What is the difference between 区別{くべつ} and 差別{さべつ}?

I looked them up in my Japanese to Chinese dictionary, but the dictionary defines them to be "difference", to put it literally.

  • This seems like a question your dictionary should be able to answer for you. What is the difference in meaning between 区 and 差 in Chinese usage?
    – virmaior
    Jul 4, 2014 at 2:47
  • 区 by itself would mean "area", but 区別 means "difference". 差 by itself means "difference". The phrases mean the same, but the words by themselves are different. Jul 4, 2014 at 2:49
  • 1
    区別 is to distinguish between two areas - i.e. two things belong in different categories. 差別 is to distinguish between two levels. Or to say there is a 差 between two things. That's why the latter means discrimination (as in sexual discrimination 性差別)
    – virmaior
    Jul 4, 2014 at 2:53
  • 3
    This question is receiving a bit of negative feedback in votes. You might want to add to your question that explains a little bit more why you're confused, where the ambiguity is, where you've looked so far to find the answer, etc.
    – ssb
    Jul 4, 2014 at 4:19
  • 1
    Does 差別 always have a negative connotation>> Not always. eg: 差別化をはかる
    – user1016
    Jul 4, 2014 at 5:54

1 Answer 1


区別 and 差別 both carry a mean of "discrimination" but have distinct meanings in Japanese.

区別 is for putting things in different categories or domains, i.e. the ability to distinguish. For instance, the phrase [善悪]{ぜんあく}の区別 = to discriminate between good and evil.

差別 often means discrimination in the pejorative, i.e. to place a [差]{さ}, here meaning difference in level or quality between two things, people, countries, etc. Thus, [性差別]{せいさべつ} and [人種差別]{じんしゅさべつ} are sexual and racial discrimination. There are a lot of other words in that category as well. But as Choko points out [差別化]{さべつか} means "product differentiation," so the word is not exclusively used with this meaning.

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