I've searched for a while now but haven't really found anything that answers my question.

I would like to know where ほど and くらい come from and how they got to mean such different things.

I know that ほど is 程, which means "extent", and recently I found out that くらい is 位 so it means "rank". But I can't find a book or a site or anything that talks about them.

Does anyone have any information?

  • I'd say ほど is "degree" because "extent" means "stretch" by etymology. By the way, what do you mean by "such different things"? Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 3:36
  • Thanks, and I mean that both can mean "about, approximately", one can mean "at least" etc. I believe the meaning of these words by itself can explain all the different meanings, but that's what I would like to find, some actual files or something
    – Tchang
    Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 4:05
  • 1
    If you don't care about etymology, you can have: japanese.stackexchange.com/q/2392/7810, japanese.stackexchange.com/q/408/7810 Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 4:48
  • ほど often means highest level, but くらい can express any level. Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 14:00
  • Thanks broccoli forest but I had already read those :( Takahiro Waki yes that's what I feel too ^^ If someone has a good book about history of japanese grammar or something that could help me understand mroe about things like that, please 教えて btw :)
    – Tchang
    Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 16:57

2 Answers 2


Derivation of 程【ほど】

The modern reading hodo is a shift from older hoto.

Speculation: This element might be the same hoto that appears as a compounding element in various verbs, apparently related to the adverb potopoto "drippingly", in reference to liquids. These verbs include:

  • 迸る【ほとばしる】: "to gush, to surge". Compound of hoto + hashiru, where hoto seems to mean "lots of water"
  • 潤びる【ほとびる】: "to swell or soften with water". from older ほとぶ. Compound of hoto + suffix -bu, which appears to be an instance of /b//m/ alternation with suffix -mu, "to become like, to appear like". The hoto element could again be interpreted as "lots of water", in the context of "having" or "full of".

If 程【ほど】 derives from the same hoto, it might be a reference to "an amount (of something)".

Derivation of 位【くらい】

Originally a compound of 座【くら】 ("seat") + 居【ゐ】 ("being, sitting", the 連用形【れんようけい】 or continuative form of verb 居る【ゐる】 "to be or sit in a place").

The initial sense was "where one sits", used then as a euphemism for one's social standing. (For that matter, the English term "standing" is a similar kind of usage.) Over time, this sense of "rank" was extended to refer to various other things.


My personal sense for the subtleties of word usage is limited as a non-native speaker. My gut feeling is that 程【ほど】 is used in places where English would have "as much (or some other adjective) as" or "so much (or some other adjective) that", as in:

  • 「AさんはBさん[ほ]{●}[ど]{●}淋【さみ】しい」, "A is as lonely as B".
  • 「Aが高ければ高い[ほ]{●}[ど]{●}、Bが大きい」, literally "if A is high, then as high as it is, B is that big" → "the higher the A, the bigger the B".
  • 「どれ[ほ]{●}[ど]{●}食べたのですか?」, literally "You ate as much as which?" → "How much did you eat?"

That said, 位【くらい】 is also used the same way as the last pattern: 「どれ[く]{●}[ら]{●}[い]{●}食べた?」. In fact, 位【くらい】 seems to be more common than 程【ほど】 in this usage. However, 位【くらい】 is never used for the [ADJ]ければ[ADJ]ほど construction, and for the first pattern, it requires a の where 程【ほど】 just comes right after the noun.

I'll leave a qualitative analysis of the different uses to other posters.


I think they come from the noun form of the words.

People have needs to modify their saying, for example:

She was so happy that she felt like crying.

Weren't there the usage "so...that", this sentence would be lacking a little expressiveness.

Accordingly, 彼女は泣きたいくらい嬉しい。/ 彼女は嬉しくて泣きたいくらいだ。

By the way, I think くらい means position as well.


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