Any question that does not deal specifically with grammar or pronunciation. Includes questions about prefixes, suffixes, compound words, loanwords, dialectal differences, pragmatic usage, etc. In other words, phenomena that occurs at the level of the word.

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10
votes
5answers
624 views

Are there any common Japanese words which were borrowed from Ainu or other indigenous languages?

I know plenty of Japanese words that came from English and a few from other European languages (obviously tons from Chinese), but what about words from Japan's indigenous languages such as Ainu? Also ...
14
votes
3answers
359 views

How are 化け物, 妖怪, 幽霊, etc. related to each other?

In the past few years, reading light novels and the like, I have come across many different terms for ghosts, spirits, monsters, etc. in Japanese, and I'm wondering how they relate to each other. What ...
9
votes
1answer
352 views

what's the difference between 返事 and 答え?

both have the similar English of "answer," but when do you use one over the other?
9
votes
2answers
1k views

way to use さっぱり (sappari) and すっかり (sukkari)

Maybe it's just me, but I keep mixing up As in すっかり忘れてた I've completely forgot and さっぱりわからない I haven't the faintest idea / I really don't know are there other expressions to use ...
6
votes
2answers
148 views

What's the difference in the nuances that 呪縛【じゅばく】 and 呪い【のろい】 convey?

Is 呪縛 usually used to refer to a good spell or a bad one (like a curse)? I mean the dictionary writes the english meaning as: spell/curse but I was wondering what sort of nuance would be attached to ...
7
votes
3answers
579 views

低い鼻 vs 短い鼻 and 高い鼻 vs 長い鼻 ?

After reading this thread: When would you use 低い vs 短い, I'd just thought of something. I once heard that a long nose (witch / Pinocchio) is called 高い鼻 and not 長い鼻 whereas the opposite (short nose) is ...
7
votes
3answers
970 views

Can I help you?

In English, the word "help" can be used for any of these cases to ask somebody for help or to give a help to someone: In a store, when a clerk (store worker) says: Can I help you, sir? With ...
9
votes
4answers
3k views

How can I say “some X ” in Japanese?

I was thinking, and I can't express the word "some" in Japanese. Examples: There were some fruits on the table. (I would say "テーブルの上に果物があった) Maybe 少しあった - but then I would translate as "there ...
7
votes
2answers
225 views

Origin/etymology of こころ~ words

There are three unique words that begin with こころ~: 快い (こころよい)、 試みる (こころみる)、 志 (こころざし) What is the origin of these words in relation to "heart/spirit/mind", if any??? Or is this just something ...
4
votes
1answer
168 views

~まくる as a suffix, what does it mean and how is it used?

I found this phrase 「家族に突っ込まれまくった」 and I believe it means "[my] family really stuck it [to me]" but I'm not familiar with the suffix まくる. Any examples and clarifications would be appreciated.
6
votes
3answers
143 views

“Statistically speaking … ”

I am looking for a way to express the equivalent of "statistically speaking, ..." (followed by a quote from a paper, or something like that), or pretty much any other grammatical construction that ...
15
votes
3answers
406 views

What is the difference in meaning between “husband and wife” 夫婦【ふうふ】 and 夫妻【ふさい】?

I see that those two compounds mean husband and wife, as a married couple. But is there a difference in usage or context?
9
votes
2answers
379 views

When is 酒【さけ】used to mean 日本酒【にほんしゅ】?

The fermented rice alcohol called "sake" in English is usually referred to as 日本酒【にほんしゅ】 in Japanese, while 酒【さけ】 merely means "alcohol" in general. Yet, all dictionaries list both "alcohol" and ...
12
votes
2answers
392 views

Nuances between the different kanji spellings of あける:明ける vs. 開ける vs. 空ける

開ける, 明ける and 空ける are all read as あける. From their kanji, it is obvious that 開ける has to do more with opening (a door etc), 明ける with dawning and 空ける with emptying... However, JMDict gives the exact ...
9
votes
3answers
2k views

Is “あらら” (arara) a word or just a “vocal noise”?

A friend just wrote this as a comment on a photo of mine on Facebook. Is it an actual word or is it what I call a "vocal noise"? By "vocal noise" I mean those things which convey some meaning but ...
13
votes
4answers
760 views

Am I coming or going? 戻ってくる vs 戻っていく

A little while ago I was in a shop, and about 5 minutes after I left, they phoned me to tell me I had left my USB stick there. I said I would head back and pick it up. I used 戻{もど}って行{い}く to mean ...
3
votes
1answer
333 views

超 vs めっちゃ + explanation [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Significance of the kanji 「茶」 in the set phrase 「滅茶滅茶 / 目茶目茶」 {めちゃめちゃ} So, in Kansai they use めっちゃ, and in Kanto 超. But what about the other parts of Japan? And from ...
14
votes
7answers
5k views

Are there any Japanese words as versatile as “fuck” in English?

