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I discovered that the word 成熟{せいじゅく} (maturity for people, fruit, etc.) has a little brother which is composed of the exact same kanjis with the same prononciation, but in reverse order: 熟成{じゅくせい}. I looked up both words. Though 熟成 seems rather rare and definitely rarer than 成熟, they seem to have more or less the same meaning.

I find this case rather strange and would like to know the difference between the two words, if there is a difference at all.

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I am a native speaker of Japanese. Your question is very interesting.

Your recognition of 成熟 is more or less correct. We usually use 熟成 for food. It reminds me of good food which is taken a long time to deepen the taste. 熟成 cannot use for people.

  • 成熟した: Grown up, matured
  • 熟成した: The taste deeply brought out (sometimes with a enzyme)

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