As the title says, I'm not sure of the difference between 災難 and 災い. Both seem to be mainly used for "personal" disasters (as opposed to 災害). There is a GOO Thesaurus page, but it doesn't really help me here. It does indicate 犬にかまれるとはとんだ災難だ is natural but にかまれるとはとんだ災いだ is odd. Is there a reason for this?

Another more minor question: while the thesaurus indicates only 難 is used for Xの constructions for defining a type of disaster, I see many example sentences of the form 難を避けた, 難を免れた, and so on. Is "難を(escape-like word)" another specific pattern that is exclusive to 難? And are the Xの難 and 難をescape patterns the only way 難 is used?

1 Answer 1


To some extent, they mean the same 'bad event', but

  • 災い has religious/supernatural tone; it is more abstract and affects 'big' entities.
  • 災難 is more concrete, personal bad luck.

Being bitten by a dog is too personal to be called 災い. And the influence of an earthquake is too big for 地震 to be called 災難.

Other than that, the difference is a matter of usage and collocation. 災難/災いに見舞われる (affected by something bad) are both fine; In the following (randomly picked in BCCWJ), 災難 cannot be used.

  • 助けを求めてエジプトに下り、馬に依り頼む者は災いだ Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses (usage)
  • 水辺で身体を清め、災いを祓う (religious)
  • 大英帝国にとって災いの前兆であったのだ (big)
  • パンドラの箱を開けてしまったが為に災いがこの世に飛び出す (abstract)
  • 災い転じて福となす (fixed phrase)

災いだ is the opposite to Blessed are...; Also it is possible to say 災い+する to mean affect negatively while 災難する is ungrammatical.

For 難, I think it is used almost exclusively in combinations with verbs given in the following (or verbs meaning very similar):

1 災い。災難。「あやうく―を逃れる
2 むずかしいこと。むずかしさ。困難。「―を避け、易 (やす) きに就く」
3 欠点。「少々―のある品」「強いて―をいえばやや甘さが足りない」
4 非難すべき点。難点。「うかつだったとの―を免かれない」

You must log in to answer this question.

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