I have seen many ways of saying 'food'. I am wondering if there is ever a difference in appropriateness.


Most commonly, I think, is 食べ物, but I thought I'd use 食品 for an assignment involving 敬語(けいご)since it sounded more formal to me.


  • 4
    Formal and polite/honorification are independent things. – user458 Jul 14 '11 at 3:13

食べ物 - appropriate as written or spoken language, a basic word, commonly used in speech

食品 - food product, think of a packaged food product on a shelf in the store

ご飯 - literally rice (polite), used to refer to "a meal" as in breakfast, lunch or dinner

食事 - a meal, frequently used in hotels and restaurants as 「お[食事]{しょくじ}」

〜物 - assuming you mean 揚げ物 (fried food), 煮物 (boiled food), 干物 (dried food), etc... these are self explanatory, just more specific.

Also don't forget:

[食物]{しょくもつ} - Mostly in written language, "food stuffs" is a good English equivalent

And just to whet your appetite (pun definitely intended) here is a breakdown of common food categories.

Animal Food Products (動物性食品)

[肉類]{にくるい} (meat, incl. poultry), [魚介類]{ぎょかいるい} (seafood), [卵類]{らんるい} (eggs), [乳製品]{にゅうせいひん} (dairy)

Plant Food Products (植物性食品)

[穀物]{こくもつ} (cereals), [豆類]{まめるい} (pulses), [芋類]{いもるい} (tubers), [野菜]{やさい} (vegetables), [山菜]{さんさい} (mountain vegetables), [海藻]{かいそう} (sea vegetation, seaweed), [種実類]{しゅじつるい} (aw nuts), [果物]{くだもの} (fruits), ハーブ (herbs)

(ref: http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E9%A3%9F%E5%93%81)

  • 4
    牛乳 means milk. "Dairy products" is 乳製品 【にゅうせいひん】. – istrasci Jul 14 '11 at 2:50
  • 1
    For ご飯 , 食事 can also be used to refer to meal. Of course, it's not 'food' as an object. – syockit Jul 17 '11 at 11:59
  • Yeah I thought of that after i replied. Thanks for mentioning it I'll add it to the answer. – crunchyt Jul 18 '11 at 8:13

For different contexts, here are a few more:

  • [料理]{りょう・り} → food/cuisine → 日本料理、料理を作る、など
  • [食料]{しょく・りょう} → food, groceries → 食料品 (foodstuffs/groceries)、食料費 (food expenses)
  • [糧]{かて}・[食糧]{しょく・りょう} → food (supply), provisions → [食糧不足]{しょく・りょう・ぶ・そく} (food shortage)

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