Do both 思い and 想い mean "feeling", and if they do are they used interchangeably? If not, what is their difference in meaning?

2 Answers 2


"Do both [思]{おも}い and [想]{おも}い mean "feeling"?"

Yes, both mean "thought", "feeling", etc.

Can I just use either one in my writing?

No, not really. Only 「思う」 is officially correct according to our Education Ministry. That means that in school, you can only use 「思い」. You WILL be corrected if you use 「想い」 in school. You will not see 「想い」 in newspapers, either.

If you look up 「おもい」 in a monolingual dictionary, you will find that the kanji 「想い」 is "marked" for being "not official" like in this dictionary, which uses a triangle for that purpose.


Our writing system is rather complex to begin with as you know. So, the government tries to keep it simple even by a little -- at least in schools.

Does that mean 「思い」 and 「想い」 are not interchangeable?

Personally, I would say that they are not. I would feel pretty weird if I used 「思い」 if I were writing a letter to someone I liked. If our language gives you the aesthetic choices that other languages do not, I say 'Keep'em!'

Can I use 「想い」 in my private life after school?

Yes, of course, you can. Many people use it in letters, emails, poems, etc.

Cool. Is there a difference in meaning or nuance between the two words?

In meaning, not really, but in nuance, I would have to say yes, which is why you see both used often. 「想い」 looks and feels more personal and/or emotional than 「思い」.

If you saw litter on the street and felt something, that would be a 「思い」. If you are thinking of someone special and missing her, that would be a 「想い」 for many of us if described in writing.


Firstly, the biggest difference is that the kun'yomi reading of 「おも(う)」 in the jouyou kanji list is only assigned to to 思う. In official documents, textbooks, newspaper articles, etc 想う isn't used. Though some businesses will, depending on the business.

思う is used for general situation "to think", such as 思考、思案、思索、思慮、意思, etc. 想う has a more personalised feeling (personal mental states, etc): 想起、回想、追想、予想、夢想、空想、発想, etc. This meaning can also be extended to thinking about "something" - your thoughts are targeting something. It also has to do with words dealing with music, arts, etc: 楽想、構想、詩想.

In general, 思う is the general use (including 思う・思い), and 想う is for personal effecting mental states and object d'art things.

So to answer directly, they both have the meaning of "feeling" but they have subtles to them and the use of one when the other is apporpiate might be odd to read. 思い is the origin of the action, and 想い is the way of thinking about an action.





  • 1
    Your second "example" makes little sense and your third makes no sense.
    – user4032
    Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 13:34
  • also for the French, it's objet d'art [no c]. And for the English, personal affect -- not effect.
    – virmaior
    Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 15:00

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