The Nuance Thread 📔

This thread’s goal is to finally help you figure out the differences between all those words meaning action, district and consent. In other words, think of it as the bible of nuances, where you’ll be able to come here and figure out the nuances of similar words/synonyms.

Why am I making this?

It’s very cool to be able to read and know the general meaning of a word. However, when it comes to actually use it, it makes me feel almost as helpless as if I didn’t know the word in the first place. I hate this feeling. So to fix it, as I’m learning new vocab, I’ve been doing some research to figure its nuances, even if it’s a mere “A is more common than B”, as that’s still relevant information. I’ve been making small summaries to a group of friends, but why would I limit myself to them? I still love you guys, I promise.

How is this going to work?

This post will be a wiki, meaning that everyone can add their own notes about vocab nuances. I don’t expect everyone to participate (because this is a ton of work), but please do expect me to update this thread on a daily basis. I’ve been doing at least 1 summary a day.

General rules:

  • Please follow the logic of the List. We want something organized.
  • This is not limited to WK vocabulary.
  • If you’re making a significant change in someone else’s work, please let us know in the comments below, even if you’re more native than natives themselves.
  • Donate to the poor.
  • Have fun.

List of Nuances:

傾向 vs 動向 (Tendency & Trend)

Obs: This is not absolute. Don’t kill me with exceptions. Just a general pov.

傾向けいこう (tendency) is usually more connected to statistics or natural phenomena. Not directly influenced by man.

  • 海面かいめん上昇じょうしょうの傾向けいこうがある。
    There’s the tendency for the rise in the sea levels.

動向どうこう (trend) is usually related to man activities.

  • 市場しじょうの動向どうこう - market trend.

  • 経済けいざいの動向どうこう - economic trend.

Bonus vocab: 海面かいめん上昇じょうしょう - sea level rise

By Jprspereira :cupid::man_dancing:

音 vs 物音 vs 雑音 vs 騒音 (Sounds & Noises)

音おと (sound) is the general denomination. It includes all types of sounds, from something hitting the floor to the sound of a musical note.

物音ものおと (sound) is a category of 音. It usually refers to sounds that you don’t know their origin. For example, you’re at home and you’re hearing something in the next room. No one is at home, so you don’t know the source of this sound.

雑音ざつおん (noise) usually refers to small noises that are unpleasant/annoying to you.

騒音そうおん (noise) is usually for big noises that irritate you. It gets to a point of being able to call it noise pollution.

Bonus vocab: 騒音公害そうおんこうがい - noise pollution.

By Jprspereira :cupid::man_dancing:

仮定 vs 仮説 vs 想定 (The Hypothesis Trio)

仮定かてい is a “true or false” hypothesis. As in “Let’s suppose he was on the crime scene at the time”.
(Basically we set it like that 定 for now 仮)

  • 「うわさが事実だと仮定しても」
    “Even if we suppose that the rumors are true”.

仮説かせつ is a mathematical hypothesis. The main difference with the previous one is that this one is provable mathematically. “Let’s assume that the determinant of the matrix is non 0”. If we were wrong, we’ll get to a contradiction (eventually). In the crime scene case, even if we “prove” that the person was indeed there, we may never be 100% sure. (In any case, 仮説 is only used in science as far as I know).

  • 「あらゆる科学は仮説である」
    “All sciences are only hypothesis” (I.e. stuff are only true until proven wrong)

想定そうてい Supposition, Assumption/Presumption. Making a determination (提) based on conceptualization (想) In other words, when you make stuff up with your mind. For example “If you were at the beach what would you hear?” Even though we can’t prove it, we might say we would hear the waves, a hypothesis based on our concept of the beach.

  • 「火災を想定して避難訓練をする」
    “To do an evacuation exercise as if there was a fire”

Observation: Added example sentences from the デジタル大辞泉 dictionary; translations are poor mine.

By Naphthalene (transcribed by jprspereira):100:

活動 vs 行動 vs 仕草 vs 作用 (All kinds of Actions)

Obs: My own translations are in parentheses.

