WaniKani definitions differ from dictionary?

Hey guys, as you can see I’m over halfway through WaniKani, but something I’ve noticed is that the definitions can sometimes be different than a dictionary might say.

The one I have come across today is 蒸れる. WaniKani says “to be humid” but a dictionary says “to be stuffy, to moulder”. I mean, if it’s humid, then it might be stuffy, but those are two different statements.

So I guess I’m just wondering how to know what’s right? I mean, I’d hate to find that I’ve been learning some words wrong because of WaniKani.

The Japanese definition in question would be

空気が通らないので、熱気や湿気がこもる

So “to be stuffy” would be appropriate in some cases, but I’ve also heard stuffy used in cases where that wouldn’t be appropriate. “To be humid” captures the essence of how the area feels, but perhaps doesn’t imply a reason the way stuffy does. Humid also wouldn’t be right for how you’d describe, for instance, the inside of your shoes after working out, which this word can be used for. That would be… Like… Swampy or something, for me anyway. TMI?

I would say go ahead and add your own synonym if you want. Email them as well and they might add it.

But definitely put more stock in monolingual definitions.

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I mean, it just seems like the definitions imply two completely different things. But English has plenty of words that are used in completely different cases.

Also, I need to start referring to the Japanese definition. I think that will be more helpful.

I would say don’t 100% trust a J-E dictionary either. In this case it seems mostly fine, but if you look at the word 魔性 on jisho, for instance, the result is only “devilishness.”

From one of my J-J dictionaries, the definition is:
人を迷わすような性質。悪魔のもっているような性質。

And from another J-J dictionary is:
悪魔の持っているような、人をまどわす性質。

“Devilish” may work in some cases, sure, but “seductive” or something like that would probably fit better in other cases.

Basically what I’m saying is, using both a J-E and J-J dictionary might not hurt, plus you’d get more Japanese reading practice in. :grinning:

I don’t think stuffy and humid “imply two completely different things,” as though there are no situations where they could both be appropriate. They just don’t overlap 100%. Not every J-E dictionary will overlap perfectly.

Yeah, thanks. I’ll definitely start looking into Japanese definitions.

My problem really stems from “oh this word means to be humid. Okay let me make a sentence about how it’s really humid where I live” but then I was checking a conjugation and realized the dictionary definition was not what WaniKani was saying.

I mean, I realize that they aren’t gonna say the exact same thing, and I have a script for the extra definitions, so I realize that many words have extra definitions that aren’t listed on WaniKani. But usually it at least has at least one that is similar or the same.

So do you think that “It’s humid” is not an appropriate choice for 蒸れる, basically at all?

I would have to disagree with that.

You’re right that you wouldn’t use it to talk about it being humid in a geographical location, but I’ve called rooms “humid” before, and that would be fine for 蒸れる. As long as the reason it’s humid is because air isn’t being allowed to move freely.

Stuffy could be used in that situation too, of course, but stuffy can also be used to describe a completely non-humid room that simply smells strongly of dust or something. The lack of air movement is integral to “stuffy” but the heat and moisture is optional. Such a room would be stuffy, but not 蒸れる.

Living in Japan I would say, as with all languages, there’s usually no perfect translation 1to1. What I usually do is either ask a Japanese friend or google example sentences. HiNative is useful for this.

No, I understand why both definitions fit, I was just trying to point out that they seem like different statements.

Anyways, I was just asking in general. 蒸れる was simply a recent example.

I feel like I remember one time where one (WK or dictionary) completely contradicted the other one. But maybe it’s just that the wording is different. I think I’m too focused on the specific definition. I just need to learn how the words are actually used.

Words are analog, not digital. They represent a meaning range which gets narrowed down by context. Different languages have different ranges for words and sentences. That is why you can’t just give a book to a computer and have it translate it. You should not take any direct translation of any word very seriously. The best literal translation, or even the definition given by a monolingual dictionary, is just a kind of scout that allows you to quickly survey what the person using it might be trying to express. It’s like a flag marking a spot, it’s not the actual terrain. If you want to know a language better than google translate, you have to be exposed to it. Even then, a lot of people have a very foggy understanding of their own native tongue, especially things outside their cultural bubble. If someone says something means something, it almost always does mean that, kind of, sometimes, but not exactly. So you might want to come to terms with the fact that you cannot have a high definition understanding of everything. This is why I think it is dangerous to focus too much on reading. There is too much reliance on translation, because there has to be, because what else are you going to reference when you are dealing with pure words?

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