Both 過ち and 間違い mean mistake but I think that 過ち has the "moral" meaning while 間違い is more a mistake in the context of wrong/right answer (exam, etc ...)

Am I wrong ?

Here is some context: A detective in the police is writing to his superior (whom he admires and likes a lot) a letter about his future defection since he came to the conclusion that by adhering to the procedures, they cannot capture a certain criminal who has managed to evade conviction so far. So he's saying he is on the verge of leaving to track the criminal alone.


I chose a different path solely in order to have my own way.‌
I'm aware that this is the wrong thing to do.

  • 1
    Be aware of readings. 過【あやま】ち is not the same word as 違【ちが】う. Only the former means "mistake". Commented Mar 7, 2020 at 18:17

1 Answer 1


間違い refers to mistakes people make almost every day, but it only refers to ones caused by one's mental functions. Physical mistakes (e.g., while playing sport) are normally called 失敗 or ミス.

過ち is a stiff, literary and serious word. It refers to a big mistake or a terrible decision that can even affect (or affected) your life. It is often, but not always, related to morals. This word is so big that it is even natural to say 私は人生でたった一度だけ過ちを犯した.

In your example both 間違い and 過ち make sense, but the latter sounds more solemn.

See also: What would be the closest native Japanese word to エラー in the context of IT?

  • i should have provided more context at the time, but your answer made me edit my question: it is a big decision so 過ち would only be correct . Anyway, thanks for your answer, very clear
    – Makoto
    Commented Mar 7, 2020 at 22:46
  • 1
    @stackSaru Seeing the importance of his decision and his "hard-boiled" way of writing, I feel 過ち sounds more natural. But 間違い is not wrong at all, either.
    – naruto
    Commented Mar 7, 2020 at 22:50

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