Is there a clear difference between the meanings of 十分 and 十二分? I rarely have ever seen the second one. When should the second one be used and in what context?

EDIT: To avoid confusion, I'm talking about when used in the context of "enough" or "sufficient". Also, why is it that 十分 meaning "10 minutes" is also used to mean "enough"?

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    Presumably you're asking about the じゅうぶん and じゅうにぶん variants meaning something like "enough", "full", "satisfactory" etc. When I first saw the question I was thinking "10 minutes" vs "12 minutes". – jkerian May 14 '12 at 15:46
  • Yes, that is what I meant! I changed the post to be more clear. – Chris May 14 '12 at 15:49
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    Note that "enough"/"sufficient" can also be written as 充分 (which is also read じゅうぶん). I always use this one to avoid confusion. – istrasci May 14 '12 at 15:58

I will preface this by saying that I am making some assumptions on different readings of the kanji. I never really thought of this term as "ten minutes" when used in the metaphoric sense as "enough," for the obvious reason that the pronunciation is different, but maybe there is an actual correlation that I am unaware of.

"Ten minutes" is pronounced じっぷん or じゅっぷん.

"Satisfactory" or "enough" is pronounced じゅうぶん.

十二分= More than enough

十分= Plenty; enough; sufficient; satisfactory; adequate;

In a counting system based on intervals of ten, the number ten will represent a complete set. 分 can be thought of as "degree," as well as minute (it has many meanings). Thus a "complete degree" of something will be "enough". This expression can be seen as arbitrary in as much as an english speaker will use "100%" as an arbitrary term to mean "giving it one's all," or will say "That girl is a ten" to mean a stunning beauty.

  • The explanation about a "complete degree" is helpful and relates to 十分. I'm a little lost on why 二 is part of 十二分 as opposed to some other number. – Chris May 14 '12 at 17:22
  • i haven't checked specifically but besides being a larger number=even more, it may relate to chinese numerology. – yadokari May 14 '12 at 20:25
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    @Chris: I am not sure, but I'd compare it to English 100% and 110%. You can say "I'll give it my 110%", but it sounds weird if you say "I'll give it my 113%". One is an idiom; the other one is a weird random number. – Amadan May 17 '12 at 22:15
  • @Amadan That's a very interesting thing to learn. Even on a percentage basis, we likely say "120%" in Japanese in such a situation, so there could be some deeper origin of metaphor. – broken laptop Nov 14 '19 at 14:24

分 is used as "one tenth" in several context, e.g. in these meanings on jisho.org. So 十分 is ten tenths, or 100%, or enough. 十二分 is equivalent to twelve tenths, or 120%, or more than enough.

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