They're both pronounced the same, and seem to mean the same thing; is there a difference, and if so, what is it?


Broadly speaking, 云う seems to be somewhat more old-fashioned in use. It appears with some frequency in Natsume Soseki's works, but not so much in recent publications, which use 言う instead.

The Weblio page giving the Daijirin entry show that the 言う spelling is jōyō, while the 云う spelling is not (the black downward-pointing triangle indicates non-jōyō characters). Moreover, towards the bottom of the long entry, we get this:

(2) 漢字表記は現代では「言」が主に用いられる。古くは❸ ③ には「云」がよく用いられ,「謂」は「いわば」「いわゆる」の場合に用いられた。

(2) For the kanji spelling, 言 is the main modern usage. In older times, 云 was often used for sense ❸ ③ [note: prefaced as (「…だと言う」「…と言う」の形で)], and 謂 was used for いわば{iwaba} and いわゆる{iwayuru}.

  • NOTE: Due to licensing changes for Daijirin, that dictionary has disappeared from various online dictionary aggregator sites, such as Weblio or Kotobank. Daijisen is still included (as of 2021-04-19), and their notation for non-Jōyō kanji is a × mark instead. Apr 19 at 20:56

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