In my work book 代表的 has a few meanings, typical and representative. So when you say 代表的な人 does this mean a typical person or representative person? Surely having both these meanings for this word must be very confusing?

  • 3
    What would you say is the difference between a typical person and a representative person?
    – Ringil
    Commented Apr 28, 2020 at 4:00
  • 1
    Ah I see, I was thinking of like a representative of a company or country. Like a chosen person! And typical means every day thing. So typical person mean everyday person and representative person means a representative of something (country, team etc)
    – Dave07
    Commented Apr 28, 2020 at 4:04

2 Answers 2


代表的 is a na-adjective that means "representative" in the sense of "most significant and typically represents the characteristics of an idea/group".

  • 『ひまわり』はゴッホの代表的な作品です。
    Sunflowers is a representative work by Gogh.
  • 古代ギリシャの哲学者として代表的な人を3人挙げてください。
    Name three representative people who are philosophers of the ancient Greek.

典型的 ("typical") is a similar word, but 代表的 takes into account the importance/significance of the modified thing among the group. You can say 僕の妹は典型的なケチだ ("My sister is a typical miser") but not 僕の妹は代表的なケチだ unless your sister is nationally known as a typical miser.

"Representative" as a noun that refers to a person is 代表者.

  • 私は我が社の代表者です。
    He is a representative of our company.

Unfortunately, there is no one-to-one correspondence between English words and Japanese words, and we really have to live with the fact that 代表的 means both "typical" and "representative." If you want to unambiguously mean typical, I think 一般の〜 or 普通の〜 would be a good choice.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .