In English, the word "nightmare" isn't used just literally for a bad dream you have at night-time, but also metaphorically to describe a very bad scenario, such as "Can Samsung recover from its Galaxy Note 7 nightmare?".

Can 悪夢 be used metaphorically? jisho.org seems to suggest it can't be, but I've seen someone translate a metaphorical use of "nightmare" using "悪夢", possibly incorrectly.

  • I don't see anything on jisho.org that suggests it can't be used metaphorically. Have I missed something? – snailplane Oct 23 '16 at 2:50
  • @snailplane jisho.org/word/%E6%82%AA%E5%A4%A2 has as definition 1 nightmare as in bad dream, and definition 2 is just an English Wikipedia link. – Andrew Grimm Oct 23 '16 at 3:19

Yes. 悪夢 can be used metaphorically.

See this dictionary entry:

1 いやな恐ろしい夢。また、不吉な夢。「―にうなされる」

2 夢としか思えないような、思い出すのもいやで恐ろしい現実のたとえ。「戦争の―」

2 is what you mentioned. For example, 戦争の悪夢 is like "nightmare of war".

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Watching the tsunami was such a nightmare!

It just really stresses that the situation was one of the worst, or like a nightmare.

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In English, the word "nightmare" is very often used metaphorically. When it's used literally, it's often within a story, novel, movie, ... .

I'd say in Jp, the word 悪夢 is used metaphorically with an even greater frequency. -- or that 悪夢 is used literally with an even smaller frequency.

It's an interesting puzzle to wonder why that is.

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