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I've seen all four being used as "to hesitate".

What's the difference between these verbs?

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  • 迷う: "To waver between multiple options". This can be a long process; one may 迷う for a month or longer if there is a big problem.
  • 渋る: In modern usage, this usually means "to show reluctance to do something at once", "to begrudge". This can be an intentional process. プレゼントを買い渋っているお父さん may be willing to buy a present in his heart and just enjoying his kid's reaction.
  • ためらう: "To hesitate" or "to temporarily waver". This roughly means you pause for a moment before doing something when you are 90% certain but not 100% certain. ためらう refers to a short process (typically a few seconds, occasionally one day or longer). If you don't know which option is better at all, that's not ためらう but 迷う. For example, you can say ステーキを食べるかピザを食べるか迷う, but not ステーキを食べるかピザを食べるかためらう.
  • 逡巡する: A Sino-Japanese (kango) version of ためらう (see ). It's a stilted word and is almost never used in informal conversations.

Some have other usages I haven't mentioned (e.g., 迷う means "to lose one's way on the street"), so please check your dictionary.

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    A different, but probably more frequently encountered kango word for hesitation, is 躊躇. In fact, ためらう can be written using the same kanji. 躊躇う. (I know you know this, naruto, just offering another word for the list).
    – Leebo
    Jan 24 at 3:54
  • Thanks for the answer!
    – Nick
    Jan 24 at 9:39

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