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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11
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2answers
2k views

How do you say “funny”?

The English word "funny" means "something that makes one laugh". What is/are the closest Japanese word/words that match the meaning and the nuance of the word "funny"? Two possible matches are ...
11
votes
2answers
383 views

what is the difference in the usage of [成]{な}るべく and できるだけ?

Hi guys what is the difference in the usage of 成るべく and できるだけ? Don't they both mean as [x] as possible? E.g.: 1) できるだけ多くの本を読みなさい vs なるべく多くの本を読みなさい 2) できるだけ早くお願いします vs なるべく早くお願いします
11
votes
2answers
516 views

“Should” in Japanese

The word "should" in English has these uses when not used as a question: To express the expectation of the speaker (Probabilistic reasoning). The train should arrive in 10 minutes. To express a ...
10
votes
4answers
498 views

Greeting for meeting a friend by chance

How can I greet a person in a manner similar to "Nice to find you in here!" (— meaning meeting a friend by chance somewhere)?
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
2answers
545 views

What is the difference between 記憶【きおく】 and 思【おも】い出【で】?

Is there any difference between the meanings or connotations of 記憶 and 思い出? I started thinking about this after listening to the song 「タイムマシーン」 or "Time Machine" by 少女時代, where these two lines occur ...
10
votes
3answers
857 views

How can you figure out whether 鍵【かぎ】 means “lock” or “key”?

Recently, I forgot whether 鍵【かぎ】 meant lock or key, so I looked it up quickly on my phone's dictionary... And then I found out that it actually means both. What are the best ways to figure out if ...
10
votes
2answers
372 views

“看護師” vs. “看護士”

Good afternoon all, I was wondering is it true that "看護師" is a gender-neutral way of referring to a "nurse", Whereas "看護婦" implies that it is a girl, And "看護士" implies that it is a guy? ...
10
votes
5answers
609 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 ...
10
votes
1answer
591 views

加える/増やす and 加わる/増える or even 増加する/殖/足, various kanji for “adding things”

I'm a bit confused regarding the choice between the 加 and 増 kanji for any meaning related to "adding one thing to another". I assume that, as usual, the suru-verb combination 増加する is somewhat more ...
10
votes
2answers
1k views

寝る vs. 眠る, what's the real difference?

What's the real, definite difference between 寝【ね】る and 眠【ねむ】る? I know they both mean "sleep", but also that each carries some additional (sometimes, figurative) meanings. Where do the meanings ...
10
votes
2answers
250 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?
10
votes
1answer
585 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" ...
10
votes
1answer
198 views

Fun with synonyms - “flattery"

What are the difference in the following words meaning flattery / to flatter: お世{せ}辞{じ} 追{つい}従{しょう} おべっか 胡{ご}麻{ま}をする 阿{おもね}る 諂{へつら}う 煽{おだ}て(る) 美{び}辞{じ}麗{れい}句{く} Which ones are honest, sincere ...
10
votes
1answer
479 views

How do 自他 triplets of related verbs work?

I thought this had been asked before (possibly by me), but I couldn't find it. I'm wondering why for certain verbs/words, instead of just a 自他 pair, there is a triplet (or possibly more) where two of ...
10
votes
3answers
279 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} ...
10
votes
1answer
514 views

How to use ~に同意する to agree or disagree with a person?

A couple of times I've tried to say "I agree with..." or "he agrees with..." but I don't know whether I'm using 同意{どうい}する correctly. In what ways should に同意{どうい}している be used? Also, which particles ...
9
votes
3answers
242 views

is it true to say that 亡くなる is a polite form of しぬ?

is it true to say that 亡くなる is a polite form of しぬ? Like what is the difference in nuance between these two sentences: 1) ディックは10歳のとき亡くなった。 2) ディックは10歳のとき死んだ。
9
votes
3answers
2k views

Is it true that all Japanese words end in a vowel when transliterated to English?

First off I know zero Japanese, so sorry if this is a stupid question. I seem to remember hearing a while back that all Japanese words, when transliterated to the Latin alphabet, will end in a vowel. ...
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 ...
9
votes
3answers
698 views

Is しまった an appropriate translation for “Oops”?

In the course of localising an app for the Japanese language I have been tasked with translating the Google-style error string "Oops", which will presumably be used as in Oops Please check ...
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 ...
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 ...
9
votes
1answer
611 views

Describing my exact height

How do I describe my height in centimetres? I think you can say "私は背が高いです" to say that you're tall, but how about your exact height? Would "私は背が190cmです" sound like broken Japanese? I came across ...
9
votes
2answers
274 views

Etymology of とんでもない

Where did とんでもない (meaning "not at all" or "outrageous!") come from? Could it be 飛んでもない? ("will not even jump/fly" in a similar way how "When pigs fly" is considered a remark for something ...
9
votes
1answer
269 views

Difference between 向け and 向き

My boss just corrected one of my documents from 企業向きな開発 to 企業向けの開発. Apart from the の/な problem that I always get wrong, is there a problem with 向き ? I got it from my textbook that says 子供向きです Could ...
9
votes
1answer
434 views

天気 vs. 天候, what's the real difference?

