Both うつむく and うなだれる seem to suggest hanging one's head. I've only seen them used in the context of someone who is ashamed of their actions.

Is there any difference in meaning/usage of these words?


1 Answer 1


I looked in my middle school dictionary. These are the entries:

  • うつむく ー 顔を下に向ける。例:はずかしそうにうつむうく。対:あおむく。
  • うなだれる ー 悲しんたり、がっかりしたりして、顔を下に向ける。例:叱られた子は、いつまでもうなだれていた。

From these two, we can see that shame is not necessarily a part of the meaning. I don't think a child hanging their head after a scolding is necessarily feeling shame; they are definitely in emotional pain though. Of these two, it is the second one that seems to have more of an emotional component.

In my 大辞林, for うつむく there is only:

  • うつむく ー 下に向く。頭をたれる。

  • うなだれる ー (失望して、また物思いふけって)首を前へたれる。うつむく。

From this entry for うなだれる the implication could be someone who is deep in thought. Perhaps one could say


Einstein went walking with his head down deep in thought.


After failing his exam, the student left the class with head down. 

Notice the choice of [耽]{ふけ}る in this later definition. I think that helps emphasize the idea of being deeply engrossed in or lost in some kind of thought, grief, or other emotion etc.

In my 和英辞典


It seems to me that this is merely descriptive. Though all the other example sentences capture some essence of embarrassment.


I don't think this necessarily implies any kind of embarrassment. Perhaps he was deep in thought, dejected, or sad for someone reason or other.

  • 2
    Technically, アインシュタインは夢中にうなだれて歩いていった could be ok, but for modern ears at least, it sounds odd.
    – sundowner
    Commented Feb 12 at 1:09
  • @sundowner Could you elaborate?
    – A.Ellett
    Commented Feb 12 at 1:14
  • 2
    Practically (in modern usage) うなだれる always implies some sort of disappointment or exhaustion. うつむく is kind of more neutral - うつむいて歩いていた does not (particularly) sound the walker is feeling down (just 'face down') / うなだれて.. would mean something bad happened to the walker. From some usages and dictionary definitions, it does seem うなだれる was used neutrally sometimes, but I suppose the usage is now dated.
    – sundowner
    Commented Feb 12 at 1:21
  • @sundowner Thank you. So the sense of being lost in thought that I lifted from my dictionary is no longer prevalent? It seems my middle school dictionary was more to the point. Perhaps I should not be surprised. The middle school dictionary is only 20 years old, but the other dictionary is over 30 years old at this point.
    – A.Ellett
    Commented Feb 12 at 1:25
  • As for the ふける sense, yes, at least mostly (Note e.g. 後悔してうなだれていた could be argued that there's still some sense of ふける). You can use <strike> to put a line over texts.
    – sundowner
    Commented Feb 12 at 1:30

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