What’s the difference between 義塾 and 私学

From what I understand, they both mean private school. Is there a difference in nuance or are they synonyms?

A 義塾 is defined as a type of 塾. Are you familiar with what that is? It’s a “cram school,” or place where kids go for individualized/small class extra studying after regular school hours.

A 私学 is a “regular” school that isn’t run by the government.

That’s my understanding of the difference anyway. It seems like some large education organizations have 義塾 in their names as well, and they might run things that look more like regular schools. But if we’re just talking about the plain noun 義塾, it still seems to be a 塾.


Alright. That’s kinda what I figured, but I got thrown off a bit by WK translating it as private school.

I think they just took it, like a lot of things, from the jmdict entry (eg used on Jisho)

Yeah, I’m definitely starting to get bogged down with the vocab words that are extremely similar in meaning, but have a slightly different nuance.

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There’s some old commentary in the JMDICT database that says “no idea what to do with this one. as it’s basically just used as a proper noun in the names of universities nowadays”.

The best known of these is probably Keio (慶應義塾) which operates across the whole scale from primary school through to university. Interestingly the Japanese Wikipedia page for Keio feels the need to start with a section on the meaning of 義塾, which concludes that when used in organization names like Keio’s it’s a Chinese-origin word used to express the concept of British-style private[*] schools (“慶應義塾の「義塾」とは、中国伝統の語に英国の近代私立学校の概念を付加したものと解されている”).

[*] Well, in the UK we call them “public schools”, but in deference to this international forum I’ll use the US terminology :slight_smile:

The word does not have an entry in any of: Meikyou; Progressive; Genius; GG5.

Anyway, I didn’t know any of this until I went wandering through dictionary entries and Wikipedia articles. My conclusions:

  • 義塾 is not a word worth clogging your brain up with until and unless you run into it in the wild (if you were using an SRS that had the feature I’d suggest suspending the card)
  • 塾 itself is pretty common and worth knowing
  • if you do see 義塾 it’ll probably be part of some institution’s proper name, and that institution might be a 塾 or might not. It won’t be a publicly (government) run school, though

@Zachary0147 did you come across 義塾 on WaniKani?

If so, @Mods , this one might be up for removal.




It’s one of the vocab for level 45. I’m not complaining about it. I’m just wondering what the nuance is

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That’s an interesting one, since unlike Daijisen it doesn’t define it as a kind of 塾, but as a 学校. (I hear Shinmeikai has a tendency towards more interesting and occasionally quirky definitions.)

I’ll pass the info along and let you know what we decide.

Update: We’ve tweaked the meaning explanation for 義塾 to help distinguish it from 私学.


Right, and I was thinking that if the vocab item is misleading or used only in very specific contexts, it might not be a good fit for WaniKani.

Big thanks to @TofuguNico for reaching out!

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