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Could someone explain the difference between 姿{すがた} and 形{かたち}?

I've looked up both words, but I'm still not clear on what the distinction is, or how much overlap there is between the two. My mental concept right now is that 形 represents the "outline" or "shape" of something, and 姿 represents the features within the shape. I'm afraid this might be terribly wrong!

(I'm also curious about 姿形, but I'm not sure I should include it in this question.)

Can anyone help?

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1 Answer 1

up vote 9 down vote accepted

姿 almost always refers to a person's appearance in a kind of poetic sense. Usually when you refer to 姿 you're referring to some kind of beauty or special quality to someone's appearance. It's possible to use this to describe an object, but as I mentioned it takes on a little bit more of a poetic quality. For example:

(4)物のかたち。ありさま。 「―の美しい山」

形 on the other hand is a simple word referring to shape. You can use 形 with just about anything and it doesn't carry any extra baggage along with it. So for example you could normally say 携帯電話の形 but not 携帯電話の姿. The latter is only possible when you're deliberately trying to evoke a certain feeling or image around an inanimate object. 形 can also be used in more metaphorical ways and with other nuances, but in terms of how it's different from 姿, you can think of it in terms of people and general shape.

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