As the title indicates; I'm doing some kanji studying, and these two came up with the exact same translation which is "rank", there are no synonyms given so I'm not sure what is the difference between these two and in which circumstances I'd find vocabulary with one or the other ?

  • Am I right that you're assuming 位 that read い? Apr 10, 2016 at 19:04
  • 3
    級 is usually about quality(e.g. grade, class). 位 is more about position/place/rank. It is also used when talking about reigns(在位). Apr 10, 2016 at 20:01

1 Answer 1


There are other meanings as well, but here are the more confusing ones:

  1. Level of difficulty.

JLPT test difficulties used to be 4級 (lowest) to 1級 (highest). (Now they have been replaced by N5 to N1.) In this case, 級 means "level".

See 級 in action in the table on page 3 of this 2009 JLPT results release document.

  1. Class (of seniority / ability).

The ワンパンマン (One Punch Man) series categorises heroes into classes C級, B級, A級 and S級. Many games also use 級 to denote a player's ability.

Here is an excerpt from the Japanese Wikipedia page for テトリス_ザ・グランドマスター (Tetris: The Grand Master):

グレードは最下級の "9" (いわゆる「九級」に相当) から始まり、昇格すると "8", "7"…と段階的に数字が下がっていく。

  1. Rank.

彼は 私より 一階級上だ。 He is immediately above me in rank.

  1. Quality.

彼女は 最高級のものしか 好きじゃない。 She likes nothing but the best.

  1. Rank.

大佐の位【くらい】 the rank of Colonel.

This probably covers most of the overlap with 級.

  1. Position (in a competition, etc.)

1位【い】 first position / champion.

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