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I've seen 体 used a few times where I think it's not referring to the literal translation of 'body', looking at a dictionary I can see there are other definitions for example:

体(たい) substance; identity; reality

I've recently read a line of a Japanese story where 体 was used, but in my mind I felt it was perhaps referring to ' personality rather than 'body' quite literally. I thought perhaps it was being used in the same way as 性格. (I can't remember the line word for word in Japanese but in English my translation was "they have different 'bodies' but share the same experiences" and the kanji 体 was there)

The fact that the word identity is listed as a definition makes me think my assertion that it could be referring to personality, is correct.

However I'm wary of using dictionary definitions without understanding what context it can be used in. And the word identity has a broad spectrum of connotations.

Am i right in thinking that 体 can indeed be referring to someone's character or personality and not 'body' in the literal sense?

  • Is it from "君の名は?” The whole premise of that movie (or book) is about personalities exchanging bodies, or bodies exchanging personalities. – Craig Hicks Feb 14 '17 at 1:36
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I must say that the answer is yes (at least roughly).

「体」, when it is read 「たい」, can mean "things that constitute the true nature of a person/thing". So, it is about a "true character" rather than just a "character" that 「体」 could refer to.

There is a well-known saying:

「名{な}は体{たい}を表{あらわ}す」,

which is often translated into English as:

"Names and natures do often agree."

(Actually, the English version might be the original in this case. I am not well-read enough to know.)

I do know, however, that this was a very good question.

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