Tokyo Damage Report



Copyright 2010 Steven Schultz and “Ted” Natsume

Please comment  with corrections or suggestions.

This is a learning aid which helps you tell Japanese synonyms apart.

How to use: This isn’t hi-tech yet. Just control+F and type the word you’re looking for, in either English or Japanese.  You’ll be directed to a ‘cluster’ of synonyms for that word.



$$$ = this is the most commonly used synonym of the bunch

GGG = only used in a good way

BBB = only used in a bad way

PPP = used about people, not things

TTT= used about things, not people

SITU = used about situations

NP = used in newspapers, loudspeaker announcements, or signs, not in conversation

LIT = literary- used in poems or novels, not conversation

??? = I don’t know what this word means! Help!







勉強 : べんきょう: To study. 勉強 is used about learning a whole subject, like philosophy or French or, say, Japanese. In other words, it is a process which takes months or years. Unlike 学ぶ, 勉強 is something you can do on your own.$$$


学ぶ:まなぶ: 2 meanings: to learn something from a teacher. Also, to learn one random fact (not a whole subject). 学ぶ can also be used like, “I learned xxx in college.” Also, 学ぶ means that you have learned it, while 勉強 means you are studying it, but don’t necessarily know it yet.


習う・ならう: to study a subject. More casual than 勉強; you can use 習う about a subject that only takes a few months to learn. Like 学ぶ, generally there is a teacher involved.  It’s used for subjects where there are routines to be memorized and performed, like English, dance, karate, flower-arranging. It’s not used for math, science, or religion.


自習:じしゅう : self-study.







Dummy, idiot, fool, doo doo dumb:


バカ・ $$$ : this is the most common word – it applies to people who flunk a math test as well as to people who look funny, as well as to people who stumble and spill the soup. However, it’s mostly kanto (East coast) people who use this with their friends in a friendly way. Your kansai (West coast)  friends are more likely to get mad if you call them バカ.


愚か・おろか: Unlike the others in this cluster, only adults use 愚か。 It’s more of a literary or newspaper term. Like if a politician mis-speaks during a speech, you’d say he or she was 愚か。



間抜け・まぬけ: This is more mean than the other words. Closer to バカやろう (asshole!) than dummy. Generally used with people who are clumsy or make stupid-and-big mistakes like going to the airport without their passport.


バカ面・ばかづら:literally ‘ばか appearance.’: someone who is not a fool but looks like a fool because of a certain situation: they have to wear an idiotic uniform, or they’re trying some new activity they have never tried before.


ボケ : someone who is foolish because they’re a space-cadet. Someone who always has a ポカン expression. Someone who forgets to take out the trash, or takes out the burnables on the day you’re supposed to take out the recycling.  You wouldn’t use ボケ about a big big huge mistake though – you’d use 間抜け. You’ll often hear ぼけ in the expressions 寝ぼけ (sleepy-head), or  時差ぼけ (jet lag). That should give you some idea what regular ぼけ is. Also, when the つこみ comedians hit each other on the head  for talking nonsense, they yell ぼけ, not ばか or まぬけ。


あほ:basically it’s the same as バカ, but more popular in western Japan (kansai). Kansai people are more likely to call their friends あほ in jest, not バカ。











普通な・ふつうな; $$$: this is by far the most common word for normal. But it can have a bad meaning, so be careful!  When written on signs, it is not rude. You’ll see signs like “普通盛り“ (a normal portion of food), or  ”普通電車“ (a normal train, not express). But when used in casual conversation, 普通 generally has a negative edge: something that is just so-so, mediocre, middle of the road. Closer to 微妙 than most of the other synonyms for “normal.”


並みの : なみの: standard amount – usually used about food (standard size, not extra-large).


普段・ふだん:  Under normal conditions. As usual. Unlike most of the words for “normal,” 普段 is used a) about someone’s own customs and daily life, b) it is usually used in the negative. “Ordinairly he’s nice, but he was a dick today.” Or, “Instead of ordering my customary iced tea, I had a jager bomb.”


一般的な・いっぱんてきな: much broader than the related word 普段、 一般 means regular-as-opposed-to-in-a-special-group. Or regular-as-opposed-to-important-people-with-super-top-secret-clearance. You’ll see signs saying “This library is not open to 一般的な人。“


尋常・じんじょう; normal or ordinary. Unlike other ‘normal’ synonyms, 尋常 is formal, literary, and generally written instead of spoken. Usually used in the negative: 尋常でない or 尋常ではない. Extraordinary, unusually extreme or powerful. Astounding!



典型的 : てんけいてき: often defined as ‘classic’, but actually 典型的 is closer to the word ‘archetypal’. Something that is a perfect example of things of its type. Not to be confused with “seminal” (meaning the first person or thing to do something). So you could say that Venom were a seminal Black Metal band, but Marduk were 典型的.






Ordinarily  (used about frequency of events, not about things or people).


大分: だいぶ・ has to do with extent. It’s closer to かなり or ほど than 普通。 EXAMPLE: It was pretty far: だいぶ遠かった。


常に : つねに:  often defined as “ordinarily”, but it’s stronger! More like “always”. “A professional spy always carries a gun!” “I never leave the house without my camera.” Etc.


常事 じょうじ: regular (as opposed to intermittent)  or consistent (as opposed to you have to special-order it). You’ll find this on signs for, say, regular trains that run every hour on the hour, or security guards that are on-call or on-patrol 24-7.


時折:じおり : sometimes.  The opposite of Used about services such as electricity or internet  – where you’re connected all the time.


時折:ときおり: sometimes. The written/ formal version of ときどき。










喧嘩・けんか: any kind of fight – from a verbal quarrel to a back-alley stabbing.



戦う・たたかう:Even more broad than 喧嘩, 戦う can be used about fist-fights, but it’s also commonly used in sports, similar to the English “Go! Fight! Win!”. In that case, it’s not that different from 頑張れ!


もみあい・ literally, “fondling each other.” Unlike a 戦う (battle), which can go on a long time,  a もみあい breaks out suddently – usually in a place where people are drunk. Close to 喧嘩 but more narrow: it’s a shoving match or fist-fight.


殴り合い:なぐりあい: literally, “hitting each other.” 殴り合い is not totally limited to muggings and gang beatings – if you and your friend are drunk and start slapping each other on a dare, that’s also 殴り合い。


戦闘・せんとう: a war battle.



合戦:かっせん: like 戦闘、 but only used in proper nouns: the Battle of the Bulge, The Battle of 1812. The Battle of Pearl Harbor, etc.








魔法:まほう: witchcraft in general. Applies to anything – flying, shooting lighting, turning dudes into trout.



魔術:まじゅつ: Basically the same as 魔法。 But, when you’re talking about “magical thinking’ or ‘Mexican magic realism’ or ‘voodoo economics’, use 魔術、 not 魔法.

手品: てじな:the shit is that David Copperfield does.


魔女:まじょ;a witch.

魔法使い: A warlock.









