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Since my flight home from Japan is soon approaching I thought I had better learn the word for "flight".

It seems to be one of those words that has several Japanese equivalents. I'd like to know the usage and nuance differences between them, and which is most practical to learn first for a beginner (not too difficult, rare, technical, outdated, etc)

Here are the terms I've found so far:

  1. 飛行{ひこう} - My intuition is that this is the one I should prefer, but I could be biased against loanwords from English.
  2. 便{びん} - Wiktionary says this means "booked flight", which doesn't rule it out. Being a single character it's harder for a beginner to look for examples. Single character words usually have other readings and other senses.
  3. フライト - This is obviously a loanword from English, does it convey anything new that the more traditional-looking kanji terms don't?
  4. 飛{とび} - Being a single character makes this hard for a beginner to look into, but my impression is that even with this reading it's too ambiguous and probably isn't used so much for people talking about air travel.

I would be looking for a term that I could use in sentences equivalent to:

  • I've booked my flight.
  • I have a flight home on the 22nd.
  • I hope I don't miss my flight.
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Where did you learn 飛{とび}? –  snailboat May 16 at 4:06
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@snailboat: It's in the English Wiktionary's translation table for "flight". That doesn't mean it's not a mistake of course! (-: –  hippietrail May 16 at 5:12
    
えっもう帰るの?Have a nice flight! <-- In Japanese... 快適な空の旅をお楽しみください!? <-- 直訳 –  Choko May 16 at 6:36
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beginner's term for “flight” >> 迷った時は、とりあえず「[飛行機]{ひこうき}」で・・・ –  Choko May 16 at 13:20
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Japanese-speakers do not use any of the words you listed anywhere nearly as often as English-speakers use the word "flight". Chocolate has a good answer below. BTW, とび actually is used in the set phrase -- ひとっとび, meaning "one short flight" or "a direct flight (without a layover)". –  非回答者 May 18 at 0:30

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

most practical to learn first for a beginner

How about [飛行機]{ひこうき}? Japanese kids learn it (and the verb 飛ぶ) before 飛行, フライト, and 便.

So you can say:

I've booked my flight.
飛行機を[予約]{よやく}しました。(not *便を予約する. ?フライトを予約する)

I have a flight home on the 22nd.
22日の飛行機で([国]{くに}に)[帰]{かえ}ります。
(You can use 便 / フライト too but I think 飛行機 is more common in daily conversation)

I hope I don't miss my flight.
飛行機に[間]{ま}に[合]{あ}いますように。/飛行機に[乗]{の}り[遅]{おく}れなければいいですが。
(not *便に間に合う / *便に乗り遅れる. You can use フライト too but I think 飛行機 is more common in daily conversation)

etc... using the word 飛行機! ^^ Hooray!

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I think 便 and フライト normally follow a date/time/destination, eg: 「22日の便/フライト」「3時の便/フライト」「ロンドン行きの便/フライト」 –  Choko May 17 at 14:40
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Agreed with both the answer and comment. 飛行機 would definitely be the most natural. Although I believe for "I have a flight home on the 22nd" I would leave out the flight part entirely unless it's both non-obvious and an important detail and simply say 22日に帰ります. (That is, since traveling anywhere from Japan is almost always going to be a flight it's very safe to omit the detail.) Also IMHO the difference here between 飛行機 and 便 is 22日の便 sounds more like "the flight on the 22nd" and 飛行機 would feel like "a flight on the 22nd". –  lc. May 18 at 15:06
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Aha I had actually used this word I knew as the one for airplane thinking I was speaking pidgin Japanese. I thought I could hear people saying it back to me and started to wonder if it might be the right word, despite not being in the resources I checked. @lc.: Oddly, this is my first time in several visits that I'm leaving Japan by plane and not by ferry from Shimonoseki to Busan! (-: –  hippietrail May 21 at 13:01

Well, the Wisdom J-E dictionary lists the following examples for 飛行:

  • 夜間飛行【やかんひこう】: night flight
  • ニューヨークへ向けて【むけて】飛行する: fly to New York

It uses 便 along the same lines:

  • 彼はニューヨーク行きの3時の便に乗った: He took the 3 o'clock flight to New York.

So it seems like either of those would work. My instinct would say to go with 便, personally. The other two feel more translated-from-English than Japanese.

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飛行【ひこう】 means "flight" as in "the act of traveling by air". It's not used to mean "flight" as in "Flight 437 departing from Milan..." That term is 航空便【こうくうびん】 in full, just 便【びん】 for short. 航空便 can also mean "air service", as in "there is air service (i.e. there are flights) between Hawaii and Samoa", or "air mail" as an abbreviation of 航空【こうくう】郵便【ゆうびん】.

See eow.alc.co.jp/航空便 or eow.alc.co.jp/flight for more.

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