Japanese Synonyms?

There are so many synonyms in wanikani. I don’t know how many words for employment or character, etc. there are, but I bet I still haven’t learned them all.
Does the Japanese language just have so many synonyms? Or are there subtle differences between all of these that the English language just can not parse?

At risk of stating the obvious, the English language is full of synonyms, too. Otherwise, people who sell English thesauruses would starve. My Japanese friend especially has a hard time understanding the difference between job, work, employment, profession, career, occupation, etc.


What’s the difference between hate, loathe, despise, revile, and detest?

There are a lot of synonyms in Japanese. And a lot of words on WK do have differences that can be parsed in English, but it’s too much trouble to do so with flashcards.

Talked about this just a bit here: It's been painful, what's death like?


What words for “character” are you thinking of?

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Hm in hind sight it seems that there are only two words for character. I just get those wrong a lot.

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It is probably 2 of these 3 :slight_smile: https://gimon-sukkiri.jp/personality/#i

I mean those kind of have subtle differences, I just wondered if the Japanese synonyms were actually the exact same or if they all mean exactly the same.

However, you would use those words in different contexts. So is this also true for the Japanese synonyms?

They have subtle differences, like in the link.

Also I think loathe, detest, and despise all mean “more intense hate” which isn’t a big range in meaning :wink:

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That’s true, I think I will just leave it for a few years in the future, which might be a better moment to finetune my Japanese.

A good tip I learned from Tae Kim’s material is to just do a quick google search of the word to see what context it is used in. Then you can type in a quick note or add a synonym to Wanikani.

tatoeba.org is also good for this.

Japanese is just so different than English on almost every level. Dictionary translations will only get you so far. The context and strength of the word have a lot to do with seemingly similar words having at times, very different nuances.


Thanks for the tip!

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I made a video about using a Japanese thesaurus.


Just to follow up on what someone else said:
It’s all about the context of the word, and especially the way words work in functional patterns.

This site is built just for that. You can look up a word, and it will search the interwebs for usages of that word, along with rankings of ways that word is idiosyncratically used with other words.

For example: 雇用(39) ; 従業(26);就業(27)all have some overlap for the English word “employment”.

Using the site above, you can see that 雇用 often occurs as a modifier for a noun, like 雇用保険(unemployment insurance)、雇用契約、and 雇用形態, but all seems to deal with “employment” in terms of like “having a job vs. not having a job” meaning of employment.

従業 seems to be almost exclusively idiomatically used with the suffix 員, but obviously other patterns occur

and 就業 – similar to 雇用 – seems to act as a noun modifier with 就業規則(work regulations), but is different in that it seems like it treats the meaning of employment as “working”, and not “job/no job”

another great thing to look into is a kanji synonym book, that parses out some of this stuff. Here’s a photo of what a page in the Kodansha Kanji synonym book looks like

Sorry this got so long. I don’t mean to sound pedantic if it came across that way. I wasn’t sure of the exact distinction of those words either until I took the time just now to look them up with these tools.


Wow! These are some great resources! Thanks a bunch!

Interesting video, thanks!

I think that “opportunity” should be added as synonym to the kanji 機. It’s even the first definition on jisho.org


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