手配:てはい:Something that an upper person – the boss – would say to her personal assistant or secretary: make arrangements for me to fly to London this weekend. The dude from  the IRS will be visiting us on Thursday, so arrange a place to stay for him.


用意・ようい : get ready – basically it means the same as 準備 , but the nuance is a bit more abstract. : If you’re getting prepared mentally , that’s 用意 . If you’re arranging stuff over the phone, use 用意 . The ‘Get set!’ in ‘Get ready! Get set! Go!’ is 用意 .


準備・ じゅんび : to get ready (to go to school, to go on vacation, to go camping): to gather some physical things.



備える そなえる  – prepare, in the sense of set some shit aside for an emergency. (for instance, by saving money for a rainy day, or by stocking the basement with canned food for when the Apocalypse comes).

Also, samurai might say, “Get ready to fight me!”「備えろ」



xxxしておく: to arrange something in advance (‘Come over at 8, I’ll have the beer chilled and ready.’ ‘I’ll have the apartment cleaned and ready for our communist meeting.’)



覚悟・かくご: mentally prepare yourself. to be determined to do it, even though you might die.


構える・かまえる; literally means, get ready to fight a samurai! Some guy ambushes him and he has to get ready right away, assume a fighting stance. but nowadays, usually used in the negative: 構えなくてもいい: don’t be so nervous. relax.






From now on / since then

以前:いぜん: previously, earlier, in the distant past. I.E., in the distant past, people used to poop in a ditch.

以来:いらい: since then

以後:いご; from then on

以降:いこう: same as 以後, but more commonly used.


Xxx (た verb plus)~きり、: ever since I did xxx. Ever since I loaned him the money I haven’t heard from him.

それから・ since then


今後: こんご:after this, from now on







once again





未だ:まだ: still


もう一度:もういちど: one more time!

もう一回:もういっかい: ditto. As far as I know it’s the same as もう一度!

もういっぺん=もう一度, but in slang. Possibly obsolete, though.






out of date, old-fashioned.

時代遅れの / じだいおくれの : something which is unfashionable because the trend is over. Hairstyles, etc.


古くさい:ふるくさい: old-fashioned, but not related to trends. But still rude! An analog clock, a Pinto.


古めかしい:ふるめかしい : ???


旧式の:きゅうしき: obsolete

廃れる:すたれる: something dies out – metaphorically. A fad. A concept. Can you use this about people? ???






Rash, hasty, impulsive

衝動的に・しょうどうてきに: this doesn’t always have a bad meaning. If you are walking down the street and impulsively decide to walk into a store to buy a cup of coffee, you can use this. But usually it’s used about kids, who behave impulsively, without thinking of the consequences of their actions.


軽率・けいそつ: this is the word for the rash cop in a buddy-cop movie: a guy who goes off half-cocked, who is too aggressive, and easily baited.  Although in real life, 軽率 behavior almost always leads to failure.

無謀:むぼう: Unlike the others, 無謀 decisions are made with full knowledge of the consequences. 無謀 is less like ‘rash’ and more like ‘drastic.’

無茶: むちゃ: can be used to mean rash, but usually means reckless or extreme.  The fellows from Jackass, for instance.  Doing things that one knows are dangerous.








役 (やく):a role. Use this about actors  (役を演ずる: play a role!)  Also used about businessmen who hold a certain post of position (役を務める). That’s right: this kanji means ‘formal post or position’, not just role.

役 is used negatively too, in the set expression 役に立たない人 ( a useless person!)


役割(やくわり):$$$:  role, but more informal and figurative than 役. Gay dudes who are top or bottom – that’s 役割. If your role is ‘the black sheep of the family,’ that’s 役割.  The guy in the boy-band who is “the edgy one.” The person on the reality -TV show who is “the crazy one.”









が伸びる: のびる:  (VI) $$$ : stretch or physically extend – whether it’s a piece of silly putty, or a forest that extends all the way to the ocean, or days of summer that get longer.  Use this one for hair! 髪が伸びたね! You grew your hair out!



延びる:のびる: (VI): to lengthen. Like 伸びる, but less often used. In fact, this 延びる is usually used only in one expression: 行き延びる (meaning, to survive a dangerous event, or lengthen one’s life)


を延ばす – $$$ (VT)  to lengthen or extend (the life of a sick person)(the deadline) (your stay in a hotel) also, to procrastinate. More used with time.


を伸ばす -$$$  (VT) to lengthen – more used with physical things: stretch your back, extend a collapsible umbrella/telescope/ admantium claw,  extend your talent by developing it.


延長:えんちょう: two meanings: 1) an extension or prolonging, in time. 2) To extend a linear thing by building it longer. More official than just saying 延ばす.







値段:ねだん: $$$ :  price of one item. (usually used about a big thing – house, car –  moreso than a gumball or a Pocky. In those cases, you’d just say, ‘いくらっすか?’)


価値・かち;  value  in general. Can be used about money (a valuable necklace.) but unlike 価 , 価値 has a more broad, non-money feeling to it : this painting has artistic value, she values honesty highly, I made a value judgment, the value of learning has no price-tag.TTT PPP


価 : あたい: value – but almost never used by itself.Amount


値: ね: value in a math or science sense! A numerical value. One unit – an angstrom or a light-year.


物価:ぶっか: price of a commodity as a whole (Gas prices are up! Tokyo prices are higher than in the countryside!) If you want to talk about the price of one item specifically, you’d use 値段。(ねだん)


価格:かかく: a very narrow meaning: unit price. Used when talking about business or market conditions. Or if you are a factory manager who is haggling for 10,000 diodes, wholesale. You wouldn’t say to the kid behind the counter at 7-11, ‘What’s the 価格 of this bag of chips, dude?’

小売価格: こうりかかく: retail unit price.

卸価格: おろし かかく: wholesale price.


値段:ねだん: PRICE $$$ use this in stores.








つねる : $$$ : to pinch


ピンチ: oddly, this only refers to being ‘in a pinch’ – being in a tight spot, being in trouble, rock and a hard place, etc.


挟む;はさむ: to crush between two things – as in, slam your finger in the car door. (also, to tuck in between 2 things, as in place a bookmark in the book, or wedge the phone between your shoulder and chin)


抜:ぬく: pluck – flower or hair. To pluck a needle out of your palm. To uncork a bottle.


取り出す・とりだす: take out, extract. Like 抜く but whereas 抜く applies only to sharp things, 取り出す applies to regular, non-painful objects. For instance,  take a notebook out of the bag. That’d be 取り出す。


摘む・つむ: To prune. A gardener prunes the bushes. To nip in the bud. figuratively, to stunt someone’s spirit is: 才能を摘む。 To stunt the emotional growth of your kids. ??? need example.









貫く:つらぬく・ to penetrate all the way through: not just violently. The river runs through the town. Also, to see a project all the way through to the end.


突く: つく・ to poke or jab, but not necessarily with a sharp object. Could be your finger.