What's the real difference between 天気 and 天候? In at least one of my dictionaries, 天候 just redirects to 天気. I've always thought (read: "felt") that 天候 is the general "concept" of weather, or even ...
9
votes
2answers
515 views

Differences between the many words for dinner

According to my dictionary, the following words all mean the same thing: "Dinner": [夜]{よる}ご[飯]{はん}, [晩]{ばん}ご[飯]{はん}, [晩飯]{ばんめし}, [晩食]{ばんしょく}, [夕]{ゆう}ご[飯]{はん}, [夕飯]{ゆうはん(ゆうめし)}, [夕食]{ゆうしょく} A similar ...
9
votes
4answers
428 views

Is there an online list of frequently used words in the news?

There are a few books with lists of words and kanji compounds found in the news. Like this one, this one, and this one. However, unless one wants to spend a lot of time doing data entry, they don't ...
9
votes
2answers
367 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 ...
9
votes
2answers
423 views

What words are used for dolphin meat?

What words are used for dolphin meat? Searching jisho.org using "dolphin" in the English field listed several different words for dolphin, but no compounds involving meat. Neither the English nor ...
9
votes
3answers
406 views

Describing aptronyms (names that fit their owner)

I thought of this after seeing a news article about 星出{ほしで}彰彦{あきひこ}, who is an astronaut. Aptronym is a term for a name (often the surname) that fits a person's occupation or personality. A classic ...
9
votes
2answers
444 views

How do we decide if 中 is ちゅう or じゅう?

How do we decide if 中 is ちゅう or じゅう ? For example, in this sentence 10人中3人はビデオを持っている which pronunciation should we use? What about this: そのピアニストの演奏中、彼らは一心に耳を傾けた。
9
votes
4answers
412 views

What is the difference in usage between 準備 用意 and 覚悟

The dictionaries translate these three words roughly as preparation/preparedness or ready/readiness. I don't think I undersand the subtleties of their usage. Not to mention できる also has another ...
9
votes
1answer
135 views

Etymology of the term お局 and how it is used in slang

Can someone explain the etymology of the word お局 as well as how it is used in modern slang? I took an educated guess as to the colloquial meaning but am unsure of its nuances, be they comedic, ...
9
votes
1answer
346 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
1answer
501 views

What is the meaning/usage of いざ?

Will someone please explain what this word いざ means? I've found several definitions, but I'm very unclear on what it really means and its usage. I've heard it mostly in the following ways: ...
9
votes
1answer
240 views

What's the difference between 電光石火【でんこうせっか】 and 疾風迅雷【しっぷうじんらい】

They both seem to mean "quick as lightning". What are the nuances between them? In what sort of context would they be used? Are they interchangeable? etc.
9
votes
1answer
569 views

Is it true that にしたって is the colloquial form of にしたところで?

I've been thinking if it is true that にしたって is the colloquial form of にしたところで. In other words, are the bottom two sentences identical in meaning and nuance? 1) ...
9
votes
2answers
346 views

What's the difference between 何【なん】 and 幾【いく】 when referring to amounts?

Is 幾 simply more literary/archaic than 何? Can 幾 only be applied to certain words whereas 何 is more versatile?
9
votes
1answer
175 views

Employed by one institution but work for another

I've worked my current job for a few years, and I can't believe I've never thought of this question. I have a unique employment situation. I am employed by a university, but the work I do is for the ...
9
votes
2answers
309 views

Terms for Japanese/Western name order

Does anybody know of a standard term to describe Japanese and Western name orders (for example, when filling a form): John Somelastname ← "Western name order" Somelastname John ← "Japanese ...
9
votes
1answer
388 views

Small towels to wipe sweat off

I was in Japan recently and am trying to remember the name for a small towel the Japanese may use to wipe the sweat off their faces in the summer. I was hoping to buy one for myself in the U.S. Do ...
9
votes
1answer
197 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 ...
9
votes
1answer
495 views

Comparing 気にする vs. 気になる

Consider this example sentence from SPACEALC: あなたがどうしているか気になっていた。  "I was concerned about how you were." What is the difference when 気にする is used instead? I.e., あなたがどうしているか気にしていた。 ~なる ...
9
votes
1answer
294 views

What to call the characters-based decoration found in many announce emails

Many emails received from Japanese companies contains characters-based dingbat-style ornament like this: ■□■□■□──────────────────────────── blablablablablablablabla ...
8
votes
6answers
1k views

Are there words which consist of katakana and hiragana letters together?

Obviously many Japanese words consist of kanji characters plus hiragana since the latter are used for okurigana: 食べる 水割り 鷹の爪 Recently I'v started to discover a few words that use kanji characters ...
8
votes
3answers
291 views

What do we call things that are neither kana nor kanji?

I was wondering Is there a Japanese name (or term) for written stuff that are neither kana nor kanji? By that, I mean stuff like: ゠ (ダブルハイフン, for indicating the dash in foreign words) ・ (ぽつ, for ...
8
votes
3answers
843 views

How to begin a reply to a question?

During Q&A in English, "well" and "uhm" are two ways to begin a reply. If you known the answer, you begin the reply with "Well... ". This creates a pause such that the speaker can arrange his ...
8
votes
3answers
446 views

Why is the meaning of人一倍 opposite of what it seems to say?

This could be just me, but at first glance the word (phrase?) 人一倍 looks like it would mean "one's own share of the work". I assumed 人 to mean one person, and 一倍 means "one share, one amount". I was a ...