According to WWWJDIC, ぬるい and ぬくい are both written 温い. Anthy and the iOS Japanese input systems agree.

However a native speaker and the input of an electronic dictionary (広辞苑)say that

  • 温い is read as ぬくい and means pleasantly lukewarm.
  • 微温い is read as ぬるい and means "not warm enough" lukewarm.

There is a note in WWWJDIC acknowledging 微温い yet Anthy and iOS do not offer 微温い as an option for ぬくい or ぬるい.

I suppose I should be aware of all these different variations but

  • is there an "official" position on 温い, 微温い, ぬくい and ぬるい?
  • Does "微温い" have an alternative reading (e.g. that Anthy would map to 微温い)?
  • You can add it to Anthy's dictionary, if you like. (I add lots of stuff.) Or you can type びおん, convert to 微温, then type い.
    – user1478
    Oct 21, 2012 at 17:44
  • ぬるい can also mean "not cold enough". Surely, you don't want your ぬるいビール to be warmer.
    – dainichi
    Oct 22, 2012 at 1:07

2 Answers 2


is there an "official" position on 温い, 微温い, ぬくい and ぬるい?

"Official" according to whom? If you mean according to the standard dialect. ぬくい is perfectly fine 標準語 although it is much more commonly used in other parts of Japan, which is why some people think it is 方言. Now, in my experience ぬるい is used to be negative, that something is not warm enough, so I don't think you can use it to mean just "warm". I also hear ぬくとい sometimes instead of ぬくい.

Does "微温い" have an alternative reading (e.g. that Anthy would map to 微温い)?

Both are generally written in hiragana and the 漢字 forms are not as common. 微温い and 温い can be read as ぬるい or ぬくい, although ぬくい is not as commonly used as ぬるい, so most of the time it should be read as ぬるい unless otherwise specified. If 微温い is ever read as ぬくい, there will probably be ruby text showing you since it would be an irregular reading. Also, you may see 微温い used instead of 温い in novels, etc. because the characters 微温 signify that it is not very warm.

Side Note

I have found may mistakes in WWWJDIC. I suggest using a better dictionary like 広辞苑, etc.


I haven't personally seen or heard ぬくい as often, though I know it is used occasionally. That's probably because it's a dialect, likely from the western part of Japan (according to this entry).

Since ぬるい and ぬくい are just different ways of pronouncing 温い and 微温い, I think it doesn't really make sense to put all four in order. Perhaps it is the difference between 温い and 微温い you wish to know.

My impression by just looking at these 漢字 is that the latter, 微温い, means less warm than 温い, since the character 微 signifies that there is only a little amount of something (i.e., warmth in this case).

As for the difference in sounds, I cannot say for sure for ぬくい since I'm not from the region in which the dialect is prevalent, ぬるい certainly is used to mean "not as warm as desired." However, it is probably right that ぬくい is used in a more "positive" manner. For example, ぬくぬく is an expression that can be used to describe the state of feeling pleasant warmth, being worry-free, etc., so the connotation in general is positive (although ぬくぬくと育つ can mean the kid has been raised spoiled, so it is used like that as well).

  • You misread the quote. ぬくい is primarily used in Western Japan does not say it is 方言, only that it is more common in Western Japan.
    – Jesse Good
    Oct 22, 2012 at 2:41
  • 1
    You might be right, but isn't that what makes a dialect? The variation due to geographic separation?
    – Taro Sato
    Oct 22, 2012 at 2:50
  • Yes, if the quote said only used in Western Japan then I would agree with you. However, it seems that it is used in standard dialect (although perhaps it is not common).
    – Jesse Good
    Oct 22, 2012 at 2:59
  • I cannot say with certainty if ぬくい is a dialect. However you cannot rule out the possibility that the word usage have slowly diffused into other parts of Japan. People are moving around these days. I am from Saitama, so I am most familiar with 標準語, and ぬくとい definitely sounds like it is a 方言.
    – Taro Sato
    Oct 22, 2012 at 3:15

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