刺す:さす: to stab$$$


挿す:さす: to insert for decorative purposes: put a flower in your buttonhole. Wear a flower in your hair. Other than that, it’s not used by itself, only in compound words.


挿入 :そうにゅう: insert. This is the one you use about dicks. But it’s not always a dirty word. “Insert a CD into the disk drive” uses 挿入 also.







Logic or theory

合理:ごうり: :  rational, but . . . actually more like ‘reasonable’ or ‘moderate’. (i.e. get up at a reasonable hour or a reasonable compromise) You can use 合理 even if there is not math proof involved.


理論・りろん:theory, as in scientific theory or “theory vs. practice”


論理・ろんり: logic. Logical: 論理的な$$$


理屈 :りくつ:  there’s no exact English equivalent. . . maybe “rational argument that makes sense”??? (the last kanji 屈 literally means “make someone yield”)



Theory – as in theory vs. practice. (opposite of 実際)

理屈で言 ほど実際にはやさしくない  be not so easy in practice as in theory

理屈 is often used in the negative, to mean, “That doesn’t make any sense!”

Or, “You can’t reason with him. He won’t listen to reason.”

理屈 is also used in the expression 屁理屈 a.k.a. bullshit reasoning.





rice or food


米: こめ: raw, uncooked rice. The kind you buy in bulk.


ご飯 : ごはん: cooked rice, but also food in general: “ご飯食べたい?” = “Do you want to eat?”  晩ご飯=dinner, etc. $$$


食べ物 :たべもの: literally ‘edible things.’ . Used in only two situations: I’m hungry! You got something to eat around here? おなかが空いた!なんか食べ物ある? And: Lions hunt their own food.ライオンが自分で食べ物を狩る。


料理:りょうり: 2 meanings. 1: cooking , as in, “My hobby is cooking.” Or  “I’m cooking right now, I can’t talk.”


2: cuisine, as in, “My favorite cuisine is Mexican. My favorite cuisine is Indonesian.” You don’t say, though, “I’m going to buy some 料理.” Or “I’m eating 料理 right now, I’ll call you back.”








xxxし方 ・ xxxしかた ; see やり方

xxxやり方: xxxやりかた: $$$: this is the most commonly used word for “way to do” – but it’s SO common it’s not  really equivalent to the English “technique.” You’d have a technique for enriching uranium or breathing fire. You’d have a し方 for using a spoon or folding bedsheets.


技術・ぎじゅつ: technique – used mostly with industry or artisans. $$$


技:わざ: technique – originally used with martial arts.


手法 :しゅほう:a method (better yet, a process!) – usually used with arts, theaters, photography. Like a method for etching or lithography which uses certain acids and chemicals. As opposed to the actual skill of doing a nice drawing on the lithograph itself.


手段:しゅだん: a means or way to do something. More technical sounding than simply 方法 (ほうほう).  If you want to announce to the world a new way of doing something (studying Japanese, for instance), you’d use 手段.







団 :だん: an association or brigade. . .but usually used about volunteer groups such as volunteer fire-fighters, or Neighborhood Watch. Not to mention the 暴力団 (the newspaper/police word for yakuza).


隊 :たい; squad – usually used with military (or marching band or fire-fighter brigade, or ambulance crew!)


団体:だんたい: any organization. Unlike the other ‘tai’, (隊), 団体 does not have any military feeling.$$$


部隊:ぶたい: military unit.


xxx部:ぶ: xxx club.


班(はん) is a squad too, or a team or a task force or something






感想・かんそう: an interpretation of something – an artwork, book, movie, etc. (like印象, but you’d never use 感想 to mean ‘first impression’) It includes both a summary of the thing as well as one’s opinion of it . . .Often used in the phrase 感想文:かんそうぶん: a high-school book report. Often translated as ‘feedback.’ Let me know how you liked it – give me your feedback!$$$


意見・いけん: an opinion. Not limited to artworks.$$$


印象 :いんしょう: an impression. Often used like 第一印象 (one’s first impression of a person)


解釈 :かいしゃく: to interpret an artwork or an action: “かいしゃくはなんですか?”  解釈  is more formal or newspaper-y than 感想: if CIA analysts are trying to interpret the internet chatter on extremist websites, or if pundits are trying to interpret whether the President’s speech contained a veiled threat to Venezuela, that’s always going to be 解釈 and not 感想。Ditto scientists trying to interpret the data.  I guess 解釈 has more a feeling of guessing the correct answer, whereas 感想 is giving one’s opinion or judging something as good or bad.









消去する:しょうきょ: eliminate (process of elimination) or delete (computer term).

削除する:さくじょする:almost the same as 消去, but much more widely used。

除く:のぞ*く: The more hostile meaning is, to exclude, for instance: certain people. Or, more politely, to not count someone: “Not counting Bill, everyone here is republican.” “Not counting Sarah, everyone here hates cats.” “Except for one mistake, he did a good job!”

取り除く:とりのぞく: – almost the same as 除去 : to remove, to clear away, get rid of (garbage, , weeds, etc.) $$$

除去:じょきょ: eliminate or remove a physical thing: (bugs from your garden, harmful chemicals from the solution, a tumor from your lung) less used than 取り除く, but more official or formal-sounding.

解除:かいじょ: to rescind a set of rules, sanctions, etc. Quite official.Also has a legal meaning of terminating/cancelling something eg 契約を解除する : terminating a contract


省く;はぶく: to omit (usually used about omitting things when you speak).  Omit the formalities. To skip over. Use the tivo to skip the commercials. To do without. To omit certain time-consuming rituals from your wedding ceremony. In contrast to 消去、省く means to skip over (this time) rather than delete permanently.






抜く: ぬく: literally, to pluck out. The mouse plucked the thorn out of the elephant’s paw. But can be used in the sense of “Take this data out of a database.”


外す・ はずす:to remove temporarily, without destroying: Take the player out of the starting lineup. Take the door off of its hinges.  Can also mean to miss or dodge.


排除 : はいじょ: remove a blockage – for instance a tree which has fallen across a road, or a troublesome shareholder who is trying to stop a company’s plan to close a factory.

除外:じょがい: to eliminate a team from a tournament.





judge someone


偏見・へんけん: a really strong, intentional prejudice. Not only do I not like your kind, but I know a lot of stereotypes about you.



判断・はんだん: to judge someone casually, like as you walk down the street and see a raver and think, “Stupid raver!” If you want to say, “I hate it when people judge me!” you’d use 判断 and not 偏見。



先入観:せんにゅかん: a preconception. As opposed to the strong, intentional prejudice of 偏見、 先入観 is a weak, ignorance-based prejudice.



判決:はんけつ: the official decision of a judge at a trial.


裁く・さばく: combines the meanings of ‘judge legally’ and ‘punish’ or ‘mete out justice to’. You wouldn’t use this about judging a pie-eating contest, but about a war-crimes tribunal or a lawsuit.




