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I have been conviced for a long time that both 人前{にんまえ} and 人前{ひとまえ} existed. Which is backed by this wikitionary page.

Recently, I just wanted to warn another Japanese learner about this pair of tricky words. By any chance, at this time, a native speaker was with us. Some minutes later she asked me where I heard にんまえ. I did not remember so I could not answer well. (According to the meaning of にんまえ I should have seen it in a recipe or something of this kind).

Nevertheless, the fact that she was a bit troubled by にんまえ made me investigate a bit. The result of my investigation is that neither 明鏡辞書 nor goo nor 大辞林 have any record about にんまえ but all of them reference ひとまえ.

This leads me to wonder whether にんまえ really exists as a word. And if so, what does it really mean and what is its usage?

Edit: It seems that 一人前{いちにんまえ} exists and mean 一人分{ひとりぶん}

  • 1
    I don't think that にんまえ exists as a word unto itself - only as 一人前【いちにんまえ】, 二人前【ににんまえ】, 三人前【さんにんまえ】, etc (semi-relatedly, there's also 半人前【はんにんまえ】 in the sense of "someone who isn't a 'full person' (e.g. because they're incompetent)"). The "word" にんまえ appears in EDICT, which is where I think EN Wiktionary gets a lot of its Japanese entries, but EDICT is sometimes just wrong. – senshin Aug 24 '15 at 1:49
  • And you know, in 人前式, 人前 is read as じんぜん! :D – Chocolate Aug 24 '15 at 2:15
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Both ひとまえ and にんまえ exist.

  • 人前【ひとまえ】:(noun) public place; front of the audience.
  • 人前【にんまえ】: (counter) portion of, often for meal. 1 serving = 1人前【にんまえ】.
  • 人前【じんぜん】(式【しき】) : (noun) A certain irreligious style of wedding, as opposed to Christian-, Shinto-, or Buddhism-style weddings.
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I guess you could hear にんまえ in at least three cases (two of which already mentioned in answers and comments, but one still not):

  • a "serving" for meal, in this case it is countable 一人前{いちにんまえ}, 二人前{ににんまえ} and "askable" 何人前{なんにんまえ}

  • a set phrase 一人前{いちにんまえ} meaning "grown", "fully-fledged" like in "一人前{いちにんまえ}になる" meaning "become a man"

  • a set phrase 半人前{はんにんまえ}, which I guess, is historically a derivative of the above meaning "half-baked man"

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