活動かつどう ([habitual] activity) refers to those actions/activites that you do as a routine/hobby (think extracurricular activities) or that require some sort of effort during a period of time (think job hunting). It’s also involved in group (animals included)/organizational/company/nature related activities.

  • 課外活動かがいかつどう - extracurricular activities​;

  • クラブ活動かつどう - club activities​;

  • 就職活動しゅうしょくかつどう - job hunting;

  • 火山活動かざんかつどう - volcanic activity​;

  • ミツバチの活動かつどう - bee activity;

行動こうどう (action) is by far the most generic term of all four. It can be often used to describe one-shot type of actions as well. I’ve found that it can be translated as “conduct” when the context implies a group of actions (his actions/his conduct).

  • 行動力こうどうりょく - ability to take action;

  • 怪あやしい行動こうどう - suspicious action(s)/conduct.

  • 正ただしく行動こうどうする - to act right;

  • 自己じこの行動こうどうを見直みなおす - Reevaluate one’s actions;

  • レベル60に達たっするため、行動こうどうに移うつす必要ひつようだ!
    In order to reach level 60, you need to take action!

仕草しぐさ (gesture/mannerism) - This usually refers to one’s small motions. Think playing around with one’s hair, the way one’s smiles, the way one’s acts. This word carries a positive nuance with it. A cool way to visualize this better is to search this word on Google Images.

  • 素敵すてきな仕草しぐさ - elegant gesture.

  • 犬いぬの可愛かわいい仕草しぐさ - cute dog gestures.

作用さよう (effect/action) - is highly associated with science related actions. From the effects of a pill to the action of an enzyme: if it’s science related and it does something, you use 作用.

  • 薬くすりの作用さよう - medication effect;

  • 副作用ふくさよう - side effect;

  • 作用さようと反作用はんさよう - action and reaction;

  • 酵素こうその作用さよう - enzyme action;

  • 化学作用かがくさよう - chemical action​;

Thank you for helping me with examples in times of creativity crisis.

By Jprspereira :cupid::man_dancing:

出かける vs 出る vs 去る vs 立ち去る (Leavingx4)

出でかける’s focus is that it implies the purpose of leaving for the sake of going somewhere (intention is present in -かける verbs). This purpose can simply be “going for a walk” or even going on a trip. General principles:

  • You need to have a purpose for going somewhere else;
  • It implies that you’re human (animals are not perceived as having a clear intention);
  • It implies leaving to somewhere on your will (getting arrested can’t be used with 出かける because you’re being forced to leave);
  • The place you’re leaving can not be the reason for you to leave (think: house on fire). Your destination/goal is always the motive.
  • You don’t use it for extremely short-distances: house to garden, office to parking lot.

出でる (to exit) is the most general term of all and has no restrictions that I can think of. It simply means “to exit from certain place/area”. If we were to compare it with 出かける:

  • 家うちから出る = to simply exit/leave the house;
    家から出かける = to leave the house in order to go somewhere/do something as intended (going out with friends).

去さる differs from 出る in that it implies that something/someone is leaving from a current (physical/social/emotional) place to somewhere remote/permanently. This time, the focus is on the place that you’re leaving: you’re probably not coming back, at least for a good while. This change does not necessarily have to be positive or negative.

  • 会社しゃかいを去る - to leave/to quit one’s company;

  • 地元じもとを去る - to leave one’s hometown;

  • この世よを去る - to depart from this world;

  • 夏なつが去る - Summer to be gone;

  • 片時かたときも念頭ねんとうを去らない - Moment that can’t leave one’s mind.

立たち去さる, much like 去る, implies the long-term/permament leaving of something/someone. However, it can only be used for situations that imply physical movement. Due to it being a junction between 立つ + 去る, it also implies the movement of “standing and going somewhere”. It seems that due to 去る having a more broad meaning, it takes the preferential treatment over 立ち去る in all situations.

