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I heard this sentence pattern watching an anime (where A and B have similar meanings, but B is much stronger):

....[description A] いや、もはや [description B]と言っていい。

I looked up もはや expecting a definition like "rather", as in "it was [A], or rather, it was [B]". Instead I found "already, now", as in "He is no longer a child" もはや子供ではない。

I looked around and that's the only definition I've found...however, I did see that on goo it did say まさに was a word for it, which means "exactly". I'm guessing that would make this mean "[A], or more exactly [B]". Can someone confirm this? This wasn't a secondary entry in the definition, just a line in the first, "already" definition, but it seems to me a very different usage. Can someone clarify this for me?

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I can't look it up or write a proper answer right now, but I had always thought (perhaps incorrectly) that もはや was the same as (and maybe even etymologically linked to) もう. – ジョン May 6 '12 at 19:25
up vote 5 down vote accepted

As ジョン says, the similarities are very strong between もはや and もう.

The meaning is that something has now reached a certain state, leaving its past state behind. This can imply that the change is irreversible.

彼はもはや犯罪者だ。 He's a criminal now. (he's now reached that point, and there is no turning back from it.)

彼はもう社長です。 He's a company president now. (cast away any thoughts you might have had of him as a lower-paid employee -- that is no longer true)

もはやXと言っていい means that it is, by now, OK to call it X (probably: there's now enough evidence/reason to support the statement), and this is the new irreversible state -- we're casting off the old state of not calling it X.

This corresponds to 大辞泉's second sense of もはや:

2 ある事態が 変えられないところ まで進んでいるさま。今となっては。もう。「―如何ともしがたい」「―これまで」

I don't see any context/reason to interpret it as "actually" or "or rather".

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Thanks Hyperworm, that makes a lot of sense! – silvermaple May 8 '12 at 10:54

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