Same Meaning Different words. How to deal with that?

Hello! I usually spend a lot of time searching of the differences between words which have apparently same meaning, and there’s too many words like that !!! Any ideas of how i can make it easier ? It’s a little stresful and time consuming.


One possibility is to read a lot. The more you see the words used in sentences the easier it will be for you to differentiate between them. Another possibillity is to go into monolingual dictionaries (if you can) that often describe the nuance between word clusters that are very close even for natives and when you should use one over the other.

example of the latter: 近所(きんじょ)の類語・言い換え - 類語辞書 - goo辞書


There’s a Nuance Index thread you can check out:

But I would agree with @downtimes in that you have to see the words in context to really get the shades of meaning. I wouldn’t worry too much about it for now.


No escape my friend. We have that in English and every other language as well. We will always have to deal with synonyms :’)

Basically all of what he posted isn’t a synonym though.

To OP: A lot of words appear to have the same “meaning” thanks to the English word assigned to them, but the reality is they are completely different words used in different ways. Use a monolingual dictionary and it should become very apparent.

For words that actually are synonyms with a slight difference in nuance or situations they are used in, again use a monolingual dictionary, but be prepared to need to see the words many times before you get a firm grasp of their subtle differences.


Or indeed use a decent J-E dictionary that isn’t giving you single-word definitions…

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I find that 類語辞典 talks further than synonyms (so includes something not exactly similar), also some words look seemingly similar to me, but not included in 類語辞典.

I would write a short note in the vocabulary entry; note every words I can think of; then look up, preferably in JJ (because of more trustworthy and better quality explanations), or just search the web. Sometimes Kanji has to be looked up as well. (Which, again, JJ explanations.)

Sometimes, just remember synonyms as they are, then adapt to the situation, I guess.

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It’s a little time consuming but every time I find a new word (on WK, another resource or just randomly), I translate it on 3 different sources (sources vary, often times just look at the top 6 searches on Google and choose ones I’m familiar with).

Typically there’s some variation in translation as well as example sentences. By doing this, I can generally get a little bit of a “feel” for when each word is used, then I add them to Anki with my own explanations (any SRS tool would be fine, as long as I can write my own definitions and example sentences). You can also utilize online Japanese dictionaries. Even if you can’t read well, you can usually see some differences even by translating the page.

I’ll admit though, this method is not fool proof. I still find words that I’ve “known” for over a year, then I see it in a new context and it’s like “well, that makes no sense with what I think I know”, and have to start all over with that word.

Ultimately though, I try not to stress it too much. I look up those 3 sources and move on, if I try to understand every word perfectly, I’ll get more confused with no real pay-off. As long as I know the general meaning, you can usually understand the main message of sentences, and pick up on the nuances naturally.


This is exactly the reason why I’m trying not to stress too much about vocab from Wanikani. The app simply doesn’t provide enough information to learn some vocab organically; introducing the vocab primarily serves to reinforce alternative kanji readings.

Some vocab introduced here is used in written language and not spoken language too, but the app does not give any hints that this is the case. Imo, Wanikani is not a great means of learning vocab despite how it is advertised. Like others are saying, the best way to learn these terms is through seeing them used in context and reading Japanese dictionary definitions.


I feel the same frustration too. So for now, I just don’t bother researching every single differences. I prioritize remembering the vocabs first. I’ve just started Genki I recently. So once I have better grasp on grammar and can comprehend sentences better, I plan to read more and hopefully can understand the nuances better when the vocabs are actually used in a context. Hopefully this is an appropriate strategy, please do let me know if there’s a better approach.


You can start closer to home by looking at what other English words Wanikani uses. For example in your feeling list:
心持ち and 気分 both mean mood
感じ means sense or impression
感情 means emotion
気持ち is the feeling word you use if you’re feeling good (気持ちいい) or feeling bad (気持ち悪い)

If “feeling” is too big and confusing, using those words in your reviews might help.


It helps also I think if you can avoid winding up with a lot of contextless near-synonyms in your SRS at once. For instance here 気持ち is probably the one of those various feeling words you’re going to encounter first and most often, and once you have it solidly in memory and see how it’s used, adding another one or two of the other feeling words when you encounter them later will be easier. (That is, learn vocab as you go along, not as an up-front contextless exercise in memorization. You can do some of that, both at the beginning and indeed later, but it has its limits, and this is one of them IMHO.)


The difference is usually just nuance, and I don’t think it’s necessary to learn that. Just learn the meaning of the word even if it’s the 10th word to have that meaning. Even without understanding the nuance, you’ll understand the word if it pops up in a sentence, and the nuance will come to you sooner or later the more you’ve immersed yourself in the language.


Thank you everyone for the replies. I’ll aply everything you guys said when i study. :smile:

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