  • 陣営じんえいを立ち去る :white_check_mark: - To leave the camp;

  • ポルトガルを立ち去る :white_check_mark: - To leave Portugal (:sob:);

  • この世を立ち去る - :x: - to depart from this world

  • 夏が立ち去る - :x: - Summer to be gone

  • 片時も念頭を立ち去らない - :x: - Moment that can’t leave one’s mind.


Here too.
Here as well.
And here.
My soul.

By Jprspereira :cupid::man_dancing:

休み vs 休憩 vs 休暇 vs 休日 vs 休養 vs 休息 vs 安静 (7 different ways to rest)

休やすみ is used to mean either “off time” (e.g. school breaks, lunch breaks, or a business’ closed days) or “taking a day off” (e.g. from work/school) or “absence” (e.g from school/work).

  1. Summer break = 夏休み

  2. Lunch break = 昼休み

  3. This store is closed on Sundays.

  4. I’d like to take next Monday off from work.

  5. I didn’t go to school for a week because I was sick.

休憩きゅうけい is used to mean a short break during some activity (e.g. working, studying, hiking, etc).

  1. We’ve been studying for a while so let’s take a break.

  2. (at work): I’m on break right now.

休暇きゅうか means “holiday/vacation.” It’s generally used for working people not for school breaks.

  1. I took a week off from work.
    *You can also use 休み in this case as well. However, they are not always interchangeable. In the 休み examples above, you cannot use 休暇 because 休暇 specifically refers to holiday/vacation.

休日きゅうじつ usually refers to official holidays (e.g New Years). You will often see this on calendars.

  1. January 1st is a holiday.
    *In Japan, girls’ day (March 3rd) is a celebrated holiday but it is not an official holiday so you would not call it a 休日。

休養きゅうよう means something like “rejuvenation” or “recovery.” It is a break that is desperately needed (e.g. from a stressful environment) or to recover (e.g. from an illness).

  1. After the surgery, I needed time to recover.

休息きゅうそく is quite similar to 休憩. However, 休息 emphasizes that you’re resting the body such as after physical activity (e.g. running or construction work) whereas 休憩 can be a break from any activity whether physical (e.g. running, swimming) or not physical (e.g. playing video games, reading, computer work).

安静あんせい is exclusively used for when a person is sick and they need to rest (i.e. they shouldn’t do much activity (both physically or mentally)).

  1. When I was sick and visited the doctor, he told me to rest.
    *In Japan, people refer to doctors as 先生

Overall, if you don’t know which one of these words to use, 休み・休む is the best choice to use because it has the broadest meaning out of all of these words.

Bonus: お休みなさい means good night and it emphasizes resting through sleep. It is a set phrase.

Hope this helps a bit! :smile:

By Cinnamoroll22

湿気 vs 潤い (The moisture of nuances)

湿気しっけ (moisture, humidity, dampness) is used to describe either something related to the atmosphere or food. It often carries a negative connotation to it. I mean, who likes humid weather after all? :man_shrugging:

  • 今年の夏はは湿気が多かった。
    As for this summer, there was a lot of humidity (refering to the weather).

  • 湿気を取り除く
    To dehumidify. (literally: to take away the moisture).

  • お風呂の湿気
    Bath humidity.

  • お菓子が湿気てしまうと悲しい。
    To get sad when sweets get humid (using the verb 湿気る)

潤うるおい (moisture, richness) carries a positive connotation and it means moisture when associated with skin. You might find it somewhere in the packages of skin creams :eyes: :ice_cream: Metaphorically, it can also be used to describe the richness of something (like life itself) or even the economy (when it’s going well).

  • 潤いのある肌。
    A moisturized skin.

  • 潤いのある声。
    An enriched voice.

  • 人生に潤いがある。
    A life that has richness.

  • オリンピックの開催が東京の経済に潤いをもたらした。
    The hosting of the Olympics brought richness to the economy of Tokyo.


Me, myself and I.
The cool people at HiNative.

By Jprspereira :cupid::man_dancing:

合意 vs 疎通 (Can we agree to disagree?)

合意ごうい (mutual agreement, consensus) is when 2 or more people hold the same opinion.

