The lack of examples makes me difficult to understand well the difference between 恥知らず and 厚顔無恥. Both seem to mean "shameless".

For example, can I use both as follows? Are there any differences?


  • 1
    I'm not entirely sure either fits in the context, by the way. 恥知らず/厚顔無恥 are strong expressions, usually referring to something that you should be ashamed of as an ethical human being. In other words, it's typically a "how dare you" / "Shame on you!" thing.
    – Yosh
    Dec 19, 2016 at 15:35

2 Answers 2


「恥知{はじし}らず」 is an originally Japanese word (大和言葉{やまとことば}) as you could tell, I hope, from its reading/pronunciation. (Please do not be fooled by the use of kanji (恥 & 知). The kanji were just "assigned" to the word later on. Japanese was only a spoken language before we encountered the Chinese and started learning the kanji and created the kana.)

「厚顔無恥{こうがんむち}」 is, of course, a straight-up Sino-loanword.

Just like the million other Yamato-Sino word pairs, there is little to no difference in the basic meaning.

The difference that does exist is that the Sino counterpart tends to sound more formal, more academic, less intuitive, etc. than the Yamato counterpart, which is why Japanese kids generally learn the Yamato words first.

Finally, the general differences between Yamato words and Sino-loanwords are strikingly similar, IMHO, to those between English-origin words and "big" Latin loanwords used in English - begin vs. commence, worker vs. employee, put out vs. extinguish, go down vs. descend, etc.

  • 2
    +1 for calling out the similarity in Sinic loanwords in Japanese and Latinate loanwords in English. For the amusement of language geeks: there was a short piece written in the late 80s by sci-fi author Poul Anderson, an essay on atomic theory, where he doesn't use any Latinate or Greek-derived terms, using instead only Germanic roots. The title is "Uncleftish Beholding", the Germanic cognates for "Atomic Theory". A fun read.. @l'électeur, do you know of any similar 大和言葉だけ modern writings? Feb 26, 2019 at 16:52

These two are basically same meaning,so either one is fine in this situation. To be exact, for me, 厚顔無恥 sounds a bit stronger than 恥知らず, but Japanese don't care the differences so much.

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