I would like to know what does ことごとく mean. When searching for it on Google, some sites tell it means "completely" (like すっかり, for example), another site says it means "all" (like 全部) and other sites say it means "all, every" like すべて, so I don't know what does it usually mean.

In this site, for example, it is said that ことごとく means these three meanings in funtion of the kanji: https://eigobu.jp/magazine/kotogotoku , but I would like to know if this word has effectively various meaning or has one main and predominant meaning.

If besides telling the meaning, you could please give me example sentences with this word I would be really thankful.


According to Sanseido Daijirin (三省堂 スーパー大辞林), this is a somewhat archaic word which was read in kanbun texts by means of kundoku (reading the kanji of a Chinese text in Japanese). It comes from the word 事事 (ことごと), meaning 'everything', and the suffix く. This gives it an adverbial format (although it may not strictly conform to modern adverbial behavior), and it is usually (but not always) followed by a verb.

The standard dictionary meanings are 'all; entirely; completely; without exception'. Exactly which one of those translations is most appropriate will depend on the details of the context. But they are not different concepts. For example:

ことごとく失敗する to fail completely
財産をことごとく失う to lose all your assets (to lose everything)
法律をことごとく守る to obey the law without exception

As for your point about using alternative kanji for the word, that is certainly possible but I would argue that those are stylistic variations of the meaning, rather than standard usages. Stylistic variations are an interesting aspect of kanji (there are some good threads about it here if you search), but there is no need to use them unless you have a specific purpose in doing so. Sticking with standard characters is perfectly fine. The kanji listed in dictionaries like Daijirin, Kojien and Shinmeikai (悉くand 尽く) are standard, although the word is very often written in hiragana.

  • First of all, thank you so much for your answer! But I still have a doubt: then can I always replace with ことごとく words like 全く、全部 or すべて ? Or there are certain cases where I can use ことごとく instead of those words and certain cases where not? – Rick Aug 17 '20 at 9:07
  • 2
    I don't mean to say that you can use ことごとく interchangeably with 全く、全部 or すべて in any case. But I do think that if it is an adverbial use, you probably can. For example, instead of 問題はすべて解決された (adverbial) you could use ことごとく. But for something like 事件のすべてを報道する (non-adverbial), you could not use ことごとく. – kandyman Aug 17 '20 at 10:15
  • なるほど、どうもありがとうございます!:) – Rick Aug 17 '20 at 16:15

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.