What is the difference between 勤め and 役目?

Both seems to mean duty (something that one is expected or required to do by moral or legal obligation), but what is the difference in their nuance and usage?

  • 1
    Just one difference I've found so far... Both「子供が独立して親の役目(役割)も終わった」/「秘書としての役目(役割)を果たす」and 「子供が独立して親の勤めも終わった」/「秘書としての勤めを果たす」sound fine to me. However,「雨戸の開け閉めは子供の役目だ」and「花子の役目はポチにえさをやることだ」are fine but 「雨戸の開け閉めは子供の勤めだ」and「花子の勤めはポチにえさをやることだ」sound awkward.
    – user1016
    Commented Dec 29, 2012 at 22:06
  • 1
    @Chocolate That's because being 花子 is not important in having 「ポチにえさをやる」 as what she has to do. 勤め requires the person in question to have qualities that are relevant with the 勤め. The same goes for 「雨戸の開け閉めは子供の勤めだ」. On the other hand, 役目 can be used with almost any word. In that sense, 役目 is more direct and specific than 勤め.
    – Sindry
    Commented Dec 30, 2012 at 0:54

1 Answer 1


役目 is closer to "role" in meaning. 勤め is what the "role" requires you to do or what people expect you to do corresponding to the role.

You can call them "duty" as they are both roughly what you have to do.

  • a.)それがあなたの役目だ。(That is your role.=That is what you have to do.)
  • b.)それがあなたの親としての役目だ。(That is the role you have to take if you are a parent.)
  • c.)それがあなたの勤めだ。(That is what you have to do.)
  • d.)それがあなたの親としての勤めだ。(That is what you have to do as a parent.)

役目 is usually more direct and specific than 勤め. On the other hand, 勤め sounds more abstract and takes one step further than 役目 in meaning. Basically,

b.) says: you have to take this role, because you are a parent.

d..) says: being a parent includes this as what you have to do.

To summarize, 勤め is used based on who you are as 役目 is used based on what others think.

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