I understand 大臣 means "minister" and 閣僚 means "cabinet minister", but I am curious what's the difference between these two terms ?

2 Answers 2


Both mean the same thing. The difference is how they combine with other words.

According to this, 大臣 is more about individuals while 閣僚 is more about the ministers as a group of people.

My impression is that they are not so interchangeable.

  • 外務大臣 Minister of Foreign Affairs. Not 外務閣僚
  • 末は博士か大臣か will become a PhD or a minister in future - an oldish set phrase to describe a promising child (although I don't see much future for Japanese PhD's and ministers now). 閣僚 is not possible.
  • 首相は関係閣僚に対応を指示した Prime minister told ministers in charge to take necessary actions. 大臣 is not possible.
  • 閣僚経験者 A person who was a minister in the past. To me 大臣経験者 sounds OK, but it is much less common.

大臣 may be best translated as "chancellor". My impression is this term has been deprecated in modern government and is not used anymore.

  • 2
    – Angelos
    Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 3:32

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