I'd like more information on synonyms in lessons

Hi everyone! I’m about halfway through Wanikani and I am really enjoying it. I know the purpose of the service is to teach us kanji, not grammar, but I feel like one area that could use some more consistent attention is some explanation between synonyms – kanji that mean the same thing but are perhaps used in different situations or circumstances.

Sometimes WK does do this – off the top of my head we learned one form of “to be born” early on and then more recently I learned another way to say it and WK explained (paraphrased) “this version is more technical/medical sounding.” Great! This lets me know I’m probably going to run into the earlier version more often.

In Level 28 I just learned 児童 which means “children”. What is the difference between this and the more commonly used 子供? I know WK also likes to teach us kanji in order of least complex to more complex, so if we’re just going by looks I get why they taught us the latter before the former, but if WK is going to define them as the same word I’d really value some more explanation as to the differences.

I’m sure this is probably outside of the scope of WK but I wanted to see if anyone else agreed. WK does do it for SOME words, like I said, so I’m curious as to why they do it sometimes but not consistently.


same problem here…

嘱 - Request
求 - Request
請 - Request
願 - Request.

理 - Reason
由 - Reason.

and so many others…


There is the The Nuance Thread :notebook_with_decorative_cover:, where users have compiled a list of similar words and their nuances.

Personally I don’t pay too much attention to specific meanings. I use WK for passive knowledge. I want to learn to read many kanji and words. In reading, I will never have to produce the word myself, and the context will pretty much always be provided. I use my Japanese teacher, grammar book, and Japanese friends for more nuanced vocab knowledge. Also, JP-JP dictionaries.


Wanikani could certainly have more in-depth explanatory notes!
But I think a lot of the problem is just that SRS is very bad for this kind of nuance in general, because you’re only going to see cards in isolation, and you’re only going to enter one answer that’s meant to pop into your head immediately.
I might be able to formulate a distinction between 児童 and 子供, but can I formulate it into a word that’s going to instantly pop into my head six months from now? Nope. And ultimately that recall is going to be what you take away from Wanikani long-term. Which is extremely valuable! But it’s not nuanced.

So I agree with Saida, that ultimately it’s better to go to other sources for this kind of distinction. After a while I stopped worrying about the exact difference between words in the Wanikani system itself, and trust that if the distinction was important I’d eventually pick it up organically and more effectively elsewhere.


yeah same, I even usually add synonyms to further obliterate any nuance…it never quite maps properly to english and I’ll get a much better idea of how/when to use them through exposure anyway


Oh absolutely, I don’t mean that I need the nuance to be part of the SRS. But the lesson includes the context sentences so it would just be some additional info.

That Nuances thread is a great start, so I’ll def have to refer to that.


児童 is most frequently used in the context of elementary school children. As in, elementary school documents and things will more likely use 児童 than 子供 to refer to them. 子供 is much more generally used.

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Another thing they could have added is telling us whether the Vocab is commonly written in Kanji or Kana.

or just whether it’s common or not…

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Also, twenty different synonyms to “serious”, which actually mean different things, but “serious” is such a common word so… ^^"

In my word sheets I split them properly and use the nuanced meaning as the primary meaning. I will probably add synonyms in WaniKani to avoid issues as well.

I also have this problem sometimes, particularly since I’m also doing kaniwani, although there you can just add synonyms (which I did for the 500 ways you can say “girl”, for example). It gets even worse when also doing torii, lol.

Leebo can I just keep you in my pocket instead of a dictionary? <3

Thanks for the replies, everyone! I totally get that nuances like this are better studied elsewhere. I guess I just wanted to ask the community because WK actually DOES go into it for a handful of words, which is extremely helpful!

Well, I’m usually getting my information from somewhere else :slight_smile:

Here, for instance.

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I would love a userscript that gives you something like a star next to all the items that people actually use. I’m always worried about using words I learned in WK because there’s the chance that no one ever uses that word. Would be great to put a star next to whichever synonym is used to most, or any words you might want to add to your active vocabulary. Or maybe some way to indicate which words would be weird to use in an everyday context. If something like that exists, please let me know <3

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I’d dig a userscript that could include synonyms from within Wanikani – even if it’s just as a point to line them all up so you can see the various versions. We have the “visually similar” option so a “similar meaning” option could work?

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The existence of “words no one uses” on WK is overblown as far as I can tell. If someone wants to watch the news, the “words people use” will be quite different than if they want to chat with college kids on LINE. If they want to read novels, it’ll be different from if they’re reading twitter. Pretty much everything is useful in some context.

Even when talking about “what words people use in conversation” it will depend on the context.


Fair. I know that almost every word will be useful in a certain context, so I don’t mind learning all of them. It would be helpful to know which of the synonyms is the most natural-sounding. Although I suppose that tends to come from just regular vocab studies.

true, I mean I have heard/read 子供 a ton but this was my first time seeing 児童 so I probably could have gone a while longer before needing to know 児童 LOL!

I mean, I get that you wish it wasn’t the case that you have to hold off on deciding if a word you learned here can be used in a given context… but I think that’s just how you have to handle it, unless WK wants to shift their focus significantly.

If someone made a user script that put a star next to every word that at least one Japanese person said “no one uses” we’d probably have about 90% starred words :slight_smile:

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Unfortunately, my experience is that the unclear and ambiguous translations get even more numerous and hazy in the later WK levels.

I eventually got into the habit of looking up almost everything in native J/J dictionaries and kanji dictionaries, because the meanings listed in WK and J/E dictionaries are so often unhelpful.