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What better way to celebrate Christmas than to ask yet another nuance-ish question on here right?

This time the the reason of my confusion stems from the kanji for bud/sprout

One would think, looking at jisho.org, that 萌芽 and 発芽 are basically synonymical. But alas, they're not. (?) After going through all the tricks (i.e. trying to google images to see a potential difference, trying to understand monolingual dictionaries such as dictionary.goo.ne.jp) I've gotten even farther from the answer I was searching for.

What is the difference between 萌芽 and 発芽?

From what I've gathered 萌芽 means to bud/sprout/germination. Not only can it be used for seeds, but also for other things that sprout. Such as love, feelings etc.

発育, on the other hand, is used when talking about a part of a plant that's beginning to grow on an already somewhat grown plant? For example, a new branch on a tree, or a leaf on a branch? Paraphrasing :

花粉や樹枝の芽などが発育を始めること.

Since they aren't linked as quasi-synonyms or full synonyms there has to be a reasonable difference.


Sidenote: 兆す is linked as a quasi-synonym to 萌芽 because of it's 1st definition :

草木が芽を出す

I've only heard about the other definition (show signs, have symptoms). Is it generally used in it's 1st definition frequently or not at all?

Thanks for reading this and I hope y'all have great Christmas

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So, if you have the Japanese ability required to read monolingual dictionaries, I encourage you to get in the habit of just Googling A B 違い in cases like this. I don't think I've ever used either of these words in Japanese, but the first Google search result for 萌芽 発芽 違い looks pretty relevant.

発芽とは種子が生長を開始し、まず、種皮を破って幼根が出てきた状態のことを言います。

発芽 refers to the state of seeds beginning their growth, as they have have broken their seed coating and started to sprout radicles.

Radicle (幼根) is apparently a botany term for the first part of the seed to emerge from its coating.

萌芽(ほうが)とは球根やイモ類などの新芽が生長を始めることをさします。

萌芽 refers to the action of new sprouts beginning to grow from from bulbs or tubers.

Bulb (球根) and tuber (イモ類) are also both botany terms. Hopefully you're slightly more familiar with botany than I am.

Edit: As Naruto mentions, it's also worth noting that 萌芽 is often used metaphorically to refer to the birth/beginnings of something, like this:

現代の自然科学の萌芽は、古代ギリシアに見られます

The beginnings of modern science can be seen in ancient Greece.

See here.

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    萌芽をこの意味で使っているのは園芸や農業の専門家などだけだと思います。一般的には萌芽は「民主主義の萌芽」などのように、もっと比喩的な意味で使われることが多いです。BCCWJで比べるといいかも。 – naruto Dec 25 '20 at 7:59
  • @naruto なるほどですね。比喩的な使い方まで考えてませんでしたので、少し調べておきます。ありがとうございます! – Mindful Dec 25 '20 at 8:53

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