I am learning JLPT N2. I came across these words in one sentence. I couldn't find the difference between 沸く【わく】, 炊く【たく】, 茹でる【ゆでる】, 煮る【にる】, and 蒸す【むす】. All the words have similar meanings. Can anyone tell me the exact meanings and situations where the above words are used?

1 Answer 1


沸く refers to the simplest act of a liquid boiling. It is an intransitive verb and just means that something (water) is heated up and usually boils (note the kanji in 沸騰{ふっとう}). Its transitive form is 沸かす. You can see it additionally in words like 湯沸{ゆわ}かし器{き}, or water heater. For example: お湯が沸く, 湯を沸かす. 沸く has an additional nuance of heightened emotion.

茹でる is a transitive verb that refers to boiling something (as in food, not the liquid itself), like in 野菜を茹でる. It doesn't seem to indicate the addition of any flavor. Its intransitive form is 茹だる. So while 沸く refers to the boiling of water, 茹でる refers to the act of putting the food in the water and boiling it.

煮る is also a transitive verb to boil something, but this is in more of a cooking sense where you prepare a dish by boiling it, adding spices, different ingredients, etc. to imbue it with flavor. You might call it "stewing" in English. Many foods contain the kanji 煮 and can be classified as 煮物{にもの}.

炊く is an older form of 煮る but now mostly refers to the act of cooking rice. Note the kanji in 炊飯器{すいはんき}, or rice cooker.

蒸す is for steaming something. Often used in compounds, like 蒸しご飯 or 蒸し菓子

  • Got it. Thanks for your help. I need to pay more attention to transitive and intransitive verbs. :) Jan 16, 2014 at 7:38
  • 沸かす would fit better with 茹でる, 煮る, 蒸す & 炊く.
    – Earthliŋ
    Jan 16, 2014 at 17:14
  • @Earthling, exactly. The subject of 沸く is the liquid that boils, and the object of 茹でる is the food prepared in the boiling liquid. お湯を茹でる and 野菜が沸く are not possible, but you could say お湯を沸かす and 野菜がゆだる.
    – dainichi
    Jan 17, 2014 at 5:21

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