I'm not familiar with either word, but just looking at the characters, 達人 would seem to indicate 'accomplished' (ie an accomplished pianist). While 名人 seems more like 'renowned'. Is that a valid assessment?

  • 師匠 【ししょう】 and 名匠 【めいしょう】 are a couple more good words for master/expert.
    – istrasci
    Aug 4 '11 at 18:57

Consider the following:

達 as a kanji has the meaning "accomplish", "(to) reach"

名 as a kanji has the meaning "name" or "reputation"

Kanji compounds:

達成 : "achievement"

名高い : "famous, celebrated"

威名 : "fame, prestige"

And in Chinese, 名人(míng rén) has no connotations of skill as far as I know, it simply means "famous person". 達人(dá rén) however means "expert" and does not imply fame.

I would say your assessment is a reasonable one.

  • 1
    Nice answer, but I really don't think you should be using Chinese meanings when discussing Japanese nuances (words like 愛人 come to mind)...
    – Dave
    Aug 6 '11 at 2:40
  • I take Chinese as additional information to consider. I found comparing meanings to Chinese quite helpful in learning certain vocabulary. But one must be careful not to equate them, since there are sure to be differences as you mentioned.
    – Flaw
    Aug 6 '11 at 2:46

Both 達人 and 名人 are usually associated with skills in Japanese.

達人 means a person who has mastered everything about something by long-time experience.

名人 usually means a person who has excellent skills. Daijisen also lists another meaning “評判の高い人” (person who is spoken well of), but I think that the usage without connotation with high skills is rare. Daijirin does not state the latter meaning.

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