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It seems that in Japanese, there are two kanji that are commonly used to indicate change:

「化」

温暖化{おんだんか}: global warming, change in temperature

悪化{あっか}: worsen, change for the worse

「転」

転校{てんこう}: change schools

転職{てんしょく}: change jobs

What are the nuances between these two? Are there any other kanji that are also used to describe change in yet a different way?

2 Answers 2

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化 is a more general version of "change, " with an emphasis on transformation, while 転 can only mean "change" in the sense of transferring or relocating.

For common kanji that roughly mean change though, there is also 変, 代, 替, and 換. 変 feels most generic, like "alter". 代 is closest to substitution. 替 is closest to "replace." 換 is closest to "exchange."

That being said, I wouldn't suggest worrying about the nuances between kanji meanings, since the meanings can never be exact, and they often overlap, and can even be identical in meaning, but differing only in the words it is used in or the reading.

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  • Sorry for the wait! Do you happen to know any words that end in 変, 代, 替, or 換. 変 so I could compare them? I understand that kanji nuances aren't an exact science, but it's fun to get into the mind of those who pioneered word conventions and see what they meant by what they did. Jan 20 at 7:31
  • Yeah, 変わる, 替わる, 代わる, and 換わる are all read かわる and have nuances as I mentioned.
    – MegaZeroX
    Jan 20 at 19:13
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転 means "revolve" or "rotate". Life is a series of schools/jobs, so you rotate through those.

化 means "change" in the sense of "transform"

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