審査・しんさ:This is the one you’d use about a pie-eating contest. “The judges on American Idol.” As opposed to Supreme Court judges. 審査 can also be used for any exam, like when you get your car smogged, or when the meat inspector comes to your butcher shop.








tie up


結ぶ :むすぶ: To tie a knot in a string, shoelace, strap, etc.TTT


縛る :しばる: To bind a string AROUND something – to shackle a prisoner, to tie up a masochist, to put one’s hair in a pony tail. TTT SITU


束縛:そくばく: to be tied up (figuratively) : by a controlling, jealous lover. Or by overtime work.PPP


括る:くくる: literally, it means tie up, but in practice, it’s used only in the jukugo SITU

締めくくる,  which means, “to conclude, to wind up.”






Sequences, ranking

第 – ranking by sequence. For example, 第二巻 means “second book in the series.”  Also, 第 二 can refer to the #2 person in an organization.


位 : ranking by preference: like in a race, the silver medal – the #2 spot, is 2位. Unlike 第一,第二,位 is a temporary ranking, and implies a judgment of performance.


成績:せいせき: ranking of results (i.e., the results of a test, a competition, or when a hostess bar posts the framed pictures of their #1,2,and 3 earners outside the club on the marquee).


序列:じょれつ:One’s ranking in the pecking order. More limited than 位。 序列 is limited to, say, organization hierarchy or social stratification.


成績 : one’s marks in school.









怖い:こわい: the usual word for scary



すさ*まじい : scary because of its extraordinary magnitude: usually used with natural disasters: a huge typhoon, a giant tsunami, a fierce storm. Emphasizes  the degree – almost beyond measuring.



おっかない: same as こわい – but a tad more childish.PPP


恐ろしい : おそろしい: Horrible, terrifying. Like すさまじい、 恐ろしい emphaizes the extent or force of something, rather than its appearance or fangs or whatever. He drove the car at a terrifying, terribly fast speed.  You’ll shudder when you learn the awful truth about the president!


Wait, here’s a better distinction: Use 怖い or おっかない about scary things you saw with your own eyes, but USE 恐ろしい OR すさまじい ABOUT THINGS YOU READ ABOUT / HEARD ABOUT.








通る : とおる:  to go past. (as opposed to go across) Used when giving directions: ‘Go past the 7-11 and then turn right’ Use this one for tunnels!

$$$ PPP


通り過ぎる:とおりすぎる : to go too far, to go past your destination.


通す: とお*す: I walk past the kennel


渡る わたる  – $$$ – to cross, to go across. (a bridge, a dangerous river, a big intersection) but not mountain! that’s 超える (to go over)! $$$


過ぎる すぎる – to go past something. ‘カナガワも過ぎた?’ (did we go past kanagawa already? on the train) but unlike 通る, 過ぎる can be used with time. 過ぎる also has a much more broad meaning: to go to far FIGURATIVELY – take a joke too far.


横切る・よこぎる; pass through. Usually used like this : to cross the street. to traverse the mountains.


乗り越える : to overcome a problem (usually inside yourself – such as a spiritual crisis, a lack of self-confidence, writers’ block, or a ‘slump.’)PPP


克服 こくふく: overcome an external problem (hostage situation, tax hikes, snitch talking to the police) is solved or taken care of. $$$ PPP


越える こえる – physically pass , go over. . . . the mountain. from California, go past Oregon to get to Washington state.


超える こえる:  surpass, ( a record) (a competitor)







Spread, pervade, permeate, infiltrate:


浸透:しんとう: usually negative –  atheistic ideology is spreading in the youth. Communists are infiltrating all our shit. Can also be used in science, though: the solution permeates the membrane.


蔓延:まんえん:not so useful. Only used about the spread of diseases or harmful pests like kudzu.







Hustle and bustle

にぎやか:a place which is lively and full of people. Positive meaning.



大騒ぎ:おおさわぎ: literally, “big commotion,” but it emphasizes the hustle-and-bustle of activity, many people running here and there doing work or errands, like a hive of busy bees. This has a good meaning, in contrast to, say 喧騒 or 騒音.


喧騒:けんそう: a more literary word  for the noise and – more importantly – the enervating, Babel-like atmosphere- of the big city. Written rather than spoken.


やかましい : noisy person OR place. Usually used by itself as a swear. When you are stuck in a really noisy place, or need  a retort to someone who won’t shut up!

PPP SIT , oneword






騒音:そうおん: usually used like this: 都市の騒音 (the din of the big city). 騒音 does not refer to specific noises, but the general teeth-grinding day-in-and-day-out sonic stress from 1,000 sources: street construction, honking horns, loudspeaker announcements, shopkeepers yelling at passers-by, screeching trains, etc.



雑音:ざつおん: most Westerners use this when they should be using 騒音。 雑音 is only used in science: signal-to-noise ratio. The surface noise of an old vinyl record. Static noise on the radio. Noise in the narrow sense of something that interferes with a specific signal.


If you want to say “What the hell is that noise?!?” you simply use 音!








前進:ぜんしん: only used about troops, or an ‘army’ of salesmen awaiting the order to march out and go door-to-door selling religious cult magazines.

進む:すすむ: proceed







On the other hand,

その反面、xxx : on the other hand, xxx


他方で yyy : ちほうで:

These two expression are typically used as a set – the same way the English expressions “On the one hand / on the other hand”  are used: On the one hand, I’d like to assassinate Phil Collins, but on the other hand, I don’t want to get blood on me.









たえず: a written, literary (not spoken) word – and a negative one at that. More like ‘unceasing’. Her ceaseless whining. The endless dripping of the leaky faucet.


のべつ: never used


いつでも:anytime at all! (basically いつも with emphasis)

始終:しじゅう: A formal word. Meaning ‘the entire duration of something, from the beginning to the end’)







必ず – at all costs!!!!!

いつも – always$$$

常に – usually/always


だいぶ – pretty much

頻繁 :ひんぱん: a lot (talk on the phone; check your email). Here’s the unique nuance: Every xxx minutes, you feel a need to do it.


時折・ときどき: sometimes.$$$

たびたび: sometimes.








尊敬:そんけい:Of course you’ll usually see this in the context of 尊敬語 (formal Japanese). But it can also mean to respect someone. But you wouldn’t use 尊敬する about a friend, even if you really like them. You’d use 尊敬する about famous people: Gandhi, Stalin, or whoever. Marie Curie.


拝む:おがむ: Literally, to bend your knees in prayer. Sometimes used to mean:  pay respects: to a dead person. Pray at their grave. But usually it means, to bend down and pray to a religious idol or graven image.  拝む also means “to contemplate”, like a stalker his idol of choice, his face like he’s looking at God himself

崇拝:すうはい:religious worship: basically the same as 拝む、 but without the dead person/ stalker options. (sorry!).



憧れ:あこがれ: my dictionary says this means “long for” or “have a teenybopper-like fixation on,” but my friend says this is the closest thing to the English phrase: “I really look up to so-and-so.”

To be safe, though, you can say, so-and-so is スゴイいい人!








優勢・ゆうせい: to be superior or dominant.



