Words with same meaning Round 2

I know I’ve posted on this before, and I know it’s been “solved” several times.


My question is: Is there a way to put separate meanings on these words rather than use the same word?

For example: I’m told that 幸せ is more for long lasting happiness… like a marriage.

                  ほほえんで is more for momentary happiness... passing a test maybe?

but what is 幸運 or 幸福 for?

Does “synonym” really cover it?

If it does, then, shouldnt we have other words that we can use to differentiate the meanings enough, other than when to use X as opposed to Y?

…And do you really cycle the situations through your head as to use which one?

Thanks again



幸運 is primarily about good luck/good fortunes. One of the Kenkyusha entries uses the phrase ‘a happy chance’ but that is of course ties back into the primary luck meaning of the word and is not the same as the meaning of happiness like with 幸福.

Fixed some bad wording.

I try to look stuff up when I have a question like this (or ask my teacher), file the info in the back of my mind, and hope I remember in conversation, but I mostly just say what pops in my mind first to keep conversation flowing. Sometimes I get feedback and I can adjust my vocab, sometimes I don’t, which either means I chose right, or it was not such a big mistake anyway.

The word chance already tilts it in the luck direction.

Sure, that was my point. It was to point out that the only definition of that term I could find that used ‘happy’ is not using it as ‘happiness’ like the meaning of 幸福 which does carry a primary meaning of happiness.


But I did word it a bit awkwardly so I will fix it.

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As for the two terms that do carry a meaning of happiness maybe this link would help?

They mostly mean the same thing, with 幸福 being more formal sounding, but one of the speaker maybe points out a few nuances from their perspective that might be helpful.

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Japanese isnt really used over here. So there’s no one I can really check with, unless I want to go ask my former teacher at the college I was at.

I don’t really have anyone to practice with either. It just seems to me that there should be synonyms we can use or other definitions that would get the point across other than labeling all of them as “happiness” as WK seems to do.

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But WK doesn’t label 幸運 as happiness.


But if you want to find nuances between synonyms, HiNative is often a good resource.

yeah, but the kanji for “happy” and “luck” equals happiness. Unless we have two kanji for luck, in which case…

No it doesn’t. 幸運 is all about luck and fortune.

Or the meaning of the word is not a literal concatenation of the two kanji meanings like you presume? But, yes, 幸 can also meaning ‘fortune’ or ‘luck’. It does not only mean happiness.


I was refering to 運 vs 福

What about them?

Do they both mean luck, then?

Yes, they both can have a similar meaning of ‘fortune’ or ‘luck’. 福 also carries a meaning of happiness along with it.

  1. blessing; happiness; prosperity
  2. (literary) to bless quotations ▼
  3. good fortune

These would be the Chinese-derived meanings for 福. I think you’re taking some of these kanji compounds far too literally with only the subset of meanings that WK uses for its mnemonics whereas all these kanji have more than a few shades of meanings not captured in the WK lessons.

The problem I’m having is that the subset is all the same. Trying to make sense of it is harder.

Synonym doesnt always cover it, so I’m wondering if there is a word to help differentiate them rather than looking for the instance in which to use it.

I would expect one spelling to mean “a” the other to mean “b”.

But this is not really the optimal way to view these compound words. These words are often not just going to be a literal concatenation of the meanings of their kanji. And often these kanji have quite a few various shades of meaning and they may tilt towards one or the other.

So this is like what I said above. You differentiate 幸運 from the other two because it’s tilted more towards 運’s meaning of luck and fortune. Where as 幸せ and 幸福 are mostly synonyms.

To go at this from another angle that might help, 幸せ and 幸福 is one of many cases you will come across where there are two words, or more, that are pretty synonymous but have different spellings because one is a native Japanese word and the other is a word incorporated from Chinese. This is the case with 幸せ vs 幸福. This is also part of the reason why 幸福, the word incorporated from Chinese, is often viewed as the more ‘formal’.


Does it matter which I use as a foreigner?

As far as “formal” or not?

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Sure, if you don’t want to sound stuffy and formal in a less formal situation, you’ll want to use the one that is more often used conversationally. You being a foreigner doesn’t change what sounds formal or not.

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Okay. Thanks.

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No problem.

But, yeah, if you don’t have access to a teacher, tutor, or friend that can help you with some of these finer nuances I would suggest referencing something like HiNative or you can ask on the Japanese Stack Exchange. You can often find that someone else has asked a similar question on sites such as these. Or just ask here, and hopefully someone can give provide you the information a resource to help you. :slight_smile: