From my understanding, 気づく is more "to realise" and 分かる is more to "understand" right?

Where does 悟る fall in comparison to these 2? Is it more towards "realising" or "understanding"? Or is it completely different with some nuance I'm missing?


悟る is much more nuanced and much less common than 気づく/分かる, but it still can be used safely in day-to-day conversations of ordinary people. Outside religious/philosophical contexts, 悟る is basically closer to "to realize (some important fact/truth)". Its object is usually something out of control of the speaker, something that initially seemed vague or hidden. The realized fact is often (but not always) unpleasant to the speaker. 悟る usually involves a certain amount of reasoning process (in this sense, "to understand" is not too far, either).

  • その写真を見て夫が浮気していると悟った。
    I saw the photo and realized my husband was cheating.
  • 彼の死期が近いと悟った。
    I realized he was close to death.
  • そのスピーチを聞いて、もう故郷には帰れないことを悟った。
    After listening to the speech, I realized we could never return to our home town.

気づく can mean "to realize", but its basic meaning is more like "to notice." The object of 気づく can be any (unimportant) event which is directly perceivable and does not require reasoning (e.g., 床にごみが落ちているのに気づいた).

As l'électeur said, 悟る also has a religious/spiritual meaning, "to be enlightened/awakened". Check the actual usages of this verb in a corpus and all these entries on ALC. Note that 悟り is an established religious concept which almost always means enlightenment (and that's how masu-stem works).

  • Is "home" really a good translation of 故郷? I would rather say "home town" or "birth place" depending on context. But of course, given a certain context, "home" could make sense in English too.
    – a20
    Nov 24 '17 at 10:31

From my understanding, 気{き}づく is more "to realise" and 分{わ}かる is more to "understand" right?

Right, at least basically so.

Where does 悟る fall in comparison to these 2? Is it more towards "realising" or "understanding"? Or is it completely different with some nuance I'm missing?

Looking at the way you phrase your question, I would say you are missing something important.

「悟{さと}る」, when used correctly, would always carry a religious and/or philosophical overtone. Unlike 「気づく」 and 「分かる」, 「悟る」 is in no way a word that one would use on a daily basis. It is simply a much bigger and nuanced word than the other two.

「悟る」 has the meanings of "to become spiritually aware of", "to be philosophically awakened", "to have an epiphany", etc.

You need to realize and/or understand something pretty much life-changing to use 「悟る」 unless you use it, as some people do, for exaggeration.

In case you did not know, the noun form "satori" has already made its way into many foreign languages including English.


That is not going to happen with "kizuki" or "wakari" in our lifetime. Why not? Because every language would already have its counterparts for those.

  • 3
    Haha, who downvoted this?
    – istrasci
    Nov 24 '17 at 4:02
  • 1
    ^ おおっ ほんまやーwwってなんでわろてんねんw
    – Chocolate
    Nov 24 '17 at 4:33
  • I did just because he basically shares the wrong premise of this question at least. Nov 24 '17 at 4:40
  • I am watching a show right now that is using 悟る pretty liberally. One for not having their presence noticed while following their target and another when a character says to another character that he "would make that character realise how powerless he was". Maybe the second might be some life-changing revelation of that person's incapabilities but I don't see how simply being alert to someone following you could be religious/epiphanic in any way.
    – shoryuu
    Nov 24 '17 at 5:38
  • 3
    I didn't downvote, but "always carry a religious and/or philosophical overtone" is simply an overstatement. 失敗を悟られる, 死期を悟る, 勝てないと悟る, 浮気していると悟る, あいつが犯人だと悟る... I would say 悟る is related to philosophy or religion in less then 50% of the cases.
    – naruto
    Nov 24 '17 at 6:33

I think 悟る、気づく are close to epiphanic moment. You are working on something really hard and all of sudden discover how to do it. However I think 悟る is often used for an attainment after putting huge amount of effort and almost giving up the effort. I think the attainment is often made when you are exhausted.

On the other hand 気づく is more of so-called eureka/aha moment such as Archimedes realized that the displacement of the volume of water must be equal to the volume of the part of his body he had overflowed when his bathing. It's more relaxed.

悟る might be preferred to use for getting the essence of something accompanied with your body feel whereas 気づく occurs in your mind.

分かる is a neutral and versatile word for realizing.

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