Regarding a fossil that was dug out of frozen ground in Russia:

(The cave lion fossil) was so neat that it seemed like it was sleeping.

I'm struggling to translate きれい in this sentence. Neither clean, neat nor pretty really seem to make sense. To be honest, I can't think of any English word that would fit this sentence well. Is there an obvious translation of きれい that I'm missing, or am I just over thinking it? It is from an article for children after all.

2 Answers 2


Maybe trying to paraphrase it more than to directly translate it makes more sense here? In regards to fossils using something like well preserved seems to fit, e.g.

The fossil was so well preserved, it looked as though the cave lion was merely sleeping.

Or something along those lines.

  • >well preserved 見事な適訳です!
    – user20624
    Nov 19, 2017 at 13:45
  • Do you think a scientist would use きれい to mean 'well preserved' or is this just a simplification for children? Nov 19, 2017 at 16:05
  • Now I am neither a scientist nor a native but personally I think just using 綺麗/きれい is not formal enough for a scientific or even news context. ○は化石として綺麗に保存されました personally feels more appropriate for news or (from kaseki7.com/items_fossil/di/428.html) something like 保存状態極上の○化石。 So to rewrite your sentence I guess 眠っているように見えるほど綺麗に保存された化石でした。 feels more formal, but again I am not qualified to give my opinion.
    – Yannick
    Nov 19, 2017 at 16:45

It was so placid that it looked as if it was sleeping.

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