Nuance Index

What is nuance?

a subtle difference in or shade of meaning, expression, or sound.


Like all the threads on nuance before this, this thread is intended to make learning about the nuances between words easier.

Why now?

The last nuance collection thread was closed due to inactivity and I’d also like to propose a different means of organization.


Japanese words that have the same or very similar translations into English, like (つめ)たい and (さむ)い both mean “cold.” Please use this post just for Eng-Jpn. The second post in this thread will be a devoted wiki for other languages.


This thread will be made a wiki, so anyone can add their contributions. This post should only contain a short (ideally less than 1-2 lines) description of the nuance. Detailed descriptions should be posted as replies and linked. The order of words should be by English alphabetical order. Please use the first words posted as a guideline (bad at, cold, and good at).

English Japanese Nuance (short explanation) Link
to burn ()える・()やす to burn up in flames, to be set ablaze Post 27
to burn ()げる・()がす to char, to burn to a crisp Post 27
bad at 苦手(にがて) bad at something and also dislike it Post 4
bad at 下手(へた) bad at something, no emotions attached though Post 4
blood () blood in the general sense, can also refer to family
blood 血液(けつえき) blood in just the physical, liquid sense; specifically the living blood in veins SyncroPC
to climb (のぼ) to climb stairs or other relatively small structures
to climb (のぼ) to climb large structures like mountains or other laborious climbing
to climb (のぼ) to climb in the sky, celestial bodies rising/ascending
cold (さむ) used for the weather/air
cold (つめ)たい cold to the touch, things like drinks especially; also emotionally distant
difficult to ~にくい takes great effort to do Ask a Japanese Teacher
difficult to ~がたい is nearly impossible to do Ask a Japanese Teacher
difficult to ~づらい is so uncomfortable to do that it becomes difficult to do Ask a Japanese Teacher
dislike (きら) don’t like, fairly strong emotionally
dislike 苦手(にがて) don’t like, also can be bad at/with
to give あげる to give (neutral) Post 26
to give さしあげる to give to a social better Post 26
to give やる to give to a social lesser/in-group or animal Post 26
good at 上手(じょうず) good at, has a complimentary tone Post 4
good at 得意(とくい) good at with a more neutral tone Post 4
hard to see “difficult to” above
invite 招待(しょうたい) (invitation) the noun Kyle’s thread
invite (まね) to invite someone to come to you Kyle’s thread
invite (さそ) to invite someone to come along Kyle’s thread
to occur ()こる to occur, to happen
to occur ()きる to occur, usually of unfavorable incidents
noise 雑音(ざつおん) small noises that irritate you, pet peeve type noises jprspereira’s thread
noise 騒音(そうおん) loud annoying noises, noise pollution type noises jprspereira’s thread
to receive もらう to receive from a social equal or lesser/in-group Post 26
to receive いただく to receive from a social better Post 26
smell (にお) a smell Post 36
smell (にお)い・(くさ) a bad smell Post 36
smell (かお) a good smell Post 36
sound (おと) any kind of sound jprspereira’s thread
sound 物音(ものおと) sounds you don’t know the origin of jprspereira’s thread

In Other Languages

Please use the table format and copy and edit it for your own ease.

(Language) Japanese Nuance (short explanation) Link

The posts that came before!
I’ll try to copy their contents over, but feel free to do it yourself if you think I’m taking too long

and for kanji


In depth explanations and examples of 上手(じょうず)得意(とくい)下手(へた)苦手(にがて)


I’m not sure “bad at” is a good translation for 苦手. The one that’s bad is actually not the speaker, but the thing they’re speaking about, like 辛い食べ物は苦手です meaning “I don’t like spicy food” or more literally “In relation to me, spicy food does poorly.”


It’s just a different way of expressing it. I think English is unnecessarily complicated compared to Japanese for this example.

I think it’d be just as easily said as “I’m bad with spicy food.”

I find when talking about likes and dislikes, Japanese speakers rarely understand the first time when I try to explain something like “I like spicy food, but my stomach does not/doesn’t digest it well.”

I wanted to use a short phrase as “bad” is too short, but “bad at” covers a lot of usage.


“bad at” does sound strange when talking about the usage related to foods, but in this definition:


It’s just fine.


You could phrase it that way.
What I was meaning to say is that 苦手 doesn’t usually have to do with skill. I feel like translating it as “bad at and dislike” actually doesn’t cover most common usages of the word since it’s often not talking about skill at all.

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I hear people use 苦手 to mean they are bad at stuff fairly often, it’s not that uncommon.


I just was reading your previous post, I see I wasn’t correct. I certainly haven’t had as much exposure to the language as you.

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The purpose here isn’t to decide what is and isn’t common usage, but just to explain what the difference is in a concise and easy-to-understand way when words are translated the same way into English. I tried to say in the first added words only the necessary parts and ignore irrelevant aspects. Like (さむ)い can also mean “boring” according to jisho, but because cold and boring are pretty separate in English, I didn’t bother to add it.

There are plenty of words on WK that have varying amounts of real world usage, but we’re presented with the same English word for them. These words repeatedly come up, so it’d be helpful to have them in one place.

I’ll add dislike with (きら)い and 苦手(にがて) though so that there’s more coverage on that aspect.

The more explanation, the better; but I am worried about another thing.


Is it possible to make it 10 years? Of course, all linked threads are closed.

I think the title “Nuance Index” is not very understanding to me.

I would also want to make the first post (OP) a wiki.

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The first post is a wiki, is it not possible for you to edit? Or if you edit, does it not save the edit?

I think explanations are good, but can make things cluttered, so having more detailed explanations in the replies is a happy compromise I hope.

Would you prefer a name like “The Nuance Thread” or something else? It’s easy for me to change it and I’m happy to take suggestions.

@Mods would you consider increasing the last post time limit to prevent the need for a new thread again if this one doesn’t get updated in time?

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Actually, I can edit.

Should I combine from previous threads, and make use of [details="title"]?

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Oh good. I’ve had problems with wikis I’ve made before, so I was worried.

Please add more words :slight_smile: I’m not sure what you mean by [details="title"] though. Like the names I gave the links? If that’s what you mean, I just wanted to give them short names to keep the table neat.

I have just noticed that 2 of the 3 nuance threads’ OP are also Wiki, but no one can comment. Try editing it and you will understand.

Also, I think a table, a short explanation, and linking to the comments below is a good idea. You don’t have to put everything directly in the Wiki.

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Yes, the threads expired, otherwise I would have just posted in them instead of making my own. :slight_smile:

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Looking at Arzar33’s post, it reminds me of The Japanese Agency for Cultural Affair’s list of homophones.

jprspereira’s is more advanced. Perhaps something like Goo’s 類語辞書.

Of course, both of these are just native speakers’ view (who might as well be linguists). English speakers or English-as-a-second-language will see things differently.

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Nice! I’ll add it to the third post.

This is a very useful post, I’ll keep an eye on it and hopefully add some entries.

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