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This has an entry in the 異字同訓漢字の使い分け例. My answer will basically just be a quick translation and notes on that entry. 【堅い】中身が詰まっていて強い。確かである。 堅い材木。堅い守り。手堅い商売。合格は堅い。口が堅い。堅苦しい。 【固い】結び付きが強い。揺るがない。 団結が固い。固い友情。固い決意。固く信じる。頭が固い。 【硬い】(⇔軟らかい)。外力に強い。こわばっている。 硬い石。硬い殻を割る。硬い表現。表情が硬い。選手が緊張で硬くなっている。 堅 is for stuff that's strong or certain. Stiff, as you say, ...


離す means to separate or let go of something (c.f. 分離). 放す means to send out or to emit (c.f. 放送).


The act of assigning kanjis to words that ignore kanji's meaning is called 当て字 (ateji), and that has a long history. According to Wikipedia article on 当て字, this was very common in the past because the language used to rely on Kanji/Hiragana boundary to help distinguish nouns, verbs, etc from particles. The article is full of great examples like 珈琲, 滅茶苦茶, and ...

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