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Jisho indicates that all three of the words are common, and gives me the following definitions:

田{た}: rice field

水田{すいでん}: (water-filled) paddy field

田圃{たんぼ}: paddy field; farm

Other than 田圃 having the alternative meaning of "farm", I don't notice any differences between their meanings; As far as I am aware, rice fields and paddy fields are the same, and all rice fields are flooded. Are they simply synonyms? If so, which one(s) are more commonly used? If not, what are the differences between their meanings?

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    Be careful, while Jisho indicates that 田 is commonly used, if you check the sentence examples you will see that ALL of them include 田 as part of a family name or named place. – Leo Aug 2 '16 at 2:34
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  • 田圃 is usually written in 田んぼ or たんぼ, and it's the word usually used in conversations.
  • 水田 is a Sino-Japanese word (漢語), and it sounds more technical/formal, as usual. See: Are 漢語 always more formal than 和語? You will find 水田 in official documents, scientific articles, and such.
  • 田 is not a word commonly used in isolation in sentences (at least in modern standard Japanese). In most cases it appears in compound words such as 水田【すいでん】, 田園【でんえん】, 田畑【たはた】 and 田植【たう】え.

EDIT: In some dictionaries, 水田 seems to be defined as something like "田 filled with water", as if dry 田んぼ were not 水田. IMHO you can ignore this definition and think 水田 almost always just means "rice field".

  • Thank you for the clear explanation. I now have another question though, if you don't mind answering it as well: If 田 is not usually used in isolation, then why is the Wikipedia article titled after it directly? I also see several other appearances of it such as in the image subtitle of "田植え前の田" ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E7%94%B0 – user16343 Aug 2 '16 at 2:59
  • @JoshuaEntrekin It's because this article also describes how the kanji 田 was used historically, and usages of 田 in various contexts and countries. This title doesn't mean the primary word for "rice field" is 田 in modern Japanese. – naruto Aug 2 '16 at 3:59

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