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According to the dictionary I use to study, both are adverbs and their definitions are so similar that I can't tell the difference:

結局【けっきょく】: after all; in the end; ultimately; eventually

とうとう: finally; at last; ultimately; in the end

What is the difference between both words (e.g. meaning, nuance, level of formality, style of speech, none at all…) ?

1 Answer 1

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「とうとう」implies a continual process that led to the outcome, whereas 「結局」doesn't.

For example, one can say 「結局力不足なのだ」but not「とうとう力不足なのだ」because 力不足 is not a state achieved via a continuous process. On the other hand, one can both say「とうとう力尽きた」and「結局力尽きた」which has roughly the same meaning, but the former draws a lot more attention to the continued struggle that led to the outcome.

Other examples:

Natural:「結局牛肉は好まれない」
Unnatural:「とうとう牛肉は好まれない」

1st:「少しづつ侵食が進み、とうとう倒壊した」
2nd:「少しづつ侵食が進み、結局倒壊した」

Both have very similar meanings, but the 1st describes how the gradual process eventually led to the outcome. The 2nd describes what the ultimate outcome was.

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  • Thank you very much, I understand it better now. Just for the sake of clarification, by "2nd sentence is unnatural" which one are you referring to?,「とうとう牛肉は好まれない」or「少しづつ侵食が進み、結局倒壊した」?
    – jarmanso7
    Apr 28, 2019 at 19:13
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    「とうとう牛肉は好まれない」is unnatural.
    – mamster
    Apr 28, 2019 at 19:42

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