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I've come across four words in my studies that all seem to have similar meanings:

  • 根底{こんてい}
  • 基礎{きそ}
  • 基盤{きばん}
  • 基本{きほん}

They all seem to be some variation of the concepts of a "foundation" or "basis", but an in-depth differentiation has eluded me. Can anybody help?

  • 2
    I hope this doesn't come off as "RTFM", but since you're likely to run into this type of quandary again and again, I highly recommend the book ちがいがわかる類語使い分け辞典, which answers this question and hundreds of others. I was so confused about 状態、様子、状況、and 事態 until I consulted the book. – mamster Nov 7 '17 at 17:23
  • @mamster - That book looks very useful, but it would cost more than $35 to buy and ship to my location. Is it worth that much? BTW, do you have any other book recommendations? – kandyman Nov 7 '17 at 17:56
  • Well, it has like 600 pages of disambiguations. It was expensive, but I use it all the time. – mamster Nov 7 '17 at 18:04
  • @mamster Thanks for the recommendation; I'll check it out. – eefara Nov 7 '17 at 18:05
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As in the comments, I guess you can find the detail explanation in a thesaurus dictionary.

In case you have trouble in understanding a dictionary, my interpretation goes

根底 is foundation used in thought like philosophy.

The influence of Plato and Socrates is present in the foundation of western philosophy 西洋哲学の根底にはプラトンとソクラテスの影響がある。

基盤 is a base used in information technology, infranstrature, finances.

インフラ基盤、情報基盤、財務基盤。

I feel like it’s like referring to a network itself...

基礎 and 基本 may be interchange though, for example, playing volleyball, you do a toss, receive and attack. They are (basic)基本 of volleyball.Without this, you are going against the rule.

Practicing technique of how to toss, how to receive and how to attack is 基礎 of volleyball.

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The correct answer here is 基礎.

A good way to figure this out is by using image searches. If you note, only 基礎 will show images of building foundations.

A second route is to understand the components.基 with the readings キ and もと refers to the base of something. 根 コン and ね means root.

[礎]{いしずえ} refers to a pillar at the base of a building or a support that keeps you able to function. It doesn't apply to other types of building foundations.

A third route is to take recourse to native language dictionaries. These will tell you instantly that 基礎 refers to the foundation of buildings (https://kotobank.jp/word/%E5%9F%BA%E7%A4%8E-474117, https://dictionary.goo.ne.jp/srch/jn/%E5%9F%BA%E7%A4%8E/m0u/ ...)

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