I was wondering about this one recently. "Fuck" in English is famous for being applicable in a wide, wide range of circumstances (none of them formal). What word in Japanese covers a wide spectrum of ...
7
votes
2answers
382 views

What's the difference between “巻寿司” (makizushi), “海苔巻き” (norimaki), and “巻物” (makimono)?

It seems there are three words for the same Japanese food item, a kind of "sushi in a long roll": "巻寿司" (makizushi) "海苔巻き" (norimaki) "巻物" (makimono) Are they all identical / synonyms? Do they ...
6
votes
4answers
483 views

Is there a word for the type of onigiri that comes in the triangular wrap that keeps the nori fresh?

The term "onigiri" covers all kinds of rice balls, with or without filling, and with or without nori seaweed around it. Is there a specific term that only covers the one class of onigiri available in ...
3
votes
1answer
134 views

Can 差す be an intransitive verb?

WWWJDIC lists 差す as an intransitive verb, but in all of the example sentences I've seen it looks more like a transitive verb. So my question is, is 差す a transitive or intransitive verb?
26
votes
3answers
1k views

How indistinguishable is blue from green really?

青 ao seems to be used very much interchangeably for both blue and green. Why is that so, and how does 緑 midori play into this?
14
votes
5answers
3k views

Is すごい slang or just informal?

Regarding すごい: What is the right way to spell it? Is it vulgar, or is it slang like the English "cool"?, or informal or colloquial? Is it archaic? If it is slang, does it have a non-slang meaning? ...
2
votes
1answer
307 views

Is “ガール” (gāru) now considered a Japanese word? What about “ガールズ” (gāruzu)?

In my wanderings around Japan giving my kana knowledge some practice I've noticed both the words "ガール" (gāru) and "ガールズ" (gāruzu) in use at least in signage. Obviously they are borrowed from English ...
13
votes
1answer
2k views

Words/characters for fast food meal sizes: 並, 大, 特

When dining at Yoshinoya I never know how to ask for the size meal I want. Their sizes are 並, 大, and 特. I only know that "大" means big, but it also has two readings so I have no idea whether to ask ...
18
votes
3answers
531 views

Use of 自分【じぶん】as a personal pronoun in direct speech

Yay, yet another first-person-pronoun question! I know that 自分 is commonly used as a personal pronoun in indirect speech, e.g.: マイクは、自分はなんと不注意なのだろうと言った。→ Mike said that he was very careless. ...
11
votes
3answers
318 views

When is it appropriate to refer to yourself by これ?

I have occasionally heard and read instances, where a person has referred to themselves as これ. My Japanese dictionary also lists "Me, I." as a definition of これ. Now, this obviously isn't used as ...
4
votes
2answers
297 views

is “超” (chō) seldom used in written works?

Is it true that the prefix 超 to mean “very” is seldom used in written works (like novels.. but of course i do not count the words between the 「 and 」), and is usually only used when talking?
10
votes
1answer
605 views

ならば vs なら. both are totally interchangeable without affecting the nuance of the sentence?

is it true that なら is merely a short form of ならば and as such, both are totally interchangeable without affecting the nuance of the sentence? Also, a second question is is ならば more "formal" than "なら" ...
9
votes
1answer
199 views

Using くれる for doing something bad

Today I heard the phrase なんてことしてくれた, as in: 君!なんてことしてくれたんだ! which I learned means "Look what you've done". I thought くれる was only used when someone does something nice for you. Is this just a ...
13
votes
2answers
375 views

What does とな mean (and how do I use it)?

I came across this on Twitter, it seems to be mostly a question but sometimes an exclamation. Is it とは, or maybe とか? How do you use it? My dictionary has a とな as word that come at the end of a ...
7
votes
2answers
491 views

What is the difference between 特殊 and 特別?

I've got two questions. Firstly, what is the difference between 特殊 tokushu and 特別 tokubetsu? Secondly, is it true that all these grammar forms are correct: 特別な tokubetsu na + [noun] 特殊な tokushu na ...
7
votes
3answers
2k views

Does “おつまみ” (otsumami) mean “snack” or “rice crackers” or “crunchy snack” like chips and peanuts, or something else entirely?

This is a word I learned by reading and not by studying or in conversation with Japanese. After learning the kana years ago I had occasion to fly with JAL and the pre-meal snack was a little packet ...
6
votes
2answers
567 views

「拝」から始まる謙譲語 — humble keigo starting with [hai]

What are the common 謙譲語 verbs that start with 「拝」? I know these ones: 見る → 拝見する (to see), 拝観する (to view something -- limited usage) 聴く → 拝聴する 読む → 拝読する 会う → 拝謁する (although I've ...
14
votes
5answers
840 views

In modern usage how do Japanese natives regard the differences between 外人, 外国人 and 外人さん?

