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Most sources on the internet, such as How are 化け物, 妖怪, 幽霊, etc. related to each other?, seem to say that 化け物 and おばけ are two separate words for the same type of creature. But even if that's true in theory, in practice it seems better to understand 化け物 as 'monster' and おばけ as 'ghost'.

It would seem kind of silly to call a person おばけ as an insult, for example. The Google results for searching 化け物 are things I would recognize as monsters but not as ghosts, and おばけ gets ghosts rather than monsters. Same goes for ばけもの and お化け (though the results for お化け are rather creepier than おばけ).

So: In practice, is there a difference between 化け物 and おばけ?

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heh. Looks to me like you've basically answered your question IN your question.

Essentially, ばけもの/化け物 can be thought of as "scary supernatural things" aka "monsters" though I think the Japanese idea of 化け物 is much broader than the western idea of monster, including spiritual creatures such as demons, youkai (妖怪), and yes, ghosts. ... Japanese 妖怪 are another very broad category of monsters in and of itself. Check wikipedia. ;) ....おばけ, on the other hand, always refers specifically to ghosts/spirits. And as another user pointed out, almost exclusively the cute/funny kind, like Casper or maybe Slimer.

Whether human shaped or otherwise, if it's floaty, see-through, glowing, or cannot normally be seen by people unless it wants to be seen, etc., it's an おばけ. Part of the confusion might be because the Japanese version of the spirit world contains so many more types of spirits than the western version.

One more thing: when Japanese people are specifically talking about ghosts/spirits, the kind that closely match the western sense, they use the word yuurei 幽霊. Obake includes yuurei, but again is much broader.

  • 1
    again, guys, if you're going to downvote my answers, at least be helpful enough to say why. This website is supposed to be cooperative learning, as I understand it. – ericfromabeno Apr 30 '18 at 1:57
  • I upvoted. You can forget about the downvote now. In my opinion, maybe split your answer into paragraphs. It just looks like a block of words and letters which nobody really wants to read. I read through it, though, and its good nonetheless. – Feeds May 1 '18 at 4:37
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化け物 and おばけ do NOT refere same thing.

おばけ involves some cute feeling (”お” and hiragana makes it seems like joking monster) If adult people say I see おばけ and be scared it looks strange and funny. You must be careful that おばけ is not (I think) same to the ghost. おばけ involves more soft atmosphere. And Yes, おばけ often refers unconcrete creatures like ghosts.

But 化け物 refers concrete creatures. It is sometimes used to speak ill of somebody.

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According to the 大辞泉, お化け is synonymous with 化け物 (definition #1), but it can also mean 幽霊 (definition #2). The latter definition seems more common in contemporary usage. In fact, when I type お化け I get a ghost emoji (👻).

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