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Like for example, if I wanted to write/talk about the lily flower, do I need to write ユリの花 to discuss it or could I simply write ユリ or 百合.

On the side, for insects, like if I wanted to say butterfly, could I write just 蝶 or does 蝶の虫 work as well?

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花 means "flower", that colorful structure of plants. For example, this is 百合 but not 百合の花:

百合

This is 百合の花, but people often call this simply 百合:

百合の花

When people say "I like tulips", it usually means they mainly like the colorful flowers, not leaves or roots, right? Therefore, we don't usually bother to say チューリップの花が好きです. チューリップが好きです is enough most of the time.

However, 百合 is special. 百合 also has a slangy meaning. If one says 百合が好きです, it can possibly mean two different things, depending on the context:

百合 百合

THIS DEPENDS ON THE CONTEXT. Even otaku can use 百合 to mean something on the left when he is talking about flowers. If someone (whether he is an otaku or not) says 私はヒマワリと百合が好きです, it means "I like sunflowers and lilies", but never "I like sunflowers and female-female romance".

Still, if you want to avoid any misunderstanding when there is not enough context, you can say 百合の花が好きです. By explicitly adding の花, it only means this:

百合の花

This is why people sometimes add の花 to 百合. You can confirm this by image search:

But this doesn't mean you always have to say 百合の花. If there is enough context, 百合 is enough. You don't usually have to add の花 to other flowers, either. It won't cause any misunderstanding.

(If you're still concerned about this picture, it says ユリの花, so this does not refer to female-female romance.)

蝶の虫 doesn't work. 花 refers to a part of a plant (a lily has flowers, leaves, a stalk, etc), but 虫 refers to an insect itself.

  • compare: 薔薇 – broken laptop May 19 '20 at 22:07
  • @naruto, about the picture, I was wondering, if it wanted to use liking lilies as a way to refer to female-female romance, would it have just said 百合 to refer to both the flower and the genre? – Zain Alleck May 20 '20 at 3:09
  • @ZainAlleck What do you mean by "both the flower and the genre"? Do you want to say "I like both a lily as a flower and yuri as a genre"? Then you can say something like 百合の花とジャンルとしての百合が両方好きです. – naruto May 20 '20 at 3:11
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(ユリ or 百合)の花 describes a flower of lily (normally in blossom). I mean 花 is normally describing the flower is "in blossom".

ユリ or 百合 often describes as the same meaning as above even without 花. It probably mean not really describing the state of flowering of lily, but rather stating the group of flowers called "lily".

蝶の虫 is bit awkward since 虫 is a large class. And 虫 does not mean any behavior of insects(I mean 虫 by itself does not indicate insects are flying or etc.), but rather normally is a biological classification. So, saying only 蝶 is fine for describing the group of insects celled "butterfly".

As an idiomatic phrase, 虫 itself means "an enthusiast of something"(野球の虫、勉強の虫, etc.). So, 本の虫 is an idiomatic phrase for describe people like reading a lot. I think it's used in the same way as "bookworm" or "bibliophile" in English. I think it may be possible to call a person who likes to collect butterflies and has its specimen in a catalog as "蝶の虫" jokingly.

  • so to refer to the flower, I could just use 百合 or ユリ then without の花? – Zain Alleck May 19 '20 at 2:09
  • @ZainAlleck Yes. I think so. Just 百合 or ユリ can spot on the flower. saying ユリの花 sounds more specific to the flower and not really saying to the stem of the plant. – kimi Tanaka May 19 '20 at 3:09

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