This sentence was in a grammar textbook:


... it means:

"He regarded his colleague as a rival, even to the point of considering murder."

My question is about the last kanji, 抱. It seems to have three readings, だ・く, いだ・く, and うだ・く, though I think the last one might be rare.

So far as I can tell, they all carry exactly the same definition, which is "to hold, to embrace, to carry", which can be meant both in the physical sense of actually holding something, as well as the metaphorical sense of holding onto a feeling, like a grudge. (So I would assume the translation above, which isn't mine, took the liberty of changing "harbouring intentions of murder" into "considering murder".)

Is there a way I can determine which reading is the right one? Unless I'm mistaken, they all conjugate with the same okurigana, so I can't use the trailing hiragana as any kind of indicator.

Is there any difference in implied meaning or usage between the readings?

Also, slight bonus question... My understanding is that the だ・く reading can be used as a slang way of saying sex (I saw it used that way in a TV show once). Is that true, what would be the nuances it carries, and is it also true for the other readings?

Lastly: As is always my preference, please keep answers readable for all, with either no technical linguistic terminology, or with linguistic terms in a separate section for those who want it. Thanks!

2 Answers 2


Well, first, I think that うだく is archaic, as I read it:


Then, だく seems to be use for concrete situations, when you really use your hands.

いだく seems to be

  • a more literary reading, or
  • used in abstract situations, like 「理想を―・く」「不安を―・く」. This is exactly your sentence, isn't it?

Sources: on-line dictionaries and websites for Japanese people having the same questions :)


First, concurring with Axioplase: だく is for tangible things; いだく is for abstract things. Daijisen has a usage note under 抱える that deals with this distinction.)

With regard to your second question, yes, だく can have the connotation of "sleep with" (second sense in the Daijisen definition for 抱く). It's a somewhat "nicer" way to say "sleep with" in the sense that it doesn't have the same bluntness as the loanword セックス or the crude やる, probably because the more common interpretation is that of embracing, as in 抱きしめる. Whether you can use it in conversation still depends on the setting you're in, but it's not all that uncommon to hear of magazine surveys listing which famous people readers most want to だきたい or だかれたい.


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