優秀な ゆうしゅうな:this is less belligerent than 優勢。 優秀 just means, ‘excellent,’ ‘one of the best’, ‘top of her class’, as opposed to ‘beat or dominated so-and-so for the title.’



秀でる: ひいでる: not useful.







締める : しめる: to tighten, close or fasten (a strap, latch, seat-belt)



絞る :しぼる: to strangle (one of your victims) or wring out (a wet towel)



絞める:the other しめる: choke or strangle – as in kill. Not often used as the other strangle (絞る)。









順序:じゅんじょ: the sequence of steps in a procedure.- the order of books arranged by a certain system, (i.e. Dewey Decimal).


順番 : じゅんばん:order of people in a line (take a number!) – order of bands on a live show.$$$

序列:じょれつ:One’s ranking in the pecking order. More limited than 順番。 序列 is limited to, say, organization hierarchy or social stratification.









補う:おぎなう: to supplement – like 補充, but the nuance is that you are filling a vacancy. For instance, nutritional supplement. Substitute teacher. Assist in the completion of something (I helped write the speech). To make up for (i.e. Mitsubishi bank loaned money to Toyota to make up for their shortfall =みつびし銀行はトヨタの赤字補いました。)

$$$ TTT


補強 is to reinforce


補充する:ほじゅうする: to supplement, (a shortfall or deficit) or replenish (fluids, vitamins to replenish strength, restock the store-room) it’s like 補う, but the nuance is that you are restocking a supply of something which has dwindled.



補遺:ほい: unlike 補充 or 補う、 補遺 is used when you have given someone all they asked for, and you supplement that with a little extra something, just to be nice. A Sunday newspaper (remember those?) with the 24-page color supplement. A museum ticket that comes with a supplementary pamphlet explaining about the exhibits. Close to the word おまけ: a freebie.






Precise,  strict,


几帳面な・きちょうめんな: a meticulous person, someone who keeps all their pencils lined up parallel. Usually has a good meaning. If you want to put someone down for being anal retentive you say 几帳面すぎる

$$$ PPP.


厳密・げんみつ: strict or rigid. Not used to describe people. A strict examination. Rigid standards of ethical conduct. Rigorous testing.



厳格:げんかく: a person who is very strict and tight-assed, a real puritan. Can also describe systems: Saudi Arabia is a strict Muslim country. She’s a strict vegetarian . . .kind of like 厳しい but used outside of school, and generally relating to someone who is a tight-ass jerk BECAUSE they adhere to some extreme moral code.



正確:せいかく: precise. Used about machines.



正確:せいかく: $$$ : accurate

精巧: せいこう: is precise as usually used for fine machinery (like the brand name Seiko)

How is this different from 正確 ???

厳重 :げんじゅう: strict or severe – but unlike 厳しい, 厳重 refers to a one-time event or situation: they had strict security in Tokyo for Obama’s visit. The boss gave the fuckup a severe warning.



きちんと : a more conversational version of 明確に.

明確に:めいかくに:  Usually used in orders or commands: do it precisely! Do it neatly, with attention to detail! In fact, 明確に and きちんと are more like ちゃんと than 正確。  If you tell your student, 文字をきちんと書いてください、you mean, ‘Write the letters neatly and don’t make any mistakes in your stroke order.” If you tell them, 文書を明確に書いてください! You mean, “Write your answers in complete sentences, and don’t make any grammar mistakes.”








墓地 ぼち: $$$ : regular word for graveyard.

霊園:れいえん: means the same as 墓地、but more of a written word or a proper-noun word.  You’ll never find a graveyard named Bill’s 墓地。 But almost all graveyards are named so-and-so’s霊園。


墓場・はかば: only used by morticians and insurance salesmen.






To set off, trigger:

触発:しょくはつ:to trigger a controversy, war, or to catalyze a chemical reaction. Not necessarily intentional.

しげき: to intentionally provoke someone or something. Not always bad  – you can stimulate a baby by tickling it, or stimulate a patient with electrodes.


しょうらい: a very literary word which you don’t have to worry about.


引き金 is literally a trigger, but I’ve seen it used as a metaphor too





誘惑:ゆうわく;$$$; usually means to seduce (can also be used as an adjective: 誘惑な=seductive),but also means tempt someone to join a bad group of people: gang, cult, etc.

そそのかす: to tempt someone to do a bad thing, even if it’s not in a group.





Convert or do about-face

転換:てんかん:usually used about machines or organizations, close to the English ‘conversion.’ All TVs in Japan will convert to digital in February. This devices converts ac current to dc. Also used about sex changes! Russia converted to capitalism.$$$

転向:てんこう: More used about personal things, changes in one’s lifestyle or politics. Often used about young people when they cut their hair and put on a suit., but could also apply to a dude with a mid-life crisis who drops out and lives on a house-boat.








ムチャクチャ: usually used about money:  outrageous fees or bills.$$$

怪しからん:けしからん: used only by really old people, who are disgusted by the ways of today’s youth. Like a really really strong and corrosive version of だらしくない!If you’re under 80, don’t use this or else you’ll sound like a total ass.


無茶:むちゃ: Someone who acts outrageously because they are not thinking of the consequences. Unlike the other words, it has a strong nuance of impulsive.


ばかげてる: Close to むちゃ、 but ばかげてる has the nuance of ‘silly’ or ‘absurd’ rather than ‘impulsive.’ You can use both 無茶 and バカげてる about celebrity scandals, but you’d only use バカげてる about a performance artist with five marmots glued to his nipples. Absurd!



みっともない:  (literally, “something that is difficult to look at “ or “I don’t want to see that!”) . . . see だらしない

だらしない: shame on you! (sounds like older person or parent scolding the kids of today). だらしない is stronger and more rude than みっともない。 They usually apply to kids’ appearance (floppy haircuts, walking on the heels of your sneakers, pants too baggy, etc), but it can also be used about slobby or undignified behavior: eating food while walking, etc. Ironically, if you see a parent that is letting their kid yell in a movie theater / have a tantrum in a shopping mall, and the parent is just ignoring the kid, you can call  the PARENT  みっともない。








独特:どくとく:unique: use this about a person, or an artwork.

特殊:とくしゅ: unique – use this about an invention or object. (it’s closer to 特別)

斬新:ざんしん: innovative, original, cutting-edge. Use this about products or IDEAS. Does not have to be the only one of its kind in the world. 斬新 emphasizes the newness of the product or idea.







To be in charge of: to have responsibility for:


受け持つ:うけもつ; these are basically the same! Sorry!






Put down

が 下がる:さがる:something is lowered: a price, an elevator. (intransitive)

を 下ろす:おろす:I lower something (transitive)






軟弱 : なんじゃく: use this only about people. Someone who is mentally or physically feeble.


よわい: $$$: the most broad word for weak. Use this about anything.

か細い:かぼそい: A very specialized word which is usually used in only two cases: Use this about someone who looks starving, or a voice that is little more than a croak. In either case, the feeling is that I’m surprised you’re even able to walk / talk at all, and could collapse at any moment.


