These two words both appear to have the meaning "to give birth" or "to produce". However, what is the difference between the two kanji used?

I originally assumed that 生む meant "to give birth" and 産む meant "to produce", but looking at some example sentences, they seem to be used interchangeably. What is going on there?

  • 1
    There are also the nouns 出生 & 出産, which both mean "birth" in some sense.
    – Earthliŋ
    Nov 2, 2013 at 15:04
  • If the answer to the other question is too hard to understand, a new answer should be added there. Voting to close this one.
    – jogloran
    Feb 16, 2022 at 6:35
  • I wonder what the poster should do in a case like this. Start a bounty on the other question, which already has an accepted answer?
    – aguijonazo
    Feb 16, 2022 at 8:38
  • 1
    Not sure how this is best dealt with by the person asking the question, but at the same time I think it is bad having two questions that are exactly the same, each with an answer contradicting the other. I would suggest that we close this question and that @aguijonazo puts his answer in the other thread.
    – a20
    Feb 16, 2022 at 14:17
  • If you have a specific point that is not addressed by the answers you found elsewhere, perhaps you can ask a separate question, but this time with your own description of what issues you would like to have answered.
    – Flaw
    Feb 17, 2022 at 7:35

2 Answers 2


Check out this site for some kanji etymology. I've posted the results there.

: 生 (Type 2 Phonetic) birth; life + an abbreviated form of 彦 (handsome/well-formed) → (well-formed), locally grown, life-sustaining product → produce; production; local product/material (that sustains life) → one's birthplace → childbirth.

: SIS shows an abbreviated form (Type 8 Phonetic) of 艸 grass/plant + 土 earth → fresh, slender grass shoots → birth; life → new; fresh; sprout; raw; alive; by nature; youth; unripe; pure; bear fruit; spare a life; bring back to life; make use of; make a living; be/remain valid; arrange flowers/plants; grow; undiluted.

Funny enough I just saw these two kanji used in a short story by Kenzaburo Oe this evening while studying. In the story なぜ子供は学校に行かねばならないのか, the narrator uses the 産む when referring to his mother's speech, where 生む is used in the passive form (生まれる). Both are talking about giving birth, but its interesting to think about how the usage of 産 in this case does refer more explicitly to the production of a child.

Although that alone, even combined with the kanji etymology, isn't conclusive, but it seems to me like you're on the right path when viewing 産 as more related to production whereas 生 is inherently more related to life, as a general concept, e.g. 生物、[生]{い}きる、生活

  • Thanks for mentioning the 艸+土-etymology. I once saw a 山 on top of 土 and have been wondering since. Nov 6, 2013 at 16:23
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    @JensJensen Take a look at the older forms of 生.
    – user1478
    Nov 7, 2013 at 0:28
  • So 産む is usually used when referring to giving birth to a child?
    – 小太郎
    Nov 10, 2013 at 10:04
  • Is this really correct? 産む refers exclusively to when a baby or egg is delivered from a mother's womb, whereas 生む is a general word that means roughly "to produce something new". Both can be used for giving birth (i.e. you "produce a new life" or you "deliver a baby", in practice the same thing), but only 生む can be used for non-living things like いい結果を生み出す. On the other hand, there are combined words such as 産業 where 産 is used for strictly material things.
    – a20
    Feb 15, 2022 at 16:02

うむ and うまれる should be written with 産 only if it refers to the (punctual) act of a mother giving birth to a baby or, in the case of non-mammals, a female laying an egg or a young hatching from an egg. 生 can also be used for that, but it covers a much broader range of meanings and is used for all other senses.

The reason うまれた is often written with 生 is that it is used to refer to the beginning of one’s life in an abstract sense, rather than the concrete instance of emerging from the mother’s body or, to use a passive form, being delivered. 産 may be used to stress the latter sense.




産みの苦しみ may also be used for a thing, but this should be understood as a figurative usage in reference to the pains a mother goes through when delivering a baby.

Here are a few references.

  • i understand 生まれるand 産まれる part but still confused about 生む and 産む because 生む have meaning "to produce" and "to create" 「新しく作り出す」 Feb 16, 2022 at 12:59
  • @yutrewq - As I said, 生む and 生まれる cover a much broader range of meanings than 産む and 産まれる, including those you mentioned.
    – aguijonazo
    Feb 16, 2022 at 13:34
  • 1
    I want to second a20's suggestion that you post this as an answer to that other question on the same topic. It's so much clearer and more complete than the answer there that has been accepted!
    – Nanigashi
    Feb 17, 2022 at 16:21

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