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I recently came across the word 築く, meaning "to build", but I already knew a word for it, 建てる.

Looking a bit further into it, 築く seems to include the figurative meaning of "build" as well, such as in "to build relations" or "to build/amass riches", but still has it's literal meaning in actually building some structure.
I notice in my example sentences that 築く is commonly used on "bigger" structures, such as a castle. Is this the case?

What is the difference between these two words, and how are they used differently, if any?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

建てる is a generic "to build" a building.

築く is a word that had its roots in building a castle; specifically, piling up soil and rocks for a foundation. So, this is "to build" in the sense of stacking materials (e.g. stones) into something large, solid, firm. Such as a castle or a dyke.

That sense of putting something together step by step, gave rise to the meaning of "building up" things such as wealth, status, relationships, or even an organisation. Example: 幸せな家庭を築く.

Other words of similar "to build" meaning:

  1. 建設する - use for large scale projects like roads, buildings, etc; infrastructure projects
  2. 建築する - this is also a generic "to build" similar to 建てる, but not for very small buildings
  3. 建造する - "to build (ships)", and also dykes, bigger buildings or other larger works
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