衰弱:すいじゃく:usually used about people who are sick and cannot take care of themselves – can’t eat their own food, etc.


枯れる:かれる: wither – used about plants only. Generally.

衰 : おとろえる: to wither, wilt, deteriorate. Use about plants, animals, or people. PPP

If you want to talk about a relationship deteriorating, you have to use this one:

悪化する:あっかする:to grow worse.


廃れる:すたれる: decline – used about the popularity of trends or celebrities.

But it’s not as bad as 滅びる, which is like, the empire has been totally destroyed and sacked by barbarians. If something is 廃れる、 there’s still a  certain amount of fans of it.








いきなり: more informal than 突然 or 急に。 いきなり could be used, say, to describe someone who proposed marriage 3 hours after he met you. Or a dog jumping out in front of your car.



突然:とつぜん: basically the same as 急に


You can use both 突然 and 急に to describe a sudden downpour of rain, an invitation on short notice (‘It’s kind of sudden, but do you want to go to a movie later today?’) or an out-of-the-blue email.



ふいに: abruptly – only used about mental processes. Abruptly realize something, or (more usually), to suddenly think of someone you haven’t thought of in a while. To abruptly wonder how your parents are doing.







順番:じゅんばん: this is closer to the English word ‘rotation’. Used when more than two people or things are deployed in a sequence: batters in a baseball game, for instance. Kids lining up to use a slide. If you’re catering a banquet and have to put down placemats in order of: red, green, blue, pink, repeat, that’s also 順番。 But 順番 is only used when the sequence keeps repeating over and over. If people are lined up for, say, Space Mountain, but they only ride it once and then go their separate ways, that’s just a 列, a line.$$$

出番:でばん: turn. Now it’s my turn! But it’s also commonly used in the sense of ‘chance.’ Like if the company is going to go bankrupt and only the humble janitor can save them, he’s like “Now it’s my turn to shine!” and then they make him CEO, or something. So it’s not limited to structured settings where you’re taking a number.



互い違い:たがいちがい: alternating. Used about objects. The alternating black-and-white tiles of the traditional chess board.


交互に:こうごに: alternating – used about humans. We take turns moving our chess pieces.








後ろめたい :うしろめたい : look back on and regret, now that you are older and wiser


省みる :かえりみる : consider the consequences of some thing you ‘re about to do. Also to look back on – literally or figuratively. good or bad . To reminisce.


後悔 ;こうかい: regular regret. Unlike 後ろめたい and 省みる、こうかい can be used about  something you did a second ago.



反省;はんせい; This is only used about the recent past. It means looking at what you just did and seeing how you could improve. You can use this even if you didn’t make a bad mistake. Like you got 80% on a test but next time you want to get 90%.



If you want to talk about taking stock of your life, reflecting on your present situation, without specifically regretting mistakes, you have to use this one:

振り返る:ふりかえる: to take stock of your life.






corruption, bribery:


堕落・だらく: corrupt in one’s personal life – not usually political corruption. Drugs, lies, trife behavior.


汚職・おしょく: Political corruptions – graft, kickbacks, sweetheart deals, bribery, cronyism, etc.



賄賂:わいろ: bribery


横領:おうりょう: embezzlement



使い込む: embezzlement.  横領 and 使い込む mean the same thing, and are both used in casual conversation, but only 横領 is used in newspapers or at legal trials.







硬くなる: a kind of scientific word: coal hardens into diamonds. Water turns into ice.  Hardening of the arteries. Also used with food: whip the egg whites until they’re firm.


固める:かためる:Unlike 硬くなる、 固める is intentional: you purposely congeal something. (clay, paint, ) OTHER MEANING: to harden or fortify one’s defenses (or strengthen the unity of factions within the party).

$$$ TTT


硬直する:こうちょくする: rigid – but not like a boner. Usually used about people who tense up under fear or surprise, so tense they can’t move. Less commonly, it can mean a rigid class system resistant to change. Like rigor mortis. Other meaning: to sit bolt upright, soldiers rigidly standing at attention.


硬化:こうか:  this is pretty rare, and almost always used only in science. However, sometimes you will see the phrase 態度が硬化, meaning someone’s attitude becomes more strict or hard-assed, or the cops do a crackdown.






Mystery / mysterious, weird

謎 / なぞ : a mystery! A puzzle. Like you’d see this in the title of detective novels. The Mystery Of The Mummy’s Curse!!!

不思議 : ふしぎ : weird. Very broad – not limited to scary or supernatural situations. Can be used about a person, or a situation, or even a flavor. Something about this soup tastes weird!


ふかかい: a written, as opposed to spoken, word:  incomprehensible, something you can’t figure out.







Helpful, convenient

役に立つ・やくにたつ: helpful.  Used about objects, but also about people who try to help. As in,  Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.


便利 :べんり: convenient. Usually used about an object but also about a route: If you want to get to Sacramento, the bus is more convenient than the monorail.



都合がいい: Unlike the other two, 都合がいい is only used about situations: Whenever it’s convenient for you. Usually used when you’re trying to make plans with busy people.








気絶する:きぜつする: to faint due to shock or surprise, as when I tell you that you have a long-lost identical twin in North Korea.



卒倒:そっとう: to lose consciousness: in a car crash, or when I kick you.






Poorly made:

しょぼい:kind of like ださい. But ださい means something which is uncool or out of fashion, whereas しょぼい kind of means a very cheap version of something that could have been cool, if the buyer had had the money to buy the “real” one.

チャチな: an ‘80s term for ださい, which is itself now ださい。







Self aware, self conscious.

意識 :いしき; Consciousness, as in “I lost consciousness,” but also as in, “She’s environmentally conscious.” or “I hate those socially-conscious rock stars like Bono. Bono should perish.”  If you want to talk about a magic lamp or magic shoe-horn that is alive and has intelligence, use 意識。

てれる: self-conscious in the awkward teenage sense.

自覚:じかくする:a more philosophical word than 意識。 自覚 is more like self-aware or enlightened.  Or if you say 自覚的 it means subjective (as opposed to objective).



It seems like you can use both 意識 and  自覚 in the negative, to mean “did xxx without thinking”.








元 :もと: you can use this about an ex-lover or and ex-prime minister.- anything where there is a possibility that they could one day again be a lover or prime minister.


旧:きゅう: like 元 but there is no possibility of returning to their former state: the former Soviet Union. The older generations. The old version of software.

従来の: じゅうらい: this is used about things or behaviors only. It means, “As it was done in the past.” “The old or traditional ways.”






solitude / alienation


疎外感 : そがいかん: $$$ : alienation from society.

孤独 こどく: solitude. Can be good (Superman’s fortress) or bad (The Shining).

疎遠 :そえん: to be estranged from someone (your ex) or someplace (your hometown).










道路:どうろ: any road big enough for a dinky car.


通り ;とおり: big-ass road. Avenue.


街道;かいどう; highway, or main road.


