Can someone highlight the differences between 英才【えいさい】 and 天才【てんさい】?

When searching their definitions, I see:

英才:1. genius;  brilliance;  unusual talent; 2. genius;  brilliance;  unusual talent

天才:genius;  prodigy;  natural gift

My current assumption is that a 天才 is a naturally born genius (genetic, hence assuming good in anything), while an 英才 is a genius is a specific, specialized (unusual?) field (assuming that genius has a talent for that field, but is not necessarily gifted in other areas). Am I correct?

I'm also curious about other words for genius and their subtleties, if you know some, eg: 異才{いさい}、俊士{しゅんさい}、春愁{しゅんしゅう}、奇才{きさい}.

Thank you!

2 Answers 2


天才【てんさい】 is an innate genius who is "gifted from heaven". He/she may be extremely good at something even without much effort.

秀才【しゅうさい】 is the next commonest word in this category. A 秀才 has some great ability, probably due to his much effort, but may not be as good as 天才. I think "Elite" is closer to 秀才. I often hear phrases like "彼は秀才ではあるが天才ではない", "秀才が努力しても、天才には勝てない".

英才【えいさい】 is similar to 秀才, but using 英才 on its own (i.e. "彼は英才だ。") is very rare. Basically it occurs only in a few compounds, such as 英才教育.

異才【いさい】 is uncommon, and I see these words basically only in advertisements, book reviews, etc. It means he has an unique style in writing/drawing/composing/etc., which may not be loved by everyone. For example, a catchphrase like "小説界の異才" claims he has an exceptional talent, but we should know it does not necessarily mean he is exceptionally good.

鬼才【きさい】 is another nuanced word, often seen in advertisements. Think of 鬼才 as "天才 AND/OR 異才". Generally 鬼才 sounds far better than 異才. Compared to the straightforward word 天才, 鬼才 sometimes (not always) emphasizes his/her peculiar style.


Let me answer since these are interesting and you gave me a good drive.

As is here,


[使い分け] 【1】「秀才」「英才」は、頭が良く、学業成績が優秀な人。 【2】「俊才」は、学問の領域だけでなく、手腕のすぐれた人物、抜きん出た才知のある人物にもいう。

英才 is defined as a bright man soooo educated. 俊才 is, a bright man not only good at learning but also good at another ( such as sports? probably? )

So these both seem to be related in terms of education.

Now onto the 天才,異才,奇才,


【1】どの語もすぐれた才能、また、才人の意。「天才」は生まれつき備わっている優れた才能、「偉才」は人並みはずれた才能、「奇才」は世にまれな才能、「鬼才」は非凡で人間とは思われないほどの才能であることをいうが、実際には意味・用法の相違はあまりない。 【2】「偉才」は「異才」とも書く。

 So these 3 are defined as, as you said, genius, natural born, god-given on ( probably ) specific area. ( Like Michael Jordan called as G.O.A.T? )

春愁 is unfortunately a completely different word, meaning


"Feeling so sullen in spring time".

Have a good day.!

  • Thank you too. Well...it looks like someone loathes me sooo here I should get outta here? s). Btw, I think the important issue here is unless you do not regard 春愁 same with other words and Frequently used words in Japan are only 2, 天才, 英才, and although defined above, 英才 is used somewhat beyond the definition, I mean, mostly in learning, but not limited so. Good luck.
    – user7644
    Commented Jan 4, 2015 at 9:05
  • 1
    – marasai
    Commented Jan 4, 2015 at 10:02
  • Hmmm...."may be". I just answered to the questioner's question so that if you are quite familiar with Japanese, you might feel even 英才 is hardly used. The most commonly used word is definitely 天才, I bet my life lol. Perhaps the questioner wanted to ask about 秀才? May be or may be not? Hm....
    – user7644
    Commented Jan 4, 2015 at 10:16
  • You are probably right! By the way, I am sorry I didn't know such a word "俊秀" exists. sorry........
    – user7644
    Commented Jan 4, 2015 at 10:38

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