• Can someone be "さびしい" without being "かなしい"?
  • I assume that one can be "かなしい" without being "さびしい". If this is not true, please explain.
  • I don't think I've heard "かなしい" so much in conversation. Are there alternative words?

thank you.

  • 4
    Is this question related specifically to Japanese? Would it be different to English "lonely" and "sad"?
    – Szymon
    Oct 29, 2014 at 2:40
  • 2
    Well... unless you are translating simple nouns such as automobile or chopstick, you can never do direct translations. You cannot even directly translate simple adjectives such as colours or temperature. So, no. "さびしい" is not "lonely". "かなしい" is not "sad".
    – user312440
    Oct 29, 2014 at 2:48

3 Answers 3


It all depends on the situation/context so if you can provide that, it would make for a better answer.

But speaking from a general sense..

さびしい or さみしい is used to describe a sad feeling stemming from missing someone or something; like something is missing from you heart. As stated above, loneliness doesn't quite fit, although it may fit in certain situations.


My girlfriend went off to school and I won't see her for six months. → さみしい

かなしい is used to describe a truly sad feeling, perhaps more in the traditional sense. Sad in US English tends to describe both さみしい and かなしい so it's a little difficult but.


Many children are dying from civil war in Syria. → かなしい

There are other similar words such as 心細い, 切ない, etc. that also reflect a certain sadness.


I moved to Japan with my wife but I don't speak Japanese and can't interact with the community. My wife doesn't understand my feelings and I feel helpless. → 心細い

My friend's girlfriend broke up with him because he wouldn't accept her religion although they were deeply in love. → 切ない

This doesn't quite answer your question but perhaps you can elaborate on what you are trying to get an answer to.

  • I'm just investigating why my habit is to rarely say "かなしい" (even though "sadness" is a fundamental emotion). I'm comfortable with the meaning of "さびしい", so I try to use that as a reference point for understanding "かなしい". I don't know why, but my habit is to say, when I am sad, I randomly select "落ち込んでいる", "しょげている", or "がっがりしている". To express that someone else is "sad", I say "可哀相" because I think that sounds playful. Of course, I am just guessing that "可哀相" sounds playful. I am also almost purely guessing "かなしいそう" is not said that much in conversation. I don't remember hearing it.
    – user312440
    Oct 30, 2014 at 4:17
  • Your giving me synonyms, usage cases, and extended definitions is exactly what I was hoping for. That is how I like to study. thank you for your time and consideration.
    – user312440
    Oct 30, 2014 at 4:21
  • Certainly! I tried to exaggerate the examples so I'm not sure they are the best but I'm glad it helped. I didn't even think about your examples but that's definitely another type of sadness.
    – user224579
    Oct 30, 2014 at 4:29

Absolutely. For example, consider the phrase 寂しい場所. A desolate place. Do you think it necessarily must be 悲しい場所 as well? I don't.

  • But the question is clearly about a person, not a place.
    – user4032
    Apr 21, 2015 at 0:20
  • 1
    Now that we've accepted a place can be 寂しい but not 悲しい, what exactly makes it impossible to accept that a person can be? I mean, when I'm lonely, I'm more productive. If I want to be productive, I'm not sad that I'm lonely. I'm happy. At least in English. Is Japanese different in that if you're 寂しい, you're always 悲しい?
    – Kyle
    Apr 21, 2015 at 0:44
  • 1
    And I wonder, can a 場所 literally be 寂しい, or does it imply there must be people feeling that way about it? If the latter, 寂しい場所 is just another way of expressing one's feelings (about some place).
    – blutorange
    Apr 21, 2015 at 8:19
  • @Kyle As an english speaker, when i hear 'lonely' there is an implication that you are alone but dont want to be. "when I'm lonely, I'm more productive" sounds strange unless you take it to mean "im so bored of being alone, that i get some more productive stuff done instead'", instead of what i think you mean of "when i am alone (with no distractions), i'm more productive." So i can definitely understand why the asker poses the question, if you only equate さびしい with 'lonely' Apr 25, 2015 at 20:52


People can be 悲しい without 寂しい, and vice versa. In fact, we can even find people describing themselves or others that way.



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