道:みち:$$$: the most broad, most common word for road.  But unless you specifically say 大きい道 or デカイ道、 people will tend to picture a small, 2-lane road.








議論:ぎろん: a regular argument – “That movie was rad!” “No, it sucked!” Or when Fox news and MSNBC argue.$$$


論争:ろんそう; an ongoing intellectual war that can last years – for instance the debate between String Theory and the Standard Model. Or between Creationism and Reality.


討論:とうろん:  less antagonistic than the other two. Also, 討論 involves more than two sides. It’s more like a round-table debate.






All the more / furthermore.

一層: いっそう:all the more. As in, ‘He ignores me and it just makes me love him all the more.’


尚更: なおさら: furthermore.







枠:わく: literally, a frame. Window frame. Door frame. Figuratively, a limit to your actions. Color inside the lines. Think of a solution within these parameters. 枠の中で考えてください。

限界:げんかい;$$$: limit. The sky’s the limit. Superman has unlimited power.

制限:せいげん: Restrictions  – like limits on trade or imports. Rules and regulations designed to restrict something without outright prohibiting it.








Tell the difference / discriminate

区別:くべつ: to tell the difference between two similar things. If you want to tell your Japanese friend, “I can never tell the difference between the synonyms X and Y,” then you’d use 区別出来ない!


差別 :さべつ: In theory this means the same as 区別、 but in practice it’s almost always used to mean ‘discriminate’ – as in bigotry. The only exception is the phrase 差別化、 which is corporate-speak for “make our products stand out from the competition.”







Speaking hypothetically

Usually if you want to speak hypothetically, you’ll simply use the –ba form. Like this: もしxxxxだったら、yyyy。 But there are some other, more formal ways to speak hypothetically, so here they are:


例える:たとえる: hypothetically speaking, … For example: 泥棒の話に例えてみれば、(say, hypothetically, if you were a robber. . . .)Hypothetically, if I had a friend, and if this , er, hypothetical friend happened to, say, have sex with your sister, how would you feel about this? Also, sometimes 例える has a second meaning: to liken something to something else. For example: He likened the unpopular president to a lame duck. 彼が首相のことをしにかかったアヒルに例えていた。


想像:そうぞうする: Imagine if. . . . (蛸だと想像してください) (Imagine for a second that you’re an octopus, OK? Now,  what if. . . .) or, ‘Imagine if you won the lottery.’ Basically the same as 例える、 but the emphasis is on imaginative play rather than philosophy or moral ‘thought experiments’.


仮に :かりに: the same as 例える、 minus the ‘liken to’ angle.$$$






Dominate / have supremacy over

至上 しじょう: being supreme, in the sense of #1 at something. #1 wrestler. #1 hot-dog eater. Also this is the word you use if you want to say white supremacist (白人 至上主義). Can also be used as an adjective, to mean supreme as in the  maximum of something. For example, the supreme happiness is 至上の喜び。Money makes you happy but only Jesus gives supreme happiness!!! And so on.


覇権 はけん : usually used about totalitarian governments. The other words in this cluster are often bad, but 覇権 is ALWAYS bad. Literally it translates to: a monopoly on power or rights. That should give you some idea.  Absolute dominance. No other political parties or rivals allowed.  It’s not limited to politics – any hegemony will do.



制覇 せいは:  also a political word, but not as judgmental as 覇権。 制覇 means to control something – an ocean, a bit of land. Usually used in history books: After the battle of 1645, Japan wrested control of the Japan Sea from Russia. Or – perhaps more usefully – about video game controls!


独占的:どくせんてき:$$$: usually translated as monopoly, but that’s too strong: monopoly means no one else is allowed to make the product. 独占 is more like coke, Pepsi, Microsoft: a company that dominates the marketplace.






At least

最小:さいしょう: a minimum amount of something: daily minimum of calcium in your diet. This factory strives to operate with a minimum of toxic waste. This is more scientific and less moral than すくなくとも or 最低



すくなくとも:$$$; at least xxx : more used about actions than amounts of things, and often with a ‘you should’ feeling:  You should (study at least 4 minutes every day) (go on at least 3 job interviews a week) , etc.

最低:さいてい: basically the same as すくなくとも.

せめて: kind of different from the rest. せめて has no English equivalent. It kind of means ‘at least’ in the metaphorical sense: “He got dumped by the model, and lost his job at UPS, but at least he has more free time now.” “If you’re going to bring over all your ex-con friends to the party, at least you could warn me ahead of time.”









合わせる:あわせる: $$$:  to join together physical things (jigsaw puzzle pieces), or connect things (bands tuning up is called 音合わせ), or introduce two people.

力を合わせる: use this for different social groups uniting for change.


併せる:あわせる: much more specific and useless than the other あわせ (合わせ): 併せ is only used to mean “treat these two issues as one larger issue” or “handle both these matters as one item on the agenda.” You know what? Why don’t you forget about this one altogether.


結束:けっそく: Social unity : voting, marching , agitating for repeal of a law, etc. Unite and fight the Man! The Thai community is very close-knit in this town. Etc. Basically the noun form of 力を合わせる。







不公平:ふこうへい: $$$: unfair

不当に:ふとうに: like 不公平, but more formal and forceful. Also has the nuance of ‘unreasonable.’ Often used by opposing sides in labor disputes or lawsuits.





cunning, crafty

悪知恵:わるぢえ:  cunning or crafty (noun)

悪賢い:わるがしこい: the adjective form of わるぢえ.








闘志:とうし; fightin’ spirit, pluck, moxie, NUTZ.

根性:こんじょう : a much more specific term than 闘志。 こんじょう means “to push yourself to the physical and mental limits of endurance.” It’s usually used during training – for the army, sports, martial arts, etc. Also used when you burn your arms with cigarettes to show people how tough you are.

こんじょうがない! (I give up! I can’t take the training any more!)



意地:いじ: This is difficult because there IS no English equivalent. 意地 is less positive, less flattering than 勇気 or 根性。 意地 is more like, determination WHICH COMES FROM SELFISH PRIDE. Like she wants to win the gold medal – but not for the glory of Japan, but only to compensate for her own humiliating defeat last year.  However selfish the motivation, though, 意地 does have some positive effects: someone who won’t back down, who stays the course.



勇気:ゆうき: $$$: brave

度胸:どきょうがある: same as ゆうき。

けなげ: a much more specific, narrow word: someone who is bravely trying to do something that is beyond their capabilities. Like a small child who goes door to door to collect money for his only surviving relative – his grandmother – who is ill.




Cheer up

勇気付ける: ゆうきづける: to encourage someone. Basically the same as in English – although 勇気付ける does NOT have the nuance of “pressure” that “encourage” has. Like, if a father “encourages” his son to become a lawyer instead of a jockey, you wouldn’t use 勇気付ける。

励ます :はげます: $$$:  to cheer someone up.

