Been thinking about these for a while. I see that we already have Difference between 光る, 輝く, and 光り輝く?, but I'm including a lot more. What are the differences in meaning (ignoring conjugations) of the following words:

  • 光る・ピカピカ
  • 輝く・輝かす
  • 光り輝く
  • [閃]{ひらめ}く
  • [煌]{きらめ}く・キラキラ・ギラつく
  • 瞬く
  • てかる・テカテカ
  • ちらつく・ちらちら
  • 照る・照らす

Which ones are interchangeable? Which ones imply a definite "brightness", and which ones don't (I'd say even in English, "glimmer" and "flash" do not necessarily imply brightness—even a dim light could glimmer (as its intensity grows and fades) or flash (off and on) )?

  • 2
    I think mimetic words and usual words should be separated because those two can coexist in a phrase. Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 5:45
  • I feel like some words would only be interchangeable in certain contexts too. Like ぴかぴか could probably be used in place of つやつや when describing metal. Like your point with "glimmer" and "flash", I feel like they describe reflection more than they describe light.
    – Shurim
    Commented Nov 18, 2020 at 17:10

1 Answer 1

  • 光る probably is the most neutral and can replace others in most cases.
    • ピカピカ光る implies the light is on and off alternately.
  • 輝く sounds brighter light, but not necessarily physically. It indicates that the speaker positively values the light.
    • キラキラ輝く implies the changes in the intensity of the light, like ピカピカ光る. キラキラ光る is also possible.
  • 光り輝く is used more in a figurative sense: 彼の業績は歴史上に光り輝いている = His achievements stand gloriously in history. Like this usage, 輝く sometimes has the connotation of glory.
  • 閃く, again used mostly figuratively: アイディアがひらめく = An idea flashed in my mind. Dictionaries list examples like 雷光がひらめく = Lightning flashes, but normally we say 雷が鳴る
  • 星が煌めく/星が瞬く: To me, the former invokes the night starry sky, lots of stars while the latter talks about (at most) a few stars twinkling.
    • ギラつく is used like: ギラついた人 = a person with eyes gleaming with ambitions; or ギラギラした = gleaming with ambitions (not sure if gleaming is correct here).
  • テカる does not necessarily imply light - it is used for some wet surface, especially with something oily. Possibly close to glisten. E.g. テカついた肌 = The oily skin
  • 照る is mostly used for the sun. E.g. 日が照る = the sun is burning hot. 照らす is close to shed light on. E.g. 月が道を照らす = The moon lights up the road.

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