Understanding words with same meaning

Hello again, thank you all for the amazing help on my last post!
I have again encountered something that confuses me. Some of the vocabulary on Wanikani seems to have the same meaning and i find it hard to understand the differences, even with the synonyms, so i ask for your help again.
Whats the difference between these 3 words for girl(If there is any):
And the difference between:

If these words are different, where could i look up the different uses/meanings, for further use?
Thank you!


女の子 is “girl” in the sense of a very young, childish, girl. You would typically see this referring to children, or at least someone who visually appears to be a child.

少女 is really the equivalent to how we in English would use “girl”.
EDIT: This is still really only for young girls, referring to an adult with this would be considered offensive rather than a casual reference.

女子 more just referring to the female gender than anything else. You would see this to label a restroom as for women, as an example. If you’re referring to a person with it, they’re probably a young woman, not yet fully an adult but almost there. A fully adult woman would be typically be 女性, which confusingly enough is also used to refer to the female gender at times.

半 is really more so a prefix or suffix rather than a full noun. As a prefix it translates to the english “half-” or “semi-”. The suffix form is usually seen when giving times and would mean “half-past” an hour.

半分 is much more a full noun, it typically refers to a portion of something that is roughly half of the original portion.

jisho.org can give you some insight as to the differences between things. Unfortunately, I don’t know of a more definitive resource for these things other than asking a native speaker or finding the words in context.


This thread is a good start:

Otherwise, you’ll have to pick it up via immersion. Even knowing the distinctions I didn’t really get it until I had been immersing for a while.


I would just caution that people do not use 少女 in daily life much, so in that sense it is different from “girl.”


That’s fair, “girl” is a much more casual term for a “woman” in English but calling a woman a girl in Japanese would be seen as offensive rather than a casual reference.

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There’s a conflation there too since in English what we really mean is usually 女性 but “female” feels too formal to use.

You will see a lot of repetitive and similar meanings as you progress through WK.

It helps if you don’t think of Kanji as individual words. They can be words on their own, but are more like Latin and Greek roots in English. You will learn a kanji, and then the vocabulary for how it’s actually used.

Also, some words will be repetitive because WK is going for a simple definition and not really teaching any context. You will have to find the context through outside study.

I know times change, and things might be more relaxed now, but back in the 90s and 00s in the US, it wasn’t considered appropriate to refer to an adult woman as a “girl” either, although my Dad never seemed to get the memo.

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Well, I mean, I’m pretty sure おじいさん・おばあさん can get away with using 少女 :wink:

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My main point is that it’s less common for people to call real people 少女 or 少年, not anything specifically about ages. It’s true that you can’t call an adult woman a 少女, but you also don’t usually call a child it either, because it’s just less commonly used in conversation than the others. This is probably thanks to the poetic or romantic tinge the word has (not romantic as in love, but in idealized perceptions of things). It sounds slightly dramatic to say it.


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