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たましい is defined as "soul, spirit". But, both of those words have so much nuance and usages...

Does a person's たましい persist after death?
Could たましい be used metaphorically such as She has the spirit of a lion and goes for the jugular at the first sign of weakness..

たましい must be so nuanced. Please explain.

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  1. 魂【たましい】 is something that is believed to persist after one's body perishes. After death, a 魂 may go to Heaven or Hell, or it may float around on earth (Hitodama), or it may be drained or eaten by monsters in fantasy works. It's a rather "occult" term. To refer to mind as opposed to body in academic and/or serious writings, 精神 is usually preferred.
  2. 魂 also metaphorically refers to the essential part of something, someone's essential mindset. 「ライオンの魂 (the spirit of a lion)」「侍魂【さむらいだましい】 (spirit of samurai)」
  3. A 魂 can sometimes stay inside artistic works, speeches, etc. 「魂のない小説 (soulless novel)」「魂のこもった声 (soulful vocal)」

So putting other very rare usages aside, Japanese 魂 can basically be translated either as spirit or soul. Dictionaries say English soul sometimes refer to heart or even person (eg "a kind soul"), but that's not possible with 魂.

  • wow. To have such an abstract concept so directly translatable is absolutely amazing. – kairua May 22 '16 at 11:53

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