I'm currently studying Japanese vocabulary following the JLPT programs. I'm doing the JLPT 5 and I've come across the word 写真.

According to my dictionary, the meanings are:

  1. Photograph, photo.
  2. Movie

A friend of mine, Japanese native speaker, has expressed some doubts about whether nowadays people actually use 写真 to mean movie. Note, I'm aware of the word 映画{えいが}, but I wasn't that surprised of seeing an alternative word: as we say film, movie, we can have 映画, 写真, etc., but as I'm not a native speaker, I can't say for sure what's the actual answer.

Is perhaps the movie term there to refer to the "photo films"? Just a bold guess, actually. But what is it then? References on the matter would be much appreciated.

  • 5
    When we say 写真, we're normally referring to "photo/picture", not "movie", nowadays at least. (We used to call movies 「活動写真」...? 40 or 50 years ago, maybe??)
    – user1016
    Nov 25, 2012 at 11:22
  • Absolutely agree with Chocolate. Never heard a Japanese using 写真 with some reference to movies...
    – Andry
    Nov 25, 2012 at 11:25
  • I see, I guess my dictionary is a bit outdated? :D @Chocolate If you could elaborate that as an answer, I'd accept it. :)
    – Alenanno
    Nov 25, 2012 at 11:39
  • The same as in English, where most people no longer talk about 'going to the pictures'. If you're using a dictionary based on EDICT (almost certainly if it's a web-based English-language interface), you should remember that it does have some errors, but more to the point, tends to cast its net very wide and will include obscure/archaic terms, which won't always be marked as such. Other dictionaries (I use dic.yahoo.co.jp which does have J-E and E-J dictionaries) have more explanation.
    – nkjt
    Nov 25, 2012 at 12:11

1 Answer 1


In the sense of a movie, 写真 is an abbreviation for 活動写真 "motion picture". Post c. 1935, the term has all but dropped out of usage and been replaced by 映画. In nearly all modern usage of the word, 写真 just means picture.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .