I would like to clarify the differences between 傷{きず} and 怪我{けが}. Are these assertions correct?

  • is used exclusively for minor cuts and abrasions to the skin?
  • 怪我 can also be used for cuts and abrasions, as well as bruising or other minor injuries. 怪我 is also used for major injuries such as broken bones, concussions, etc?

So, calling any type of injury a 怪我 is technically correct. And, using 怪我 allows you to say 怪我した。

Using allows you to be more specific as to the type of injury, but then you must say something like 傷がついた。

My strategy is to always say 怪我する because I don't need to worry about sensing the distinction between and 怪我, and I like how 怪我する sounds. Is this a good policy? Is it ever critical that I say instead of 怪我?

  • Hum, I can think of a case: when talking about an object (often screens) that has scratches, I think you can only use 傷. I guess that your question only concerns humans though !
    – Urukann
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 4:24

2 Answers 2


傷 refers to damaged skin/surface resulting mainly from an injury, and 怪我 refers to injury itself. While, by its nature, 傷 does not usually refer to life-threatening injuries, I don't think 傷 is a strict subset of 怪我.

  • 腕に傷がある: OK
  • 腕に怪我がある: Understandable, but slightly unnatural to me
  • 昔の傷: An old scar
  • 昔の怪我: (refers to an old event rather than a scar)
  • 怪我をする: OK
  • 傷をする: Wrong
  • 1
    I think it is better to use "injury" than the word "trauma", which has other connotations. (In normal British English it is essentially never used to mean simply "injury".) Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 5:13
  • I think I get it. Could i ever say "怪我は大丈夫ですか" or "怪我が治りましたか"?
    – david.t
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 5:30
  • @BrianChandler Thank you, is it better now?
    – naruto
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 6:04
  • 1
    I would avoid the word "trauma"; although it is a technical medical word, the normal term is "injury" (I cannot really speak American, but I believe "injury" is universal.) Particularly, "traumatic event" means 「悪夢のような出来事」, and "traumatic injury" is repetive, and should just be "injury". Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 7:16
  • 2
    – Hideki
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 13:30

If you want to be more specific you could also use:

Serious injury

  • 大怪我{おおけが} — more casual
  • 重傷{じゅうしょう} - more formal

Light injury

  • かすり傷{きず} - more casual
  • 軽傷{けいしょう} - more formal

To my understanding, both 傷 and 怪我 are very general terms and don't really say much about the magnitude of damage. I think it's correct that 傷 is used for more for cuts and damage to the skin, while 怪我 has a broader usage, and can be used for pretty much any type of injury. 傷 is also used in some other words/verbs like scars and hurt feelings, 傷跡 and 傷つく.

On the news they use 軽傷 and 重傷 a lot, but I've also heard 大怪我 and things like 軽い/重い or 怪我/傷.

Also be careful about the usage of 傷つく since that verb is often used with hurt feelings/emotions.

傷を負う may be better if you are talking about getting hurt and want to use 傷, but a native speaker can probably clarify that.

For broken bones 骨折する is also often used.

Another word that you probably hear a lot on the news is 傷害 which seems to mean just "injury" or "damage".

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