I find that 常識 is often translated as common sense, but to me the two have different nuances, even different meanings. In English, having common sense is more likely to mean "having the good sense to," say, look both ways when crossing the street. It has less to do with knowing something specific, like President Biden is a Democrat. The Japanese 常識 seems more expansive and encompasses both meanings; but perhaps with a greater emphasis on the latter, like knowing Shinkansen lines leave from both Tokyo and Ueno Stations. Am I right? And if so, is there a more specific term in Japanese for "having the good sense to"?

  • You mean 'President Biden is a Democrat' is not called a common sense?
    – sundowner
    Oct 5, 2022 at 21:51
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    @sundowner yes, you might say (for an American anyway) that "President Biden is a Democrat" is common knowledge, not common sense. As the OP indicates, "common sense" basically means "sensible judgement in everyday situations."
    – Leebo
    Oct 5, 2022 at 23:12
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    In English, the phrase you're looking for is "general knowledge". So, "the new AI system has good general knowledge, it understand that Biden is a President." The other phrase is "common knowledge" ... so for example "The visitor from Mars had excellent common sense, but of course he knew nothing that was common knowledge to us."
    – Fattie
    Oct 6, 2022 at 13:41

1 Answer 1


You are right, 常識 includes knowledge as well as judgement. Generally it means what the speaker thinks other people take for granted.

[補説]common senseの訳語として明治時代から普及。(emphasis added)

The following J-E dictionary entry has multiple senses :

1〔思慮分別〕common sense
2〔周知のこと〕common knowledge

A word for good sense and not knowledge is 良識. But at least to me, this generally refers to moral judgements. Assuming that is not always the case with good sense, it may not be a perfect fit.

  • A word for “knowing right from wrong” is わきまえ. It’s not commonly used but the former premier 森喜朗 used this word when he made the news with discriminatory remarks against women. Oct 7, 2022 at 0:43

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