I have an issue with the word 立{た}つ, which is that I get it's basic meaning is "to stand", but I see it used in all sorts of ways that don't make sense to me.

Here are some examples, from various native sources, where 立{た}つ throws me off:




My translations, flawed as they may be, are, respectively:

"One's looks are influenced by the environment, because one's disposition changes."

"It's seems somehow like the stars are making noise."

"After some time the pulp(ingredients) in this juice will settle."

So, when I hear or read 立{た}つ, I basically get the drift, but...

  • What is standing in terms of your face to change your looks?

  • Noise can stand? If I had to say the second sentence, I would use 音{おと}をする. I would never think of sound as "standing".

  • Time standing? I would think maybe time passes, as in 時間{じかん}を過{す}ごしす, but I would never think of time as standing.

Either the Japanese language has a different concept of what it means "to stand", or 立{た}つ has a different meaning than I understand it (in addition to the meaning I do understand.)

Can someone break down for me how these concepts are "standing" in these examples? Hopefully so I can get some insight that will help me own and use 立{た}つ like Japanese people do. :)

  • heys btw which dictionary do you use =D
    – Pacerier
    Commented Aug 27, 2011 at 6:58
  • 2
    Have you looked in an English dictionary lately? Here's a word with over 100 definitions.
    – Zhen Lin
    Commented Aug 27, 2011 at 7:12
  • @Pacerier: The dictionary I was looking at when writing this question was チャレンジ小学国語辞典, published by Benesse: benesse.co.jp/s/dictionary/koku . It's aimed at kids, so the definitions are in simple and easy to process Japanese. I like to just flip through it and see how words I know how to define in English are explained in Japanese, so as to exercise the way I conceptualize words in Japanese.
    – Questioner
    Commented Aug 27, 2011 at 7:20
  • @Dave M G : <jisho.org/words?jap=%E7%AB%8B%E3%81%A4&eng=&dict=edict> you can see really means of 立つ from this link.I think you saw meaning is idioms.
    – ZarNge
    Commented Aug 27, 2011 at 8:18
  • 5
    Note that たつ in 時間がたつ is written as 経つ in kanji, although it has the same origin as 立つ. Commented Nov 11, 2011 at 14:53

2 Answers 2


[This answer is based on my personal (inner) research]

In a nutshell, all the extended uses of たつ derive from a single meaning, which is not exactly what you'd imagine from the English word "stand".

As illustrated below, my inner image for たつ is "suspended-perpendicular-upward". "stand" is the opposite: "suspended-perpendicular-downward". Yes, their meanings overlap, but also different.

たつ, illustrated

So if you only have the word "stand" in mind when you try to understand たつ, you're ill-equipped. You need to mix in some sense of "forward/upward motion" to accurately translate たつ; facial features stand "out", stars give "off" sounds, time "goes".

  • That's exactly the kind of answer I was hoping for. Very insightful, thank you. I would ordinarily give it a little time to mull it over and see if it works in different contexts. However, SE tells me my bounty is going to end in 3 hours, so what the heck - 200 bounty points for you, both for having a sensible answer, awesome drawing skills ;) , and stepping up (standing?) with an answer!
    – Questioner
    Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 2:59
  • This is a great post, but I'm a bit confused about the "English" part of it. To me (native English speaker, if it matters), "stand" is exactly what you describe and draw たつ as. I don't think I've ever thought of it as a downward motion. Am I the only one who thinks this way...?
    – atlantiza
    Commented Nov 21, 2011 at 20:20
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    @atlantiza: Yes, I agree that the analogy is not perfect. However, I took ento's interpretation of the English "stand" this way: When you place a cup on a table, it is a downward motion. You lower the cup from where you are holding it and set it down to rest. It does not rise up out of the table. I believe ento is saying that the Japanese 立つ is more about something rising up, like a plant coming out of the ground. There is of course, massive overlap and I'm sure people could come up with exceptions, but this is about trying to get a feel for a word, not a literal definition.
    – Questioner
    Commented Dec 8, 2011 at 7:23

A lot of the usages you mentioned are idiomatic. So 「腹が立つ to get angry / pissed off」 refers to the worm that lives in your stomach getting angry, IIRC (according to Japan's Cultural Code Words). In general, 「立つ」 doesn't refer only to the action of standing, but also coming to be, or taking shape, such as 「波が立つ a wave rises/appears」. Because of this it's sometimes used as an intransitive verb to show that something was accomplished or finalized, as in 「計画が立ちました the plan was finalized / we finalized our plans」. Note that Japanese often uses intransitive verbs to show that a transitive action reached a successful conclusion, as in the previous example.

  • 5
    Just a side note: "Japan's Cultural Code Words" is written by De Mente, who also wrote "Women of the Orient", a bizarre screed about his fetish for Asian women, full of stereotypes, grandiose generalizations, and offensive assertions. It goes without saying that it is completely without citations or references. However, from the right ironic perspective, it is hysterically funny. As much as I enjoy it, though, I wouldn't give De Mente the slightest hint of credibility on any topic. amazon.com/Women-Orient-Boye-Lafayette-Mente/dp/0804818800
    – Questioner
    Commented Aug 27, 2011 at 11:12
  • Hahaha, that's really funny. I noticed when I was reading code words that it was full of stereotypes but I just figured it was because he was old. I'm definitely going to grab a copy of Women of the Orient now though! Commented Aug 27, 2011 at 11:50

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