Today I ran into these three desire words, which are defined:

  • 欲 = greed, craving, desire, avarice, wants
  • 欲求 = desire
  • 欲望 = desire, appetite, lust

And while searching dictionaries, I also found a fourth word

  • 欲念 = desire, wish, passion

All of these have quite similar definitions, and I couldn't find an explanation of their differences anywhere, not in English at least, but I did find a Japanese site with an explanation of sorts, and what I gathered is that at least 欲望 has something to do with the desired thing itself, whereas 欲求 has to do with the actual feeling of desire... or something like that.

I'm still quite unsure, so I would appreciate if someone could explain the situations each of them is used, and/or how their nuances differ.

EDIT: The site with the Japanese explanation I found is this: http://okwave.jp/qa/q1543862.html. I think it only discusses 欲望 and 欲求, and their differences, though.

EDIT2: I could also add that I ran into the three words in Core 6k deck. The following example sentences (some of them not very good) were given for each:

  • 欲: 「あまり欲を出しちゃだめだよ。」
  • 欲求:「時には自分の欲求を抑えることも必要です。」
  • 欲望:「彼は欲望が強い人です。」
  • Can you give us a link to the Japanese site you are reading to say produce your longer paragraph?
    – virmaior
    Dec 18, 2014 at 22:29
  • @virmaior I added a link to the site in my original post.
    – RadonBust
    Dec 19, 2014 at 7:42

1 Answer 1


欲求 is a fairly objective / scientific word which is seen in psychological / sociological articles.

欲望 is kind of earthly by far, often meaning a lust toward money, fame, domination, possessions, and sexual actions.

While the above two are used mostly in writings, 欲 is by much a conversational word, and has a range of various usages.

欲念 is rare. I believe I have met this word in books several times, but that's all. Never heard or used it, at all.

  • Thank you for the answer! I started wondering about the kanji used in these words. Are 求める and 望む, and 欲求 and 欲望 close in terms of the meanings?
    – RadonBust
    Dec 22, 2014 at 11:31
  • No, I don't think so. What I guess is; when Western science has come during the 19th century, scholars needed to translate the word 'desire', and it had to be different from the existing 欲望. So they coined (or re-invented) the word 欲求, and that's all.<br> Generally speaking, I think you should not take meanings of each kanji in jukugo too heavy.
    – isayamag
    Dec 25, 2014 at 1:30
  • Okay, thanks. One more thing if you don't mind answering, which I admit is slightly off the topic, but there are the two words that roughly mean 'demand', 要望{ようぼう} and 要求{ようきゅう} (and also the plain 要{よう}). This seems quite similar to the desire words, so is the usage similar with these words as well, or are they completely unrelated?
    – RadonBust
    Dec 25, 2014 at 9:01
  • I heard ようきゅう as requirement, as in "In order to complete construction, we require these materials". Could also be used when specifying terms of some deal, as in "we will do this for you, but in exchange we need (or want) (ようきゅう) million dollars".
    – Kitet
    Dec 26, 2014 at 23:15

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