Struggling with 定/determine and 決/decide

These two kanji have come up in my reviews quite a bit recently.
I keep messing up, reading 定 as “decide” and 決 as “determine”, but WaniKani wants it the other way around. :sweat_smile:

To me, “decide” and “determine” seem mostly synonymous, but apparently that isn’t so.
What am I missing here? :smile:

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You could always add “decide” as a user synonym for 決. Both decide and determine are valid meanings for 決.

You are correct that they would be considered synonyms. I suggest maybe looking up words using either of those kanji and you’ll maybe start to see the shades of difference between them? This is where a Japanese language thesaurus or something like The Kodansha Kanji Synonyms Guide comes in handy. For example, the latter gives a list of compound words using the similar meaning kanji in order to try to highlight their differences in usage.

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It really doesn’t help that 決心 is determination, though trying to remember it as resolution might steer you right way.

I’m wondering why WaniKani doesn’t already accept both as an answer though.

I feel like there must be a particular reason for it. :smile:

Because they try to pick a main meaning that they feel is most important.

Not necessarily. Not every kanji on WK covers all shades of meaning that a kanji can carry. 定 can also have the meaning of fix as in (一定する) and settle (as in 勘定 which can carrying the meaning of ‘settlement of accounts’), but those are not taught in the kanji lesson. This is why you should not solely rely on WK for vocabulary or kanji meanings.


to me both terms are quiet different.
定: determine, it is very objective term, it can be used in scientific contexts, a physics law is enough to determine the properties of this or that.
決: decide, it is a subjective action. Some people decide this or that.

For example, 定義 stands for “definition” (like in a word definition). 定 is clearly the only kanji I would read here, and I would not confuse it with 決.


Also, 断 also carries a meaning of ‘decide’ as well if you want another synonym to throw into the mix. Such as in the word 断定 which can mean decision/conclusion. But often has a nuance of meaning towards resolution/conclusion.

I like that distinction. I’ll try to adopt that. Thanks omoide! :smile:

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