  • 合意離婚
    Consensual divorce (both want to get divorced).

  • 合意に達する
    To reach a (mutual) agreement (both want the same deal).

疎通そつう [understanding (each other), communication] is when 2 or more people might come to an understanding, but they don’t necessarily hold the same opinion. It’s the typical "I don’t agree, but we’ve found a middle ground" kind of idea.

  • 意思の疎通を図る。
    To work towards mutual understanding.

  • 意思を疎通させる。
    To get one’s thoughts/feelings/ideas across someone.

  • 意志の疎通が欠ける。
    To lack understanding (between you and someone else).


Me, myself and I.
The cool people at HiNative.

By Jprspereira :cupid::man_dancing:

言い返す vs 口答えする (Don't talk back at me, b-baka!!)

言い返いいかえす (to reply back, to answer back) simply means to reply back to someone, not necessarily in a bad tone. It has a neutral connotation, unless context implies otherwise.

  • こんなときなんて言い返す?
    In situations like this, what do you reply back?

口答くちごたえする [to retort, to talk back (when you shouldn’t)] is the thing you must not do to your boss or teachers… or else… :hocho: :scream:

  • 先生に口答えをするな!
    Don’t talk back to your teacher!


Me, myself and I.
The cool people at HiNative.

By Jprspereira :cupid::man_dancing:

見落とす vs 見逃す (To overlook, or not to overlook, that is the question.)

Both 見落みおとす and the 見逃みのがす have the common meaning of when the subject is checking something, but fails to notice some, a mistake, a situation, etc (to overlook, to fail to notice, to miss).

  • 書類に目を通した際、重大なミスを見落としていた。:white_check_mark:
    When I looked over the document, I missed a serious mistake.

  • 書類に目を通した際、重大なミスを見逃していた。:white_check_mark:
    When I looked through the document I failed to notice a serious mistake.

However, 見逃す also carries the meaning of overlooking someone’s wrongdoings (on purpose) or turning a blind eye to​ something. 見落とす does not have this meaning.

  • カンニングするのを見かけたが、見逃してやった。:white_check_mark:
    I caught (sight of) cheating, but I turned a blind eye to it.

  • :x: カンニングするのを見かけたが、見落としてやった。:x:
    I caught (sight of) cheating, but I failed to notice it. :thinking::thinking::thinking:

In other words, you can 見落とす the mistakes you wrote on a paper, since you have to deliver it in a couple of minutes and you had no time to actually check it from start to finish. On the other hand, the teacher can choose to 見逃す your errors and give you a good mark :grin:


Me, myself and I.
The cool people at HiNative.

By Jprspereira :cupid::man_dancing:

学ぶ vs 習う vs 知る (Acquiring Information/Learning)

I’ve learned there’s a lot of ways to learn in Japanese. hehehe. I’ll do the three common ones I’ve had trouble with so far, but these are not the most common, according to Jisho. As and when I learn more ways to learn (又?) I may revisit this section to add more if they trouble me.

(学ぶ 「まなぶ」- to study in depth, implies great effort. While this can mean to take lessons, it seems the primary meaning implies more of a self-study or relatively autonomous, unguided effort.)

  • 今年の三月で君は日本語を学んで三年たつことになる。
    You will have studied Japanese for three years this March.

(習う 「ならう」 - implicitly implies learning something under guidance from another.)

  • 料理は姉の先生をにして習いました。
    I learned cooking under my sister’s tuition.

(知る 「しる」 - [in this context, to learn] - learning something passively rather than actively studying it, such as through personal experience or passive information acquisition, coming to know something i.e. “passive learning”.)

  • 啓子さんの問題はうわすで聞き知った。
    I learned about Keiko’s problem from gossip.

Sources: Example sentences and definitions taken from Jisho, links here.

Added by Krispy :doughnut:

正義の味方 vs 縁の下の力持ち vs @jprspereira (Very Subtle Nuances)

Take everything you read in this section with a pinch of salt because I’m only level 9 at the time of writing. Definitions taken from Jisho.

