Customer vs. client

Is there really that big of a difference between a client and a customer in Japanese?
As far as I know a customer is someone who buys something or gets a service done. A client is someone who requests services for a long term professional relationship. (e.g. Lawyers, Banks, …)

This really confuses me. I tried to look it up and found 取引先 for client but it also means customer?

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I can’t answer your exact question, but for me this kanji represents “guest” more than anything. Perhaps, it’s this emphasis that makes the difference? After all, a customer in a shop or a restaurant, is the “guest” of the shop/restaurant owner in a way? (as in someone to take care of and host)

That being said, jisho also lists client as a synonym. I think you should just add it if that’s what you wanna answer with. :slight_smile:

later on 依頼人 is taught by WK as client. So, maybe this is the reason for not including it as a synonym here: to give a more unique answer to each vocab/kanji to make it easier to memorize clearly?


It’s worth bearing in mind that jisho (i.e. the JMDICT database it uses) is a Japanese to English dictionary that primarily lists glosses rather than detailed definitions, so it will list words that might be good translations in some contexts and not in others, on the assumption that you started with the Japanese word in some context where you can identify which sense and near synonym makes most sense. This is why 取引先 also lists both English words – you’re expected to know in advance whether you found the word in a sentence talking about a lawyer or a merchant or a hotel and so to be able to decide on a good in context English translation given the suggested glosses (maybe client, customer, guest).

In this case I feel like the main two senses are (1) guest, visitor and (2) a customer, somebody who pays for some good or service. Sometimes “client” works for the second but to me in English that suggests a longer term, perhaps professional relationship that 客 doesn’t imply. If you pop into a convenience store for a loaf of bread you’re a 客 but definitely not a client. None of these words match up 1:1 but if you have to pick just one then I think “customer” (or “guest”!) has bigger overlap than “client”.