I was playing around with some words on Google Translate trying to see if I can form a sentence while learning some new words. I came across this translation -

  • 咳 translates to cough
  • 止め translates to stop
  • 薬 translates to medicine

Both combinations - 咳止め and 咳薬 - translate to cough medicine. It makes sense to combine the words for cough and medicine but I've also seen a few kanji that have one meaning when used alone, and have a different meaning when used in a different context or with another kanji.

This is where I'm a bit confused; which one of them is the correct usage? If both are correct, in which situation or context are they used?

As a side note, DeepL translates them as follows:

  • 咳止め - cough medicine/cough syrup
  • 咳薬 - cough medicine/remedy for cough

1 Answer 1


咳止め【せきどめ】 is a very common word virtually every native speaker knows. You can find this word in any drug store in Japan. On the other hand, even though the meaning of 咳薬 is self-evident, it's an unfamiliar word to me. I googled 咳薬, and most results were part of 鎮咳薬【ちんがいやく】, which is a highly stiff medical term for 咳止め. There are some web pages where 咳薬 is used by native speakers, so I wouldn't go so far as to say it doesn't exist, but it is certainly an uncommon word.

Note that both Google Translate and DeepL can make a guess that sometimes looks very reasonable. Just because those engines gave a sound English translation for a Japanese "word" doesn't necessarily mean it really exists in Japanese.

Related: Can kanji compounds be formed arbitrarily?

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