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They both seem to mean "quick as lightning". What are the nuances between them? In what sort of context would they be used? Are they interchangeable? etc.

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

According to this Chiebukuro post, 電光石火 can be used to describe something that is so fast that it's as if you don't even notice it, and can be used for greater exaggerations than 疾風迅雷, and that it's often more suited to shorter distances within arm's length.

"The sword of lightning speed of Jigen-ryū cut off the top of the opponent's head."

"Genghis Khan's military forces crushed the Khwarezm troops with a force as quick as lightning."

Consulting the 四{よ}字{じ}熟{じゅく}語{ご}辞{じ}典{てん} from 学習研究社:


"An analogy of an extremely short period of time. Also, something where movement is quick."

  • 電{でん}光{こう}: 稲{いな}妻{ずま} (a flash of lightning).
  • 石{せっ}火{か}: The fireworks of flint.

Both 電光 and 石火 are an analogy of an extremely short period of time.


"A state where force or actions are quick."

  • 疾{しっ}風{ぷう}: Refers to wind that's blowing at a furiously fast rate.
  • 迅{じん}雷{らい}: Refers to furiously roaring thunder.
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