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酔{よ}う and 酔{よ}っ払{ぱら}う both seem to mean "to get drunk" but how are they different from each other? Does it depend on how drunk you are, and assuming 酔っ払う is worse than 酔う, exactly how drunk would you need to be to cross from 酔う to 酔っ払う? Does the 払う part has any meaning or purpose?

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I think you should have a shot of 焼酎{しょうちゅう} for each upvote, and then let us know if you feel 酔{よ}っている or 酔{よ}っ払{ぱら}っている. ;) – Questioner Oct 2 '11 at 14:15
Apparently there's also ほろ酔{よ}い for "tipsy". – hippietrail Mar 25 '14 at 13:57
up vote 12 down vote accepted

Daijirin defines 酔っ払う as ひどく酒に酔う. This clarifies two differences between 酔う and 酔っ払う:

  • As istrasci explained, 酔っ払う is used only when one is drunk because of liquor, while 酔う is broader.
  • With 酔っ払う, the degree of being drunk is high. With 酔う, it depends.
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AFAIK, they both include the meaning of getting drunk off of liquor. However, 酔う carries several additional, figurative meanings:

  • Be sick/queasy → 船【ふな】酔【よ】い "seasick(ness)", 血に酔う "get queasy at the sight of blood"
  • Be awestruck/taken over by an emotion → (成功/勝利)に酔う "drunk with success/victory"

But as far a getting drunk from alcohol, I don't think there is much of a difference. Removing after seeing @Tsuyoshi Ito's answer.

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