What is the difference between 様(さま)様(よう)in the case of describing the apperance of something? When is one prefered over the other?

Normally this isn't an issue as よう tends to be written in kana but sometimes it isn't like in この素晴らしい世界に祝福を where the author writes almost all ように and ようだ as 様に and 様だ.

I've always read 様 as よう unless it was attached to a name, but now I am kinda scared I having been reading it wrong a lot of the time. In the dictionary they both have a definition saying ありさま and 様子 so what is the difference? Are they completely interchangable? Thanks.

  • Not qualified/sure enough to post an answer, but in my experience, different readings of a word imply different meanings/usages, so I would assume that you have been reading it correctly as よう so far. I would be surprised that さま is also used to describe the appearence or likeness of something.
    – jarmanso7
    Jun 17, 2021 at 22:09
  • This is from a dictionary for 様(さま)ー ㊀〘名〙物の姿かたちや状態、物事のあり方や動作の仕方など、ものの様態を外からの観察に基づいていう語。ありさま。様子。「一夜にして街の─が一変した」「平然として狼狽ろうばいする─も見せない」 Also, ya I think I have been reading it right since I don't think I have heard さま to describe apperance outside of ~~さま to describe someone's personality or trait I guess. Anyway, I hope that is the case otherwise that would be kinda unfortunate. Update: Here is an example sentence of what I was just talking about: 果実酒を嗜んでいたフレイヤは、相変わらず上品な様でクスッと笑みを滲ませた。 For this sentence I believe you can use さま or ざま (negative connotation).
    – Jared
    Jun 17, 2021 at 23:01

1 Answer 1


[様]{よう} and [様]{さま} are not interchangeable, but this has more to do with their forms than their meanings.

Although, technically speaking, the よう of ようだ may be also considered a noun, the ようだ construction works like a な-adjective (形容動詞) and thus takes such forms as ような and ように. While [様]{さま} is also always modified by something, it’s more normal as a noun and its noun-modifying form is [様]{さま}の, not [様]{さま}な. In that sense, it’s more a synonym of 様子 than of [様]{よう}.

When [様]{よう} forms a normal noun, as opposed to when it is used as part of ようだ, it takes the ます-stem (連用形) of a verb, as in 喜び[様]{よう}, はしゃぎ[様]{よう}, etc. Even in these cases, it is usually written in hiragana. With [様]{さま}, it would be 喜ぶ[様]{さま}, はしゃぐ[様]{さま}, etc., which are practically interchangeable with 喜ぶ様子, はしゃぐ様子, etc. I would say [様]{さま} sounds a bit literary.

Some ambiguity arises when the character 様 is preceded by an adjective or a noun followed by の, as in 上品な様. However, not being a normal noun, [様]{よう} wouldn’t take such particles as が, を, で, etc. If it happens to be followed by で, that で must be part of the copula です.

I would say it's always a good practice to use hiragana when it's meant for [様]{よう}.

Lastly, add a negative connotation to [様]{さま}, and you get ざま. This is almost always written in hiragana, or even in katakana.


There are a few expressions in which 様 is preceded by the ます-stem (連用形) of a verb and pronounced ざま, such as 生き[様]{ざま} and すれ違い[様]{ざま}. While 生き[様]{ざま} does mean 生きる[様]{さま}, すれ違い[様]{ざま} is not the same as すれ違う[様]{さま}. The former refers to the moment at which one does the act of すれ違う, not any apperance.

  • what about すれ違い様? Is that just a set phrase? Would it be wrong or weird to say すれ違う様【さま】?
    – Shurim
    Jun 18, 2021 at 3:13
  • Wow this is great answer and exactly what I was looking for! This clears it up a lot for me now. One question though on 様 being preced by an adjective or a noun followed by の, if 様 is not followed by a particle would the reading have to picked on context? Also, if an author uses 様 for よう is it purely preference? Because even in この素晴らしい世界に祝福を the author uses both 様に and ように while in most books I read it is only ように. Thanks so much again for the great explanation, I really appreciate it!
    – Jared
    Jun 18, 2021 at 14:09
  • 1
    @Jared: Unless 様 comes at the very end of the sentence, it is always followed by either some particle or some form of です. I think the most confusing case would be when 様 is followed by に, as in 上品な様に見える. You might need some context in this case. Whether to write it as 様 or よう is a matter of style.
    – aguijonazo
    Jun 18, 2021 at 15:34
  • Thanks for the reply. Ya, That makes sense. So Besides that example you listed it should be very straightforward to have the correct reading because as you pointed out in your first reply the conjugation is different. I never noticed that but I must have been reading things right because 喜ぶよう sounds super unnatural to me. One last question, what do you mean by full fledged noun? Is there a resource in Japanese that I can use to learn about this? Thanks again.
    – Jared
    Jun 19, 2021 at 23:13
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    @Jared: I just meant さま is more noun than よう (of ようだ). I thought it would be understood from my explanation about よう taking に and な like a な-adjective and not taking other particles like が, を, and で like a normal noun would, but it seems I was wrong. I have changed it to “normal”.
    – aguijonazo
    Jun 20, 2021 at 0:10

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