Both mean blood according to my dictionary but what is the difference? If [血]{ち} by itself means blood, then why use [血液]{けつえき}? What is the difference in their usage?


2 Answers 2


The actual meaning of 血 and 血液 is basically the same.

Having two or more different lexical items for the same concept is an extremely common phenomenon in modern Japanese. This is because when kanji were originally borrowed from Chinese, the Japanese scholars decided to keep many Chinese words, even though a word for that concept already existed in Japanese. Remember, Chinese was a very prestigious language at the time. So although Japanese already had the word 'chi' for blood, they decided to also keep the Chinese word 'ketsueki' (or a phonetic approximation of the Chinese word).

Even in modern Japanese, words like 血液 which were borrowed from Chinese have a slightly more formal tone than their native Japanese counterparts. You might notice that in a newspaper or a TV broadcast, the word 血液 may be more likely to be used than 血. That is a generalization, of course, so please don't regard it as a rule. One manifestation of this (as another poster pointed out) is that 血液 tends to be used in more formal language such as scientific terminology. But in terms of their semantic content, the words are referring to the same thing.


I think the main difference is whether or not you are speaking in a scientific context. 血 is, of course, commonly used to refer to blood, but when you start to talk about traits of blood or blood in other scientific contexts, 血液 is the go-to word. For instance:

血液型 = Blood Type

血液病 = Hematological Disease

血液透析 = Hemodialysis

and so on..

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