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There are two words for face or is there a slight difference?

  • 1
    Where did you see that 覚 means face? How familiar are you with Japanese/kanji? – Leebo Apr 15 '18 at 6:54
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    Maybe you could ask about 顔, 面, and 顔面. – snailboat Apr 15 '18 at 7:20
  • To clarify, are you asking about the words「おもて」and「かお」, or the kanji「顔」and「面」? Kanji are not words, they're representations of words/morphemes. @snailboat's last example「顔面」represents another set of morphemes altogether (「がん」+「め​ん」), so if you were asking about the kanji then those morphemes also require explanation. – droooze Apr 15 '18 at 8:11
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顔【かお】 is the primary word for face (of animal/human). You should be using this word in most situations.

面 read as つら is an uncommon slangy/rough word that is mainly used in dirty conversations and derogatory idioms such as どの面下げて, 面の顔が厚い. Although some fixed phrases like しかめっ面 and 泣きっ面に蜂 are safe in ordinary conversations, you should not use 面 as a generic noun unless you intentionally want to offend someone.

面 read as おもて also means face or front, but this is a fairly literary and/or old word. You'll see this only in samurai dramas and stiff novels.

Standalone 面 read as めん (on-reading) is even rarer, and is used only in a few uncommon set phrases such as 面を通す. 面 read as めん also means mask (e.g. Noh mask) or surface. Of course 面 appears in many Sino-Japanese compounds such as 海面, 画面, 水面, etc.

  • There's also 面持ち with 面 read おも, which I think is not uncommon in novels and such. – snailboat Apr 16 '18 at 10:21
  • Thank you, but I left that out because I thought おも is not a standalone word. – naruto Apr 16 '18 at 10:33

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