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What's the difference in usage between 氏名 (しめい) and 名前 (なまえ)?

I often see these two words used interchangeably, but more often than not I see 氏名 on websites. Is this a politeness difference or an actual word definition difference?

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1 Answer 1

up vote 15 down vote accepted

氏名 always refers to a person's full name, both family and given. It also has the connotation of "legal name."

名前 also refers to a person's full name--but it can also mean their given name, in the right context (for instance, "We gave the baby a name" or "I want you to call me by my name"). 名前 can also refer to the names of objects, while 氏名 cannot.

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+1 for mentioning that Shimei can't be used with objects. –  Mark Hosang Jun 7 '11 at 4:17
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+1 for good answer, also if you've ever filled out a paper form in Japan, you'll find it says 氏名 –  crunchyt Jun 7 '11 at 6:05

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