I found some adjectives ending in らしい seem to be the combination of "stem of an adjective" and "らしい," e.g., かわいらしい, きたならしい, にくらしい, and いやらしい (there are certainly more). What meaning does this kind of "らしい" alter an adjective (assuming we can view the pairs this way)?


Let me try to explain my question in another way. When a girl makes up and dresses up, would she ask everyone "どう、かわいい?" or "どう、かわいらしい?" (I bet the latter one is unnatural). Or, someone writes 未練の残る元カレが結婚するらしい、そのウワサを聞き、なんとなくショックのよ、憎らしいよ。(憎い in this case is too intense and doesn't fit well with former context なんとなくショック, I guess.) by using meaning difference I intended to learn "使い分け" and "-y/-like" description doesn't help me understand "使い分け" much.


1 Answer 1


From https://www.japanesewithanime.com/2019/01/rashii.html

可愛らしい vs. 可愛いらしい

An important thing to note is that when you have an i-adjective the suffix rashii replaces the -i ~い ending, but the auxiliary adjective rashii does not replace the -i ending.

Depending on whether the ending is replaced or not, the function of rashii differs. When it's a suffix, it means something like "-ish" or "-ly". When it's an auxiliary adjective, it's probably expression an assumption, something that you heard from someone, etc.

For example:

  • kawaii 可愛い
  • kawaii rashii 可愛いらしい
    It seems that it's cute.
    I heard it's cute. (auxiliary adjective.)
  • kawai-rashii 可愛らしい
    Cute-ish. Lovely. (suffix.)


Actually after looking into it. The question is actually more interesting that it seemed to be at first. らしい can have two meanings: "I heard/it seems" and "-ly/-like". That doesn't change and everything that is usually explained in textbooks is still true.

The meaning 1 "seems" is used when らしい is placed after a full clause, so after a copula, conjugated verb or adjective with the い.

明日は台風が来るらしい。 It seems like a typhon is coming tomorrow.

月曜日は天気がよいらしいです。 It seems like the weather will be nice on Monday.

だいぶ溜め込んだらしい。 He seems to have amassed a lot.

The meaning 2 "-y/-like" normally only attaches to nouns.

夏らしい夏。 A summer-y summer (a real summer, a summer that does what we expect from a summer)

男らしい。 Manly

可愛らしい is using the second meaning, but the thing is that we treat 可愛 like a noun. We removed the い and it became a noun. But you can't do that with just any adjective, actually only a small number of adjectives can do that.

For that reason, even though we can understand the meaning from the original adjective, the compound adjective-stem + らしい is actually listed as a separate entry in most dictionaries.


So even though the construction is very very similar to the noun + らしい grammar point, you can also think about them as separate word entirely.

All examples sentences are from Weblio.

  • Please kindly see my EDIT1
    – 5ru8ek
    Commented Mar 27, 2021 at 0:04
  • Sorry, I don't think I can go into more details like that. I could answer on the grammatical side as I found resources talking about this. But I am not even close to the level of proficiency required to answer you about usage. So I'll let other people answer. Maybe also try hinative.
    – Matthieu
    Commented Mar 27, 2021 at 22:58

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