I am learning from 日本語総まとめ which is great generally but I wonder about this example from N2 文法 (grammar):


which translates to I scold my children because I care for them.

This was teaching こそ meaning because.

Implying that が かわいい in this context means care for. Is this a true translation? I thought it was something like 飼う but my teacher said it wasn't- just the cute, nice... meaning adjective. Where is this usage referenced?

  • 4
    What is a true translation? 「おはようございます」 is translated to "Good morning!" 100% of the time even though absolutely no part of 「おはようございます」 means either "good" or "morning". Translation is an art and it exists to please the speakers of the target language, not those of the original language. こどもがかわいい literally means "(the) kids are dear", not "I care for the kids", but if the translator feels that the latter sounds better in English, that is what he will use. 飼う means "to keep an animal either as a pet or in agriculture". It has nothing to do with the sentence in question.
    – user4032
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 9:27

2 Answers 2


Just ask the dictionary:


Japanese to English dictionaries often tend to gloss over a lot of nuances, so it's good whenever possible to use a J-J dictionary. In English, this would read as "something for which you hold deep affection and treat as important." The examples refer to "my 'dear' son," for example, which matches the usage of your sentence. The example sentence in question would be "わたしのかわいい息子へ".

So as for whether it's a 'true' translation, which I assume you mean not to be in error, or else a literal translation, the answer is of course yes. Because the speaker cares deeply for this child he/she scolds him/her. Technically it COULD be that the speaker is just weird and especially enjoys scolding cute kids, but we have no context to suggest that the definition above is not the most likely one.

Definition 2 in that dictionary entry is the one that has the typical "cute" meaning that we tend to associate with the word

  • Not much good to referring to monolingual Japanese dictionary- I can just understand a bit of it- most people couldn't understand any of it. Of course you can online translate but going to be rather bad. Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 12:37
  • The bit that I quoted is a translation of the definition. I'll make it more clear in the post!
    – ssb
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 12:42
  • I understand that you were describing the definition in the dictionary in your answer - I just thought you were trying to make a general suggestion- as a reference its rather limited in its usefulness. Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 12:51
  • 6
    I kind of have to disagree.. if you're looking for where the particular meaning of a word is referenced, isn't a dictionary the perfect place to find that?
    – ssb
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 14:28
  • The beautiful thing about dictionaries is that if you don't understand a word in the entry, you already have the proper book open to look it up! Referring to a monolingual dictionary is the way native speakers learn, so it's probably a good method if you want to be as good as native speakers.
    – jmac
    Commented Oct 30, 2013 at 5:16

Kawaii, which can be written 可愛い has the same etymology as the verb 可愛がる (kawaigaru) which has a number of meanings. From what I've seen, in today's common usage it most often used to refer to petting or playing with a pet.

However, it comes from a verb meaning, essentially "taking care of something because its kawaii" which is originally "cute in pathetic/helpless way".

I don't know if it helps, but it may be useful to know that the ji in kawaii literally mean "lovable".

  • 2
    The kanji in 可愛い mean "lovable", but they are 当て字. Etymologically, かわいい is said to stem from 顔映し, which means something like "radiant face".
    – Earthliŋ
    Commented Oct 31, 2013 at 0:42
  • Cool, I didn't know that
    – BraveFoot
    Commented Oct 31, 2013 at 1:02

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