In my JLPT practise book, there is this question:


Which I roughly translate as, "The kingdom lost a part of its __ in the battle."

The possible answers to fill the space are:

A 領域{りょういき} (territory)

B 領土{りょうど} (territory)

C 占領{せんりょう} (occupation)

D 領収{りょうしゅう} (receipt)

Both A and B are defined as "territory" and a lot of other overlapping words. So, going by the kanji, I figured 領土{りょうど} was more to do with the physical land, and 領域{りょういき} was more to do with the dominion. So my answer was A.

The book, though, says the correct answer is B.

As is usually the case with JLPT questions, both could work, but what makes 領土{りょうど} the more appropriate answer in this case?

  • 2
    領土を失う definitely sounds more usual. For example, you can search the Shonagon Japanese corpus for “領土を失” (7 matches) and “領域を失” (0 matches). However, I do not know why. Oct 31, 2011 at 0:05

2 Answers 2


A non-academic, franc distinction is that "領域" means 'area' without particular connotation of possession. It is normally used in mathematics like "閉曲線Cの囲む領域の面積を求めよ" 'give the area surrounded by the closed curve C'. "領土" specifically means 'territory land of a country' and has clear mentioning of possession. In this case it is the best answer.


I'm not entirely sure of the reason myself, but looking at Daijirin, Daijisen and Space ALC:

  1. 領域: Comprises land, sea or airspace. Can also include the extent of knowledge/experience, extent of power/authority, or extent of operation (in electronics etc.) Often refers to land in relation to international law or a given state. It seems to be used a lot in the context of entering an area, being located/existing in an area or being confined to an area. (Also has many other meanings/expressions. See the Space ALC link below for more information.)

    Sources: Daijirin | Daijisen | Space ALC

  2. 領土: Primarily comprises of land (as opposed to 領海{りょうかい} and 領空{りょうくう}), but is broadly interchangeble with 領域 and can also more widely mean sea and airspace. Often refers to land in relation to a given state. Often seems to be used a lot in the context of conquering/gaining/losing territory, returning/ceding land etc and is used a lot more in territorial disputes (as in 領土問題.)

    Sources: Daijirin | Daijisen | Space ALC

  • Thank you for answering, bit I don't know if this really does it. The original sentence does not specifically say it was a land battle. For all we know, the kingdom lost some coast, sea area, and hey, why not the airspace above? Maybe there was an airport and so they've lost strategic access to air routes. In both these definitions, to me they lend themselves equally well to the concept of "domain", so I'm still not seeing why 領土{りょうど} is the clear winner.
    – Questioner
    Oct 31, 2011 at 1:30
  • Fair enough. I'm honestly not sure why it is myself, all I can say is the way it's used based on the example sentences. Entirely speculative, but maybe one has different connotations because of the makeup of the Kanji. 領土 might be more specific and 領域 more vague/general maybe?
    – user797
    Oct 31, 2011 at 6:50

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