Shinka versus shinkou

I would like to know the difference between shinka 進化 and shinkou 進行. First, I thought, it was evolution versus homework progress. But the WaniKani examples seemed very similar. Are these synonyms? What’s the connotation?

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Your first assumption is correct (although 進行 can also denote physical progress, as in movement).
What’s the problem with the example sentences?


進化 has evolution as the main meaning and progress as a secondary meaning.

I think the most important thing is 進行 does not ever mean biological evolution.

I think the OP took “evolution” to just mean biological evolution, but I’m not sure.


Ah, I see.

Hm, in terms of nuance, OP, 進行 is more definite. There’s a clear start and end, and you are on the way there. 進化 is open-ended, there’s no clear destination (like in biological evolution)


My first exposure to either word was アグモン!超~進化! :slightly_smiling_face:

But in all seriousness, I tried the Google Image Search trick on these, though it’s occasionally a little unreliable for not-so-concrete nouns. In any case, 進化 gave me lots of images of Pokemon evolving, and a few examples of the March of Progress image, while 進行 gives me images of guitar tabs and chord progressions, strangely lots of before-and-after images of iPhone screens being un-broken, and even more strangely, the Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs. Sooo… read into that as you will. :slightly_smiling_face:


I’ll do a kanji breakdown, since it seems no one has done that yet. It would be nice if you posted the example sentences though, because I haven’t seen them yet (and so I’m not sure how close they are).

進 fundamentally means ‘to move forward’ or ‘to move upward’. (In Chinese, it also means ‘to go into’, but that meaning doesn’t seem to exist in Japanese.) That’s why it’s associated with ideas like ‘advancing’ or ‘progress’. You might have noticed, for example, that the verb meaning ‘to advance’ in Japanese is すすむ.

化 means ‘to transform’ and carries with it the idea of ‘becoming something else’. For instance, when manga or light novels are animated in Japan, you may see little banners on books (or on Twitter), saying 「アニメ化決定かけってい!」(literally ‘anime transformation decision [made]!’).

行 means ‘to move’ or ‘to travel’. That’s why it’s used in く (‘to go’). When I think of the character, I see a man walking down a straight, flat road. The kanji actually comes from the image of a crossroads. Here’s a picture of the oracle bone script form:

How do the fundamental meanings of the kanji result in two different meanings for 進化 (shinka) and 進行 (shinkou)? Well, both compounds carry the idea of ‘advancing’ or ‘progressing’. The difference is that 進化 is about ‘becoming more advanced’, which is why it’s associated with ‘evolution’ (a fundamental change) whereas 進行 refers to ‘moving in a forward direction/advancing manner’ and thus ‘development’ or ‘progress’. Like I said, 行 carries the idea of ‘moving’ or ‘going’, so it denotes something that’s very much ‘in progress’ or ‘ongoing’, as it were. That’s why there’s a difference.

One final example to help you differentiate the two, although this may end up being more of ‘general knowledge’ than something actually useful: the present progressive tense (している) in Japanese, which is usually equivalent to the present continuous (‘he is doing’) or the present perfect (‘he has done’) in English, denotes an ongoing state or action. In Japanese, its name is the 現在進行げんざいしんこうけい, which is, word for word, the ‘present progress form’. If the name had been 現在進化形, it would have meant ‘present evolution form’, and would probably refer to something like the current form of a Digimon/Pokemon/Gundam. (I can’t imagine it outside of a fantasy context, though it might be useable in biology.) Hope this helps!


Thank you all! That makes more sense. So my initial gut feeling was right and I cannot use them as synonyms. The example sentences didn’t demonstrate this difference or at least it was not as obvious to me. I really like the idea of a google image search :D! Great tip.

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