A lot of things have Japanese words in more than two versions to call them. I can appreciate there are often many ways to call the same thing in any particular language.

Nevertheless, I'm somewhat perplexed by the difference in usage between Japanese words derived from foreign words and those of kanji for the same things?

With the first example below, it is straightforward to me. ホテル is accommodation of western style while 旅館 is accommodation of Japanese style. The same applies to the second example I suppose, the western lunch and Japanese or even Asian lunch respectively. If I'm wrong, please point out. However the rest are not clear to me.

When to use which?

Would someone care to comment!


  • ホテル - 旅館

  • ランチ - 昼ご飯

  • ミーティング - 会議

  • ショッピング - 買物

  • デスク - 机

  • カフェ - 喫茶店

  • クラス - 授業

  • テスト - 試験

  • ストリート - 街路, 通り, 道路

  • テクニック - 技術


2 Answers 2


You don't really use ランチ and ショッピング beside specific goods labled so or component of specific words like ショッピングカート.

ミーティング mainly means briefing while 会議 is, as the preceding answer said, larger one with interactive oppinions that discusses over some agenda and tries to decide something.

You don't use デスク except specific goods labed so, beside, it can be a title for vice chief of editors in some publishers.

Difference between カフェ and 喫茶店 seems that of licenses permited by administration. I don't know for details.

クラス is 学級, i.e. a unit of organisation that students belong to.

テスト is just synonymous to 試験.

You don't use ストリート except for categories in skateboard or apparel, or component of specific words like street-basketball.

テクニック means individual's skill, while 技術 is a generic word that includes the former, technic, technology or art(技法). (Incidentally, アート means creation of aesthetic products.)

  • Having read above I have to from now onwards be careful with the choice of words. It looks like I can't simply learn words by reading dictionaries because no dictionary I've come across so far seems to tell subtle difference between similar words. If there is one online that would do the job, please let me know.
    – Healer
    Sep 12, 2018 at 11:57

You have to consult the dictionary for each word, because the meaning may not be exactly the same. Specially you should consult, if possible, a Japanese-Japanese dictionary, so you can see the exact meaning and not an approximate translation.

For example a restaurant could serve お子様ランチ even when the meal is served at night.

「ランチ」と呼ばれているが、ランチタイム以外でも注文できる店がほとんどである。 https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/お子様ランチ

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