Dictionary or encyclopedia?

Okay, what’s the deal with じてん? It could be 辞典 and mean dictionary, or it could be 事典 and mean encyclopedia. Two similar meanings with identical readings but different kanji. How do people know if you mean dictionary or encyclopedia?

This language is bananas sometimes!

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辞典: 辞 is word. Dictionaries are for words.

事典: 事 is thing. Encyclopediae are for things.

Oops thought you wanted a way to distinguish them. Well, they both mean “big scholarly heavy book thing” and in spoken language, if you needed to be more precise than that you’re probably using technical language anyway. Have you ever been in a situation where you needed to distinguish between the two?

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I haven’t, but it the situation arises what do people do? So odd that some other word couldn’t have been created. Heck just do one of them as a katakana loan word, that would have been better!

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“It well be obvious from contex”
-Some clever guy.

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The こども絵じてん series. Is it a dictionary? An encyclopedia? Who knows? :slightly_smiling_face:

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You can tack on a bit more information and talk about 百科事典 and 国語辞典 if you want to be extra specific. (and there’s always 辞書)

A couple useful examples…
image
image

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Hm, I’ve never used 辞典 as a spoken word (except as part of a longer word as mentioned by @rodan above). Usually I would use 辞書.
By the way, if you need to convey that it’s 事典, you can read it ことてん.
Here’s an explanation mentioning that usage:
https://www.kanken.or.jp/kanken/trivia/category06/170702.html

By the way, the link above mentions the last じてん of the trifecta: 字典 :wink:

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To be fair, I’ve known people who don’t know the difference between the two in English either. :wink:

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Usually the precise type of じてん is described by another word that comes first. You wouldn’t say “I need a じてん” with nothing else.

漢字辞典
百科事典

Etc

Edit: just realized this was said above

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It’s a dictionaryclopediapercalifragilisticexpialidocious