Recently, I was talking about nouveau riche Chinese behaving badly abroad. I was referencing that some cut in line, speak loudly, etc. (going from rural China to Fifth Ave. can be disorienting; i am not speaking ill of anyone).

In that context, I described such Chinese as "礼儀が知{し}らない". But, now I definitely think that that usage of "礼儀" is wrong. Respecting other people's space, not cutting in line, etc. is really "マナー” right?

"礼儀" is a strange word? Non-Japanese not only are not expected to know "礼儀", they can't. The word seems like something only a Japanese person can understand the definition of. Is that true?
「田中{たなか}さんは礼儀が知らないやつだよね。」 seems quite natural?
「Bobさんは礼儀が知らないやつだよね。」 just does not sound right? I mean, Bob is not 日本人、so how could he possibly know his "礼儀"?

So, non-Japanese can only know the マナー that we follow in the West? 日本人 can not only know their マナー、 they also know their "礼儀"? What is "礼儀"? It is like respect for one's elders, respect for the cultural traditions of Japan, and lots more that I can't understand because I'm no Japanese.

Or... is "マナー" just a synonym for "礼儀"?

  • 4
    While there are plenty of Japanese words I, as a learner, don't know the meaning of, "something only a Japanese person can understand the definition of" seems kind of ridiculous.
    – user1478
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 1:01
  • @snailboat I kind of agree that it sounds ridiculous. But, at the same time, accusing a non-Japanese of not knowing his/her "礼儀" does not sound natural to me. I very strictly watch my "マナー" in public. But, I feel no obligation to acknowledge my "礼儀" (because there is something very Japanese about 礼儀, and I'm not Japanese).
    – user312440
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 1:22

2 Answers 2


First, the object of 知る must be specified with particle. You have to say 「礼儀を知る」, not 「礼儀が知る」. (You can say 「Xが分かる」, though)

Dictionary says 礼儀 is courtesy, while マナー is manner.

礼儀を知らない人間 is someone who speaks too frankly to elders, someone don't express gratitude, and someone who cannot use honorific expressions, and so on. Well, it may be true that, in general, Japanese are said to be 礼儀正しい people. But I think this concept itself is universal. Every human in the world, as a social being, must retain some 礼儀. Of course there are various ways to be a 礼儀正しい person, and some of them are seen only in a few countries, like sending 年賀状.

マナーを知らない人間 is someone who slurps while eating spaghetti, uses chopsticks strangely, smokes in public areas, and so on. Many of them are almost universal, but basically マナー can vary culture to culture. You may have to learn some of them by heart when you travel abroad.

I think people who cut in lines, talk too loudly in public areas, or fail to tip, are not aware of both マナー and 礼儀. But in general, if you want to point out such mischief, it is far better to say "マナーを守ってください" rather than "礼儀を知ってください", because the latter sounds very rude or offensive.

Edit: While 礼儀 and マナー overlap with each other greatly, I think there is a notable difference between them. Let me try to put it in a different way. マナー is closer to etiquette as a matter of mere form or pattern, while talking about someone's 礼儀 is usually talking about his internal sense of morality. In a very basic sense, having 礼儀 is being able to express thank you, I'm sorry and hello appropriately. And I doubt if there is a language that lacks those words.

  • I do try to be the most polite, self effacing, grateful Westerner I can be. But, I don't interpret Japanese-style 礼儀 as applying to me. Acting deferential to someone only because she was born earlier does not make sense. The importance of 年賀状 is silly. Were a Japanese to think "user312440は礼儀を知らない人です", I gotta wonder if that is just an observation or a condemnation... :-)
    – user312440
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 2:57
  • 2
    Of course we don't expect Westerners to send 年賀状, and probably you can call it "Japanese-style 礼儀". But I believe foreigners who don't know a single word of Japanese language can easily give us a 礼儀正しい impression by gestures and facial expressions. So "礼儀を知らない人" is almost always a strong accusation, even when used against foreigners.
    – naruto
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 3:13
  • Reading your examples I thought it seems 礼儀 is used for interpersonal relations, マナー is more related to one's public behavior. Do you agree? If I'm wrong, could you give me some counterexamples, please? Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 21:03
  • I think naruto is correct for this one. The meaning of a word and its cultural connotation are separate from each other. What Japanese might consider 礼儀 and what a person from another culture might consider 礼儀 may be different, but because the difference in interpreting the meaning in the word comes from a different cultural background does not mean that a different word needs to be introduced. For that reason, why, then would マナー be the singular word to describe all other interpretations for 礼儀 that are not innately Japanese?
    – psosuna
    Commented Jun 2, 2017 at 18:36

(This is too long to be a comment so I have made it an answer to compliment the one from Naruto, who is welcome to incorporate my gentle corrections into his answer)

My dictionary defines:

「マナー」 as: 「態度。礼儀。礼儀作法」
"Courtesy" as: 「礼儀正しい」 (among other things).

"Manner" can also refer to behaviour in a non-polite sense (e.g clumsy manner).

The meanings of these words, and others such as 「行儀」, overlap but the concepts are the same. It is just the language and customs that differ from culture to culture.

Actually even within a culture ideas these vary: I would not classify deference to older people as alien to western culture. It is a common custom born out of respect for longer experience and the wisdom that often comes with it. And, if some people follow it for no reason other than custom, well, I suppose that is the nature of custom after all.

  • I also would agree that deference to older people is not alien to western culture. If anything, it's an attribute of manners that has been lost over time. The saying used to be "Respect your elders," after all.
    – psosuna
    Commented Jun 2, 2017 at 18:41

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