I was reading NHK NEWS WEB EASY and came across the word "被害". When I encounter a new word, I try to break it down and understand each part.

And then it looked to me like 被害 and 害 have the same meaning, at first. Wiktionary says that 被 is a prefix that marks the passive recipient of an action.

So, 被害 would be something like "passive injury"? And 害 would be just "injury"? Does "passive" just mean "the recipient didn't do anything to have the event happen to them"?

Do people just use the word 害 alone when they don't want to specify if it's passive or not?


害 and 被害 are usually not interchangeable. 害 just means "harm", whereas 被害 specifically refers to accidental damage someone took due to a crime, traffic accident, natural disaster or such. If you want to understand 被害 literally, it would be something like "received harm" or "taken damage". (Note that "passive" is one of the many meanings of 被.) For example you can say この番組には害がある ("This TV program is harmful"), but not この番組には被害がある.

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  • そういえば警察の隠語で「ガイシャ」と言っても被害者のことですね(笑) – broccoli facemask - cloth Jul 19 '18 at 15:39

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