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I have a lot of trouble sorting out the different use of あくまでも.

According to goo, the definition is:

1 物事を最後までやりとおすさま。徹底的に。
2 どこまでも。全く。

So something like:

Doing something until the very end. Persistent, thorough.
Everywhere. Completely.

But I have seen many examples where those definitions don't seem to fit that well. Often it's almost as if あくまでも just adds some kind of emphasize but doesn't carry any meaning of its own?

Here are some examples I gathered.

だいたい、自殺と事故など第三者からでは判断しづらい。あくまでも警察、そして親族や関係者だけが真実を知っている事実。

Maybe strictly only know by police and relative ?

な、なぜ……そんな事…… いや……あくまでも勘だけどさ……でもそんな感じがした……

It's just an intuition ?

そういうのがあるの?
さぁ、あくまでも噂でしか知りませんけどそういうのがあると聞きますよ。

Another あくまでも something だけ/しかない. Really あくまでも just adds emphasis, maybe ?

行くかどうかを決めるのはあくまでもお前達だ。

It's entirely/completely up to you ?

もちろん外国人も、相手の話に合わせて、うなずいたり、"Uh-huh"と言ったりすることもありますが、あくまでもこれは「同意」を表明するというニュアンスがあり、日本人の相槌とは、少し違います。

No idea.

……ここは境界…… ではなく、あくまでも境界線

No idea.

17世紀に実在したそんな人物の物語だよ。
実話?
いいや、戯曲だよ。あくまでもね。

No, it's a play. Completely ? From beginning to end ?

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Clearly, Goo is lacking another set of definitions and it is a major one necessary to understand the present-day Japanese -- in particular, the less formal Japanese.

That lacking set of definitions, in my own words, would be:

just, only, no more than, etc. used for placing limits or boundaries on the piece of information or word at hand.

With the above added, you should be able to understand nearly all phrases and sentences containing 「あくまで(も)」.

One correction: You seem to have translated 「どこまでも」 to "everywhere", but it actually means "endless(ly)". "Everywhere" is 「どこでも」 with no 「ま」.

Now, let us look at the phrases you have gathered.

あくまでも警察、そして親族や関係者だけが真実を知っている事実。

Only a limited group of people know the truth. あくまでも is used in conjunction with だけ where the former sort of emphasizes the latter.

な、なぜ……そんな事……
いや……あくまでも勘だけどさ……でもそんな感じがした……

It is nothing more than the speaker's gut feeling. Nuance here is "I could be wrong".

そういうのがあるの?
さぁ、あくまでも噂でしか知りませんけどそういうのがあると聞きますよ。

The speaker has only heard about it in a rumor. It may or may not be true.

行くかどうかを決めるのはあくまでもお前達だ。

It is completely up to you, as you said yourself. It is you all the way.

もちろん外国人も、相手の話に合わせて、うなずいたり、"Uh-huh"と言ったりすることもありますが、あくまでもこれは「同意」を表明するというニュアンスがあり、日本人の相槌とは、少し違います。

"Uh-huh" said by foreigners just has a nuance of "Yeah, I agree with you." It is different from the Japanese response of 「はい」 that actually means almost nothing.

Emphasis on "no other meaning or nuance" when a foreigner says "uh-huh".

……ここは境界…… ではなく、あくまでも境界線

This is not a border; It is only a borderline.

Without further context, it would be impossible to know what that exactly means.

17世紀に実在したそんな人物の物語だよ。
実話?
いいや、戯曲だよ。あくまでもね。

Is that a true story?
No, it is no more than a play. (It is NOT a true story.)

  • Thanks for your thorough answer, including nuances ! Very helpful. It's interesting that あくまでも ended up with almost opposite meaning, but I guess it's fairly common in any language that intensifier sort of flip meaning depending on context. – Thomas Petit Aug 10 at 23:35
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In the japanese dictionary, あくまでも have two "opposite" meaning. https://www.weblio.jp/content/%E3%81%82%E3%81%8F%E3%81%BE%E3%81%A7

Simply, 1st meaning: the range is infinite.

2nd meaning: the range is finite.

Your interpretation looks correct. Because it can be thought 2nd meaning changes in the context.

"だいたい、自殺と事故など~", あくまで means the range who know the fact.

"な、なぜ……そんな事~", あくまで stress it is the only guess by restricting expression.

"行くかどうかを~", your interpretation looks perfect.

あくまで in sentences you have no idea are same mean. In these sentences, あくまで will emphasis by 2nd "finite" meaning.

"もちろん外国人も~", あくまで emphasis 「同意」.

"ここは境界~", あくまで emphasis 境界線. (border line is not actual border)

"17世紀に~", あくまで emphasis 戯曲。(the person is exist but, the story is fiction based on the fact)

※注意!上記の回答は、あくまで私個人の意見です。

I referred these websites before answering your question.

https://biz.trans-suite.jp/704#i-10

https://eigobu.jp/magazine/akumademo

https://career-picks.com/business-yougo/akumademo/

  • It's interesting that the definitions of goo and the one of weblio outside of どこまでも don't match at all. According to l'électeur answer I understand that goo definition maybe lack the one about restricting a range, maybe because it's a bit more modern and casual. And thanks for the links, it's appreciated ! – Thomas Petit Aug 10 at 23:30

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