I have heard both of these in several contexts and I have having trouble understanding the difference in meaning and connotation.

I would like to know the difference between 様々 and 色々and when to use each one.

1 Answer 1


Etymologically speaking, いろいろ is 'full of colors', and さまざま 'various in one's appearance or figure', but this does not give us a reasonable answer. Answers and comments about the difference between these confusing words, which are found on the Internet, assert that いろいろ puts more emphasis on the greater number of things, while さまざま on the differences of various things. This may be true but in most cases, both are interchangeable without much difference. My answer to your question is that both of these words are interchangeable in almost all cases. It seems to me difficult to discover uninterchangeable examples such as いろいろと vs. xさまざまと and いろいろ話す vs. xさまざま話す. But as a Japanese writer, I don't like to use these words (色々、様々) in Kanji but in Hiragana, and I prefer いろいろ to さまざま, because the former sounds to me soft and the latter sounds hard or noisy. This sound symbolism of mine may coincide with the assertion that いろいろ is a little colloquial and さまざま is usually used in written Japanese. The following is an example of my own making. (x unacceptable)


  • Could you please clarify the source of the last paragraph? You said "the following assertion" without quoting a source.
    – Eddie Kal
    Mar 25, 2021 at 4:35
  • 2
    Why did you bring それぞれ into it? That is likely to add to OP's confusion.
    – istrasci
    Mar 25, 2021 at 15:43
  • I've made an edit that replaced one use of それぞれ with さまざま, which addresses @istrasci 's comment above: I believe それぞれ was there by mistake, since it had no bearing on the rest of the answer at all. Feel free to revert.
    – JNat
    Jan 31, 2023 at 15:12
  • @samhana, you stated "[さまざま] sounds hard or noisy." Is that possibly due to the sound similarity to さわさわ, ざわざわ, and thence さわがしい? Feb 1, 2023 at 17:57

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