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たぐい is the only word that's interchangeable to 'kind' or 'sort'. 'type' is タイプ. 分類 and 種類 are close to 'category'. In addition, you can say その手の人 for "that kind of person".

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Hmm in English "type" is completely interchangeable with "kind" and "sort" in the common sense. There are surely edge cases and set phrases of course such as "he's not my type", "licorice allsorts", "humankind", etc. Perhaps "type" is has a slightly more technical field but I'm not even sure about that. –  hippietrail May 12 at 5:35

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