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I have seen many ways of saying 'food'. I am wondering if there is ever a difference in appropriateness.


Most commonly, I think, is 食べ物, but I thought I'd use 食品 for an assignment involving 敬語(けいご)since it sounded more formal to me.


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Formal and polite/honorification are independent things. – user458 Jul 14 '11 at 3:13
up vote 9 down vote accepted

食べ物 - appropriate as written or spoken language, a basic word, commonly used in speech

食品 - food product, think of a packaged food product on a shelf in the store

ご飯 - literally rice (polite), used to refer to "a meal" as in breakfast, lunch or dinner

食事 - a meal, frequently used in hotels and restaurants as 「お食事」 (おしゅくじ)

〜物 - assuming you mean 揚げ物 (fried food), 煮物 (boiled food), 干物 (dried food), etc... these are self explanatory, just more specific.

Also don't forget:

食物 (しょくもつ) - Mostly in written language, "food stuffs" is a good English equivalent

And just to whet your appetite (pun definitely intended) here is a breakdown of common food categories.

Animal Food Products (動物性食品)

肉類 (にくるい - meat, incl. poultry)、魚介類(ぎょかいるい - seafood)、卵類(らんるい - eggs)、牛乳(ぎゅうにゅう - dairy)

Plant Food Products (植物性食品)

穀物(こくもつ - cereals)、豆類(まめるい - pulses)、芋類(いもるい - tubers)、野菜(やさい - vegetables)、山菜(さんさい - mountain vegetables)、海藻(かいそう - sea vegetation, seaweed)、種実類(しゅじつるい - aw nuts)、果物(くだもの - fruits)、ハーブ(herbs)

(ref: http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E9%A3%9F%E5%93%81)

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牛乳 means milk. "Dairy products" is 乳製品 【にゅうせいひん】. – istrasci Jul 14 '11 at 2:50
Awesome answer - thanks a lot! – h4xnoodle Jul 15 '11 at 4:21
For ご飯 , 食事 can also be used to refer to meal. Of course, it's not 'food' as an object. – syockit Jul 17 '11 at 11:59
Yeah I thought of that after i replied. Thanks for mentioning it I'll add it to the answer. – crunchyt Jul 18 '11 at 8:13

For different contexts, here are a few more:

  • 料理 【りょうり】 - food/cuisine; 日本料理、料理を作る、など
  • 食料 【しょくりょう】 - food, groceries; 食料品 (foodstuffs/groceries)、食料費 (food expenses)
  • 糧 【かて】 ・ 食糧 【しょくりょう】 - food (supply), provisions; 食糧不足 【しょくりょうぶそく】 (food shortage)
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