As a near native speaker of Japanese, I find it annoying to be called 外人 since it seems to imply that I "know nothing about Japan" (outsider). I much prefer 外国人. In modern usage, how do native ...
8
votes
1answer
403 views

Nuances of “give” - あげる/与える/授ける

Can someone give some good context and scenarios for using these? Not only when to use them, but when NOT to use them as well. I know あげる is kind of the most common, but I'm just not sure of the ...
7
votes
1answer
1k views

Common 四字熟語 that use/are 当て字

Are there any commonly used known 四字熟語 that use/are 当て字 besides the following? Just crossed my mind, and now I'm curious. 滅茶苦茶 (めちゃくちゃ), 夜露死苦 (よろしく), 無理矢理 (むりやり)
10
votes
5answers
2k views

Native word for “pen”

Is there a native, non-loanword for "pen" (the writing instrument)? Or is there only 「ペン」? There is one for "pencil" (鉛筆), one for "ruler" (定規), one for "paper" (紙) and even though the one for ...
10
votes
3answers
298 views

Are there differences in nuance and usage of [内]{ない}[緒]{しょ}, [秘]{ひ}[密]{みつ}, [隠]{かく}し[事]{ごと} and [秘]{ひ}め[事]{ごと}?

They all carry the meaning of "secret" in English, but are there differences in nuance and usage of each of them: [内]{ない}[緒]{しょ} [秘]{ひ}[密]{みつ} [隠]{かく}し[事]{ごと} [秘]{ひ}め[事]{ごと} ...
8
votes
1answer
2k views

What's the difference between “マグロ” (maguro), “ツナ” (tsuna), and “シーチキン” (shiichikin)?

It seems that there are (at least) three words for "tuna" in Japanese: "マグロ" / "鮪" / "まぐろ" (maguro) - Seems to be the native name for the creature and used at least in sushi "ツナ" (tsuna) - Seems to ...
13
votes
3answers
772 views

How can I differentiate between 「もう」 that means “already” and 「もう」 that means “more/additional”?

I noticed that 「もう」 can mean both "already" and "additional", such as the following sentence: もう二本飲みましたよ。 Can mean either one of: I already drank two glasses. I drank additional two glasses. ...
19
votes
3answers
3k views

How can I differentiate between feet and legs?

Feet are 足, and legs are also 足. Is there a word or method with which I can easily talk about one and not the other? And if not, why is there no word for feet in the Japanese language? Caveat: I ...
7
votes
1answer
198 views

Difference between 創立、設立、樹立

Can anyone explain the difference between these words? They all basically mean "to set up / to found", and from what I've researched, it's all very 微妙 to me.
7
votes
3answers
477 views

What does 思いっきりどうぞ mean?

I heard this phrase a few times but I still can't grasp its meaning. Does it mean, "as much as you would like"?
10
votes
2answers
253 views

Which verbs have 辞書形 (dictionary forms) that look like ~ます conjugations?

I recently confused 励ます (hagemasu) for the ~ます form of 禿げる (hageru). Although this actually lead to a rather amusing conversation, I'm wondering if there are other examples of this to watch out for?
7
votes
2answers
433 views

Fun with synonyms - “to grab/catch/capture”

Here's a question for you experts. I've actually asked this to my Japanese friends, but I want to see how you guys answer too. Explain the differences in the following verbs and which one(s) appear ...
6
votes
2answers
310 views

Is the grammar of 心の冷たい人 idiomatic?

The phrase 心の冷たい人 (which is given by Japanese-English dictionary on OS X) looks wrong to me, but given that it's an example in a respected dictionary and confirmed by tens of thousands of Google hits, ...
6
votes
3answers
256 views

Does 前提に mean “to require”?

I recently came across the expression 前提に: feature1はfeature2と同じく各コンテンツに分類用の識別子を埋め込む機能ですが、統制を重視したユースケースを前提に設計されているため柔軟さに欠けます。 'feature1, just like feature2, is a way to embed classification into ...
20
votes
2answers
505 views

Why is 二十歳 pronounced はたち?

二十歳 is a (to me) bizarre exception to the usual number+さい rule for discussing age. Is this rooted in 20 being the Japanese age of majority? Added: To be more specific: why isn't it pronounced にじゅうさい ...
18
votes
4answers
1k views

Commonness of casual phrases like “あたし” and “ちっちゃい”

I came across a Japanese girl in Germany who talked using words like あたし instead of わたし, or ちっちゃい instead of ちいさい. When I asked her, she said that these words or usages of words are more common in ...