In the following dialogue, and in general, is 奪う a synonym of 殺す? Maybe a more 'poetical' one?

Character A: 誠士郎【せいしろう】を殺したのは鈴爾【れいじ】と雪也【ゆきなり】さんだ。

Character B: なに?誠士郎【せいしろう】を奪ったのが鈴爾【れいじ】と兄さん…!?

Thank you for your help!

  • Not literally, but in some context it might, as in the English when killing is expressed as stealing a life. Feb 4, 2017 at 19:29
  • I've never heard killing expressed as "stealing a life" in English. I think it's probably better to focus this discussion on what the Japanese means without trying to make a parallel to English.
    – user1478
    Feb 4, 2017 at 19:35
  • "Not literally" is the precise answer. Literary license allows a lot of leeway, and that is not language specific. My claim is that murder could be described as a life stolen in any language. As for "murder" being expressed as "stealing a life" you are right, I should have described it better: A persons murder is often expressed through literary license as "a life stolen". Search for "murder a life stolen" in Google and you will find many news stories using the phrase "life stolen" (passive tense) to emphesive the lost opportunities suffered by murdered people (usually young). Feb 4, 2017 at 21:17
  • 2
    Then search for 殺人 奪われた in Japanese. Similarly, many crime murder stories will appear, describing the lost lives as being stolen. Feb 4, 2017 at 21:21
  • 3
    「(人)を奪う」は「(人)を殺す」と同義語じゃないです。「~の命を奪う」なら「~を殺す」と同義語です。でもOPの「奪う」は、「 私(たち)から誠士郎を奪った」って意味であって、「誠士郎の命を奪った」って意味じゃないと思います。(ところで「奪った」って「襲った」のタイポとかじゃないですよね・・・)
    – chocolate
    Feb 5, 2017 at 5:46

4 Answers 4

  1. Yes, in the dialogue, this 奪う is a synonym of 殺す, although the focus is on "we lost him" rather than plain "he is dead".
  2. In general, 奪う means "to take [sth] away" or "to steal". 命を奪う to take life away always means to kill. I'd say this usage is "[人]を奪う" to take [somebody] (away), which can mean different things depending on the context:
    • 王女を奪う would mean to kidnap her. (or when she's already kidnapped, to rescue her from the rogue)
    • 恋人を奪う would usually mean to steal his/her love.

No, but sometimes, it can be replaced.
Generally, 奪う means to steal, but in this case, it means to steal life.
実際to steal lifeって伝わるかわかってないんですけど
So the translation becomes:

Character A: A person who killed Seishirou is Reiji and Yukinari.
Character B: What? A person who stole his life is Reiji and my brother!?

By the way, why A said only 鈴爾雪也, though B said 鈴爾 and 兄さん?

  • Sorry, I forgot to add と between the two names, now I corrected it.
    – Marco
    Feb 5, 2017 at 2:38

"奪う" of "命を奪う" can replace "殺す," but not always so.

Then I believe the appropriate answer to the question should be "奪う is not the synonym of 殺す."

NG:ゴキブリを奪う(This just means "Taking away cockroach." It's maybe still alive.")

OK: "自動車事故が、私の息子を奪った" "The car accident took away my son forever.= He died by the car accident."
almost NG: "自動車事故が、私の息子を殺した" (If it is used as mandarin or literally, it's OK. However if you'd like to make mandarin sentence for this kind of situation, you should say "自動車事故が私の息子を奪った.")

The following example of "奪う(奪った)" doesn't mean "殺す(殺した)".

"親友のXが、私の彼を奪った" = "My best friend X stole my boy friend. (She (He) never killed him!)"


No, 殺す and 奪う are not synonymous. But either can be used analogously to mean other things beyond their dictionary definitions. The boundaries of analogy are fuzzy.

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