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From Jisho.org, both 鋼{はがね} and 鋼鉄{こうてつ} mean steel. Are there any differences between them?

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    鋼 is derived from sword. 鋼鉄 is equal to steel. – Takahiro Waki Jul 27 '17 at 18:14
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They're different just in scope of "語彙":

1) 鋼{はがね} is wago (和語) form which uses kun-yomi reading of the kanji, it's originally derived from other word with same pronounciation: 刃金 (metal blade). Here is explanation about 刃金 (note emphasized bold sentence part):

刃金は、刃物の刃先に用いる金属のこと。かつては刃金もしくは釼の一字で、鋼と同じように使われていた。 刃物の刃先は鋭角になればなるほど切れ味が良くなる。

The fact behind steel is a commonly used material to make sharp blades (used in knives, swords, etc.) in ancient times, due to its sharpness as cutting edge. Since 刃金 itself is also read in kun-yomi we can tell that the meaning is associated with 鋼.

2) 鋼鉄{コウテツ} is kango (漢語) form which uses on-yomi reading for both kanjis, it's derived from Chinese term "鋼鐵", "鉄" exists here to give emphasis into meaning by implicitly mentions "steel is made of iron". This is true due to steel is alloy of iron as base metal & another elements giving large tensile of strength.

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Yes there are subtle difference between the two.

鋼 derives from [刃]{は}[金]{がね}, literally "blade metal". So it can also mean "the metal that are used to make a sword", which is steel.

鋼鉄 does not have that other layer of meaning, it just mean "steel".

  • Could you also mention a little about 和語 and 漢語? – karlalou Jul 26 '17 at 18:53
  • That does not affect the meaning? All I could say is はがね is 和語 and 鋼鉄 is 漢語. – ed9w2in6 Jul 27 '17 at 3:44
  • And maybe that 鋼 is spoken language while 鋼鉄 is written language, like 川と河川、木と樹木. – ed9w2in6 Jul 27 '17 at 3:59
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    That does not affect the meaning 意味は同じですけど、ニュアンスとか印象は同じですか。概して、漢語は堅い文語的な感じがして、和語は柔らかくて口語的ですけど、この場合はどうでしょう。少なくとも、使われる場面・コンテクストはちょっと違いますよね。 – Chocolate Jul 27 '17 at 4:25
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    鋼 used with i-adjectives while 鋼鉄 used with na-adjectives. What do you mean? Can you give some examples? 「硬い鋼鉄」「硬い鋼」、「頑丈な鋼鉄」「頑丈な鋼」。。。どっちもいけそうですが – Chocolate Jul 27 '17 at 4:29

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