From this post, I gather that the difference between 変身 and 変化 is a matter of the transformation’s distinctness. However, I came across 変化 being used in the following sentence:


It seems to me that a chameleon’s color-change is distinct enough to warrant the use of 変身. Then, could 変身 also be used in this case or does only 変化 make sense?

3 Answers 3


difference between 変身 and 変化 is a matter of the transformation’s distinctness.

No, this is highly misguided. Perhaps the native speaker in that post wanted to say 変身 is somehow more "drastic", but he failed to explain the most important aspect of 変身 well.

変身 is used only when a human(oid) or an animal transforms to a drastically different form. It's a word used mainly in fiction (Spider-Man, Power Rangers, Super Saiyans, zombies, etc), but it's sometimes used in the field of makeup, fashion and cosplay, too. Metamorphosis (of insects) is also sometimes referred to as 変身 by laypeople (the academic term is 変態). 変身 sounds catchy, especially to kids. So you can find some articles that say chameleons can do 変身, but this may not be a standard usage of 変身.

変化 is "change" in general, and "change in color" is 色の変化. We never say 色の変身 no matter how distinctive or drastic it is. This is simply because 色 itself is not a human nor an animal.


In this sentence, the distinction between 変化 and 変身 does not apply to カメレオン but to 色. "色の変化が見られる" a change of color can be seen. Therefore 変身 cannot be used here, since a color cannot go through transformation, only change.


变身 usually indicates the 变化 from a person(or animal,imaging Ultraman,Pokemon). what's more,there is tiny 变化 and large 变化,变身 belongs to large 变化


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