Both of these words seem to mean "wise, sensible, sagacious". What is the difference between them?

I guess the difference actually mainly comes down to: what is the difference between the kanji 賢 and 聡, since a similar question can be made about the difference between 賢い and 聡い.


2 Answers 2


聡明 almost always modifies a person.

  • 聡明な人物
  • 彼の聡明さは社内でも有名である。

賢明 tends to modify a decision or strategy (判断/選択/戦略/etc), but it can modify a person.

  • あなたは賢明な選択をするべきです。
  • 2人の主張を両方聞いておく方が賢明でしょう。

When they describe a person, I think 聡明 focuses on one's intelligence (e.g., "being good at debates", "being able to understand difficult math concepts"), wheres 賢明 focuses on one's judiciousness (e.g., "makes a good decision when in trouble").

I guess the difference actually mainly comes down to 賢い and 聡い

I think you are over-analyzing. 賢い and 聡い both mean "clever/smart" and I don't think there is a big semantic difference. The biggest difference is frequency; the latter is fairly uncommon today, and you almost never hear it in modern conversations.


賢明 - the one is fond to do step by step and knows what is better or best.
This word is normally given to a person with his efforts.
For example, the person tends to examine the bridge is strong enough for a hundred men to pass at once, he starts from one.

聡明 - the one has an insight and deep analysis without doing, so he can get to the final point and see every ways that would happen.
This word is normally given to a talented man.
For example, the person looks at the materials and structure of the bridge and estimates how many persons can go at once.

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