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As the title says, what exactly is the usage of these two terms:

立派 (rippa) 素敵 (suteki)

They both mean something like "great!", "nice!", but are they synonyms?

It is sometimes difficult understanding the meaning just by using a dictionary...

Thanks in advance.

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  • eow.alc.co.jp can be useful for questions like this. I'd suggest you search for すてき rather than 素敵 though. Dec 4 '20 at 9:59
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    Beyond the difference in meaning, suteki is more likely to appear in a woman's speech than a man's
    – Casey
    Dec 6 '20 at 19:57
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Did you really look them up in a dictionary? Was "great/nice" the only translation you could find? They are almost never interchangeable.

立派 refers to only certain types of good-ness. What is considered 立派 is objectively determined by culture to a large degree.

  • socially admirable; ethically praiseworthy; honorable; noble; of high social status; respectable
  • strong-looking; sturdy; handsome

素敵 is more subjective and it vaguely means "cool", "nice", "attractive", "appealing", etc.

For example, 立派な服 typically refers to something like tuxedos and military uniforms, whereas 素敵な服 refers to any cool-looking outfit. 立派な仕事 refers to a steady and respectable job, but 素敵な仕事 is just "attractive job" in whatever sense. 立派な死 refers to "honorable death", but 素敵な死 makes almost no sense. 立派な口ひげ is used to refer to an objectively well-manicured, handsome mustache, whereas 素敵な口ひげ is used when you are subjectively attracted.

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    Thank you for your answer. I always use jisho.org. Since English is not my native language this sometimes makes it difficult understanding the exact use of a word. Dec 4 '20 at 17:35
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Not native but will drop my 2 cents anyway (sorry).

立派 is for something worthy of admiration and brings a sense of pride.

素敵 is for something you see as beautiful and attractive.

It never occurred to me that they could be confused in any way.

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