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What's the difference between 威{い}厳{げん} and 尊{そん}厳{げん} to mean "dignity"?

From what I can tell, the two seem to be similar, but slightly different. In what ways do the nuances and usages of the two differ?

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1 Answer 1

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First lets get the definitions from a dictionary:

尊厳:とうとくおごそかなこと。気高く犯しがたいこと。また、そのさま。「人間の―を守る」

威厳: 近寄りがたいほど堂々としておごそかなこと

If you look above, both definitions have the phrase おごそかなこと in them. This is where they are similar in meaning. The difference is in the first characters and . Lets think of as representing "value" and represents "power".

Lets look at some examples:

暴力は人間の尊厳を奪う

個人の尊厳

犠牲者の尊厳を守る

In the above sentences, you cannot replace 尊厳 with 威厳. The above sentences talk about something you should respect and uphold. So, 尊厳 is used in phrases talking about rights every human or individual should have, a level of respect, etc. (hence representing "value")

親としての威厳を保つ

国家の威厳を損ねる

威厳のある顔

The above is talking more about power and influence over others. If a parent does not have 威厳, then a child is probably not going to listen to them, or if a country doesn't have 威厳 then they probably have to follow the orders from another country and never get their way, etc. (hence representing "power").

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