  • 正せい義ぎの味方みかた - Champion of justice WK; knight in shining armor; hero
  • 縁えんの下したの力持ちからもち - Unsung hero; person who does a thankless task​
  • Jprspereiraジプ君 - All of the above

By Krispy :doughnut:

Other threads related to nuances:


You’re my hero. Just knowing this thread exists changed my life.


J-Just knowing that you exist changed my life! :flushed:


Sounds interesting! This would be very useful resources for learners on all level.

1 Like

some notes i have, let me know if it has wrong information

芸術 Art 美術 Fine Art 技 わざ Art/Technique (as in “Art of) 技術 Art/Technique
芸能界 Showbusiness

Construction: 建築 (Architecture) 建設 (Building/Establishment)

工事 (Construction Work) 作業 Work (Operation)

工作 (Handicraft)

Time: 時間 じかん Amount of Time 時期 じきPeriod/Season/Period of Time

期間 Period (Term/Interval/Span) 時代 Period (Era, Time Period)

短期 Short Period/Short Term/Short Date


Is this topic also the place for discussing new words you find from which the nuance is not clear?

1 Like

@jprspereira I added more furigana, improved any little English grammar/spelling mistakes I found, and touched up the HTML formatting. Let me know if I went overboard! :sweat_smile:


Totally fine! I actually appreciate it! Any type of code should say far away from me, if they’re expected not to get murdered :eyes:

Yup! If the smart people know what others are having trouble with, they can help :slight_smile:

Good ones! Thanks for taking the time :grin: I might add one or two of them to the list today with my own notes :slight_smile: :v:


A possible future chapter in this book:
事 行動 作用 活動 仕草


I’m a simple man, I see jp up to his shenanigans, I hit like.


What does 事 do in vocab? Like 火 means fire, but 火事 also means fire. Or 工 means construction and 工事 also means construction? I would be very grateful, if somebody could solve this myth for me.


You’re too good :heart:

1 Like

I think we need a section for 仮説, 仮定, and 想定. I believe @Naphthalene explained the differences once (in addition to another variation).


I think it’s lost in one of the poll threads.
I’ll get back to you when I am done with my reviews :stuck_out_tongue:

Okay, so 仮定 is a “true or false” hypothesis. As in “Let’s suppose he was on the crime scene at the time”.
(Basically we set it like that 定 for now 仮)
「うわさが事実だと仮定しても」“Even if we suppose that the rumors are true”.

仮説 is a mathematical hypothesis. The main difference with the previous one is that this one is provable mathematically. “Let’s assume that the determinant of the matrix is non 0”. If we were wrong, we’ll get to a contradiction (eventually). In the crime scene case, even if we “prove” that the person was indeed there, we may never be 100% sure. (In any case, 仮説 is only used in science as far as I know)
「あらゆる科学は仮説である」 “All sciences are only hypothesis” (I.e. stuff are only true until proven wrong)

想定 is when you make stuff up with your mind. As in “let’s say you are on the beach, can you hear the waves?”. You aren’t really on the beach, even if we say so, so it’s never “true”.
「火災を想定して避難訓練をする」 “To do an evacuation exercise as if there was a fire”

Edit 2: added example sentences from the デジタル大辞泉 dictionary; translations are poor mine.


Anxiously waits for @jprspereira or someone less lazy than me to put Nath’s explanation in the first post.


I’ll be doing that in a sec. I’ll also solve this:


Sorry for the double post/bump of the thread.


  • @Naphthalene, I added your explanation to the main post and organized it a little bit. Thank you for contributing :pray:
  • I also started mentioning the creator at the end of each nuance post, and each has the right to add their own emojis after their name. For Nath, I obviously added :100:, but they can choose their own.
  • The mystery of 行動, 作用, 活動 and 仕草 is finally solved! :tada: Check the main post :point_up:
  • I’m tired. I’m willing to temporarily sell myself to anyone willing to test their massaging skills.



Added a little homage section at the end.


I love how you always flirt with me with class :kissing_heart:

1 Like