Both seem to mean "demon". Are they synonyms?

1 Answer 1


悪魔【あくま】 is the word which corresponds to the English word demon. For example Belphegor is a typical 悪魔.

魔 by itself sometimes refers to 悪魔, but it's a more general kanji which means evil or evil things. It includes Western-style 悪魔, Japanese evil entities like 閻魔, and monsters in general.

In modern usage, 鬼 usually refers to one certain type of Japanese monster, which has two horns and colorful (mainly red) skin. Here's the result of Google Image Search:


The kanji 鬼 probably used to refer to ghosts and demons in general (Wikipedia says 鬼 means ghost in Chinese), and serious Buddhists may have another definition I'm not familiar with. But it's safe to think it only refers to this stereotyped 鬼 today, at least among ordinary people.

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