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This post concerns the concept of 'face' in Japanese (and slightly from the point of view of Chinese language and culture, where it is pervasive, cf. Wikipedia).

Wikipedia's definition of "face" is: Face is a class of behaviors and customs practiced mainly in Asian cultures, associated with the morality, honor, and authority of an individual (or group of individuals), and its image in social groups.

According to Wikipedia, the concept of "face" is very present in East Asia, in particular China (where the word for it is 面子 miànzi, but can also be 脸 liǎn, such as in 不要脸 bù yào liǎn 'have no sense of shame' or 丢脸 diūliǎn 'lose face'), Indonesia, Korea, and also Japan.

Unfortunately, there is no Wikipedia page in Japanese for this concept.

In the dictionary I use, I crossed upon the example 名誉は関わる問題なので、彼はあった 'He got angry because his honor was at stake'.

The same dictionary also gives 顔 (kao), with the 3rd meaning being 'honor'/'honour'/'face', but on the many examples provided, no one corresponds indeed to this meaning.

And here are provided the three basic words for face in Japanese: 面目 (menboku)・体面 (taimen)・名誉 (meiyo). On this forum was pointed out that 面子 (mentsu), also written メンツ exists as well in Japanese, and translates as 'face' in the sense of 'honor'.

I have two questions:

(1) Which words are the most used in Japanese to refer to 'honor'?

(a) Is it the words more related to the meaning 'face' (面目, 顔, 体面, 面子/メンツ)? If yes, which one is the most used?

(b) Or is it the words more related to the meaning 'honor' (e.g. 名誉)?

(2) What is the most common way to say "lose face"/"save face"? And also, do Japanese people often use these two expressions? (In Chinese, 要面子 yào miànzi 'be keen on face-saving', 丢脸 diūliǎn 'lose face', 不要脸 bù yào liǎn 'have no sense of shame' are quite pervasive).

Additionnally, for those who know Chinese, is there any remaining difference (in terms of meaning, usage, connotation, etc.) between Chinese 面子 and Japanese 面目, 顔, 体面, 面子/メンツ?

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面目, 顔, 体面, 面子/メンツ - these words are usually used in the context of losing or protecting it, and not in the "winning" context, like getting awards. "Lose face" and "save face" can be translated using any of them.

名誉 - I think its usage is broader, one can lose it (名誉を傷つける, 名誉毀損) or win it (名誉なこと, 名誉挽回). It's often associated with awards.

I know I'm not getting to the point of which one is "the most used", but my answer would be it depends on the context.

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  • Thank you for your answer. "I know I'm not getting to the point of which one is "the most used", but my answer would be it depends on the context." So here I get the idea that both are commonly used in Japanese (which is not the case in Chinese, where I can not really think of a one-to-one translation for "honor", in place of 面子 miànzi. 尊严 zūnyán means more 'dignity', 荣誉 róngyù means more 'honor' of 'pride/pleasure' in 'it is my honor to meet you', or 'reputation', 'glory')
    – Starckman
    Nov 27, 2022 at 7:54

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