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I've been using Japanese-Japanese dictionaries for a while now and this keeps popping up. It seems to me like a kind of usage that is found for the most part only in dictionaries. Can anyone help explain what exactly さま means in the dictionary definition below? (It's from 大辞泉.) It seems to be just a generic object that they modify with the term's definition, i.e. XYZ is a blah blah blah さま (thing).

ささ‐やか【細やか】

[形動][文][ナリ]1 形や規模があまり大げさでなく、控えめなさま。「―な商売をはじめる」「―に暮らす」

Any clarification would be really appreciated.

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(1) It is better to state the source when you quote something. (2) Have you checked さま in a dictionary? –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jan 5 '13 at 16:12
    
@TsuyoshiIto: Does knowing the source really help with answering the question? –  istrasci Jan 5 '13 at 20:15
    
@istrasci: I do not know why you said “really” because I did not claim that knowing the source helps with answering (although it sometimes does). I just think that it is wrong to copy something without stating the source. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jan 6 '13 at 6:02
    
@TsuyoshiIto: Oh, it sounded like you meant that if you knew where it came from, then you could understand why the poster was confused, etc. –  istrasci Jan 6 '13 at 21:29
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1 Answer

The さま in these definitions is none other than . in this sense is synonymous with 有【あり】様 or 様子, meaning "state, circumstances, situation, appearance, condition".

So the definition of 細やか you provided would translate as "shape/scope not being grandiose or exaggerated, but being (a) reserved/moderate/conservative (state)".

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