I wanted to ask about an ambiguity I have encountered concerning nouns in Japanese, in particular nouns that convey feelings.

For example, the noun 躊躇 in this sentence from 金閣寺 by Mishima Yukio:


Does 躊躇 refer to the action of hesitating itself, or does it mean to hesitate to do something or hesitate about something?

I am confused between the action itself and the object of the action.

Another example:


Is it "to hold doubt" as a feeling or there is something being doubted?

  • I think when you have a doubt, the doubt is about something. As you say, those are words for feelings - so there may well be the objects associated with the feelings, but what those words denote are feelings, and not objects.
    – sundowner
    Commented Nov 4, 2022 at 2:22

1 Answer 1


In this answer I am going to discuss the particular case of the word 躊躇, although it may extrapolate to other similar terms.

Examining example sentences

If you look up example sentences using 躊躇, you will see that the word can used in either of the two ways you describe:

  1. The action of hesitating or state of being hesitant
  2. Hesitating about something in particular

I picked some example sentences from the provided link for both usages:

Sense 1

ハインズ氏は少しぐずぐずと躊躇していた。Mr. Hynes hesitated a little longer.

もし何か質問があれば、躊躇せずに私に聞いてください。If you have any questions please ask without hesitation.

Sense 2

私はそれに躊躇していました。I hesitated about that.

助けを求めるのに躊躇しないで下さい。Don't hesitate to ask for help.

このことを彼女に伝えようかどうか躊躇している。I am hesitant about whether or not I should tell this to her.



If we examine the examples for Sense 2, the thing that one is hesitating about is marked by the particle に, although other particles such as かどうか also work here. I also chose a more ambiguous sentence, to highlight that context is crucial. In that last case, we can't really tell if わたし is hesitating about something in particular or not because we lack context. For example:

[Context: I'm about to cross a street when the traffic light is blinking and about to turn red, Sense 1]


[Context: I'm about to give a presentation in front of an audience and it turns out there is way more people than I expected, which makes me hesitant, Sense 2]


Please note that some sources for the provided example sentences are not reliable, particularly the ones coming from Tanaka corpus, because they are not necessarily written by native speakers nor being subject to curation or revision.

Examining your particular sentence

未だ見ぬ金閣に愈接する時が近付くに連れヽ私の心には躊躇が生じた。As the time to finally touch the Golden Pavilion, which I hadn't seen yet, got closer and closer, hesitation arised within my heart.

I'm inclined to believe that in this sentence, 躊躇 is used in the sense 1 specially because the emotional part of it is emphasized by saying that the feeling arised in one's heart (心には躊躇が生じた). Also note that 躊躇 is used as a noun here, not as a verb. To use it in sense 2. it would probably require to use it with する:

未だ見ぬ金閣に愈接する時が近付くに連れ、実際に行くのに躊躇し始めた。As the time to finally touch the Golden Pavilion, which I hadn't seen yet, got closer and closer, I started to hesitate if I should go.


The word 躊躇 can be used in both ways, either to convey a feeling of "hesitation" or to signify "hesitation to do something or about something". In some cases it would be clear (for example if the particle に is used), but there might be other instances where context is absolutely necessary to determine if its one usage or the other. As in many other aspects of Japanese, context is essential.

  • 1
    I don’t see the ambiguity here, at least not the kind the OP was asking about. Before your edit, the second option proposed by the OP was “something he hesitates” (sic). I think what the OP had in mind was something that makes one hesitate, or something one hesitates over/about. I took their question as asking whether words like 躊躇 and 疑問 may refers to a cause of a feeling, as well as the feeling itself. The answer to that would be “no” for 躊躇, and “yes” for 疑問.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Nov 4, 2022 at 0:34
  • 1
    Yes, it was exactly what I was asking for @aguijonazo . But thank you jarmanso7 too for your great effors !!!
    – Z Ea
    Commented Nov 4, 2022 at 5:54
  • 1
    @aguijonazo Yes, I probably overreached and tried to answer beyond my knowledge, relying too much on example sentences. I saw the post unanswered, and leveraged Cunningham's Law to incentivate others to anwser too, so to speak. Happy to get your thoughts on this, thank you!
    – jarmanso7
    Commented Nov 4, 2022 at 8:40
  • 1
    Please feel free to revert the edits, I wasn't aware I perverted the original question.
    – jarmanso7
    Commented Nov 4, 2022 at 8:42

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