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首都 {しゅと} and 都 {みやこ} what's the difference? thanks for your reply.

3 Answers 3

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首都 is what people usually use for capital in modern Japanese. But it usually only refers to the capital city of a country. You can say "Tokyo is the 首都 of Japan," but saying "Honolulu is the 首都 of Hawaii" is not accurate. 県庁所在地【けんちょうしょざいち】 is used to refer to the capital city of a Japanese prefecture. 州都【しゅうと】 is the word to refer to the capital city of a state of America.

都【みやこ】 also means capital, but it's a dated word and is not usually used today in things like official documents. We still commonly see it in fictional works (typically fantasy) and catchphrases (e.g., 水【みず】の都【みやこ】ベネチア, "Venice, The City of Water").

When 都 is read as と, it usually refers to 東京都 (Tokyo Prefecture, Japan).

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The first one, 首都, is a capital city while the second one, 都, could be simply a large metropolitan area.

Also, according to this source:

[...] 都 is an old expression of 首都. Nowadays people don't use 都 except in fixed sentences like 住めば都(Wherever can be a gorgeous city if you start living there.)[...]

To add some more, these are the definitions from a dictionary:

首都 : その国の中央政府のある都市。首府。

: 人の集まる大きな町。「都会・都市」

(I only included the first definition for 都 which is the relevant one in this case).

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  • not that i have much experience with みやこ, but i'm generally thought it just refers to Kyoto or Nara when it was where the emperor lived.
    – A.Ellett
    Commented Jun 2, 2017 at 1:54
  • You probably mean point 2. in the link I provided for 都.
    – Tommy
    Commented Jun 2, 2017 at 1:56
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The difference between 都{みやこ} and 首都{しゅと}, and the definition of them are clearly written here. According to this article, the summary of them are like:

都{みやこ} は、「宮処(みやどころ、みやこ)」から転じた言語で、天皇の宮殿(皇居)が所在するところを指す言葉である。現在では政治や行政の中枢機関が置かれた都市に使用されることもある。

  • [都]【miyako】 is a word changed from [宮 処]【miyadokoro】 which means the place where a palace of the Emperor (the Imperial Palace) is located. It also may be used now to the city where the central organization of politics or an administration is placed.

首都{しゅと}, は、国家レベルの中枢都市を「首都」と言う。

  • [首都]【shuto】 expresses the city where the central organization of politics or an administration of the country is placed.

首都 is a combined words of 首 + 都, and 首 means literally a neck but in this case it means a head which implies the top, so 首都 means the most primary 都.

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