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I have heard both terms, 年休{ねんきゅう} and 有休{ゆうきゅう} (or occasionally 有給), used to describe paid vacation time, or 年次有給休暇{ねんじゆうきゅうきゅうか}. In my situation it's always been 年休, but I know people just a town over who have insisted that the term is 有休. I have said 年休 to people and they have looked at me confusedly and said 「有休のこと?」

Is there any actual difference between these terms, and is there any pattern to when one is used over the other? Should I default to 有休?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

Basically, 年休 and 有休 are just the two ways to abbreviate 年次有給休暇. They are usually interchangeable.

Strictly speaking, 年休 has more formal, technical nuance, and it specifically refers to 年次有給休暇 as defined in the Japanese law.

有休 is a more casual and popular (and thus ambiguous) word. It's sometimes not limited to 年次有給休暇 and may be confused by any other kind of paid vacation set by each company. (For example, I expect varying answers by non-professionals for questions like "Is 産休 also 有休?")

I believe majority of people prefer 有休 to 有給, but some media seem to have chosen 有給 as the standard abbreviation for 有給休暇, which is surprising to me.

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So using 有給 in writing should be interpreted as a mistake, right? – ssb Jul 9 '14 at 2:38
Yes I think that's a typo. – naruto Jul 9 '14 at 2:40
OK, thanks! I've seen people use 有給 in writing but I'll call it a 変換ミス. However, I'm not the only one who has been confused before – ssb Jul 9 '14 at 2:45
To me 有給 makes more sense because it's the opposite of 無給. It's more of omitting the 休暇 (because it's implied by the context) instead of taking the first of each word ( 暇). – istrasci Jul 9 '14 at 5:02
I retract my previous comment "有給 is a typo" because I found a news site which intentionally chose 有給 over 有休. And it seems 厚生労働省 and 日本経済新聞 use 有休. – naruto Jul 9 '14 at 6:09

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