元気を出させる・げんきをださせる: literally, ‘to make good cheer come out of someone.’  Basically the same as 励ます、 but if you’re cheering up someone who is listless (physically or mentally), who doesn’t want to leave the house or do anything, you’d be more likely to use 元気を出させる。

慰める:なぐさめる: to console someone – not used so much about people who are depressed or hate life in general, more about someone who lost a game or a contest.





concept / phenomenon

がいねん : concept TTT

現象 : げんしょう: phenomenon.TTT SITU






carry out, accomplish



Both of these can be used about large projects (government builds a giant dam, corporation makes a new car) or small projects (building a shed in the backyard). The difference, is 遂行 is a project that is in progress, while 成し遂げる is a project which is completed or fully realized.


貫く:つらぬく: to do something until the very end, to never give up on it. I’ll be a rockabilly grandpa until the day I die!



お世話ーおせわ –to take care of someone. This is usually used in formal speech – in which case it doesn’t have any meaning, it’s just polite. Like if you were running a shoe store and called Company X to order more shoes, you’d phone ‘em up and say, “いつもお世話になっております!“ (lit. ‘Thanks for always taking care of us / always helping us out.’).  However, お世話 can also be used literally: taking care of a sick person.$$$


面倒みる:めんどうみる: take care of someone, sort of like 世話 but more casual (never formal!): baby-sitting, for instance, or giving someone career advice.







しつこい・ persistent, nagging. A person who accosts you in front of the train station and pesters you to join their cult or come to their stripper club. It’s like, “Who are you and why are you talking to me?” Unlike 執着、 しつこい is not limited to people: you can have a nagging injury or be irritated by endless pop-up ads.

執着:しゅうちゃく; obsessive, anal-retentive, Linus and his security blanket. Someone who can’t go 4 minutes without biting their nails. Someone who is a borderline stalker. Unlike しつこい, someone who is 執着 is concerned with something they already have, and won’t give up, rather than something they want. Also, 執着 behavior goes on for weeks and months, whereas a しつこい usually applies to a single incident.






correspond to

一致: いっち: to have the same idea.  To be in keeping with. Used about ideas or attitudes. “His attitude towards immigration corresponds to my own.”  Can be used about numbers  – but only in the sense of agreement: “We both conducted the same experiment and our data agree.”

該当:がいとう: $$$ : to correspond to.  This is the one to use if you want to say, “Which Japanese word corresponds to the English word ‘dingleberry?’”  Or if you’re explaining a graph, and you want to say, “The vertical axis represents time, and the horizontal axis represents profit.” You’d use 該当.

当たる: あたる: basically the same as 該当、 but 当たる also has a LOT of other meanings, whereas 該当 is more specific.

適応:てきおう: usually means ‘adapt to’, but sometimes it means ‘apply to’, as in, ‘This restriction applies to children, but not to adults.’

~意味する: ~いみする: to stand for or symbolize something. “The ‘E’ in ‘E=MC2’ stands for ‘energy.’








Absolutely, definitely do this thing:

是非 :ぜひ: this is used by the person ASKING for a favor, or by the person GIVING an order. “Please do it at all costs!”

絶対  :ぜったい: used by the person who is DOING the favor. “I’ll definitely do it!”


However, these two expressions are not a set. That is to say, it’s not like ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ If someone hits you with a 是非, you don’t have to respond with a 絶対 of your own.






pay compensation money:

弁償する: べんさいする: $$$: any kind of compensation.

慰謝料:いしゃりょう: like 弁済, but only used for emotional pain and suffering. Consolation money.








成る:なる;$$$: the usual word for become


化すー か*す : like 成る but only used in bad situations. More like the English, ‘reduced to.’: “This marriage has become a battlefield.” “This neighborhood has been reduced to a ghetto.” “My dream job turned into a nightmare.’








systematic, methodical


系統 : けいとう: a system or process that acts like a chain: a supply chain of an army; the chain of events that leads fuel from the fuel tank to the pistons, or a person’s lineage.


体系てきに :たいけいてきに:doing something systematically – going point by point. For instance, learning medicine organ-by-organ, or getting revenge on your ex by going to all your mutual friends one by one and trashing your ex.

慎重に考える: しんちょうにかんがえる: someone who is very slow and careful but thorough in their working style.

思料深い:しりょうぶかい: someone who is prudent, thoughtful, sensible, who exercises discretion.

数量化:すうりょうか: to quantify. To turn everything into a number, so as to put it into your system. Like in RPGs where things like strength, intelligence, and life, etc. are turned into numbers.








余計なお世話だよ! よけいなおせわだよ!: mind your own damn business!!



干渉 : かんしょう: to interfere. Less angry than 余計なお世話だよ! For instance, 干渉 also applies to science, like radio interference or electrical interference.  Also, 干渉 has the nuance of ‘get mixed up in’. A parent could tell their child, “Don’t get mixed up in a fight your friend is having with your other friend. Let them handle it themselves.”






Hold or host

催す・:もよおす: to host a small event – a party, for instance. Unlike 主催、 催す has the idea that you’re responsible for what happens, rather than just giving money to the event.

主催・しゅさい: to sponsor a large event. “This golf tournament is brought to you by Penzoil.”

開催 :かいさい:to open a huge event. The opening ceremonies. “Is that expo open yet?”







運:うん: luck – unlike the others, 運 can be bad OR good


幸:さいわい: fortunately (they said our baseball game was going to be rained out, but fortunately it was sunny that day).


幸運・こううん: a lucky son-of-a-bitch. This is the only one you use about people. If you won the lottery AND got married to a guy with five penises, that’s こううん。


幸福 :こうふく: happiness – generally also means you’re so happy you want everyone around you to have a great day too. Good-will. Amity!!!!






拉致・ らち:kidnap for ransom..

誘拐 : ゆうかい: Similar to 拉致、 but it has the 誘 kanji  (from 誘惑- to tempt). So 誘拐 is more like a guy in a van with candy who uses guile and deception to lure the victim, and 拉致 is more like North Korean spies use guns to roust you from your bed in the dead of night and kidnap you.


軟禁:なんきん: take someone prisoner and keep them in your basement. Not done for ransom. Used about psychos usually.





Show / indicate

見せる:みせる: to show something of yours to someone. Can be used literally (‘I showed him my ashtray’) or figuratively (‘His decision to jump in front of the assassin’s bullet shows his loyalty.’)

示す:しめす:basically the same as 見せる, but with two important distinctions: 見せる is something you want to show to someone else, even if they don’t particularly want to see it.  But 示す is something that people ask you to show them, and you are doing it because you have to: to show your dedication, or demonstrate your mastery of a subject. Also, 示す has the nuance of an explanation. 見せる is more like, “OK, you saw my ashtray. My work is done here.”







tone of voice

調子・ちょうし: 90% of the time, 調子 means ‘condition’ (I’m in bad shape today! Business is in good shape!), but sometimes it is used about one’s tone of voice, so I include it here. In that case, it means the timbre : high or low, healthy or raggedy. Also means pitch, as in, you’re singing flat!

口調 :くちょう:  closer to 態度 (attitude):don’t take that tone of voice with me, young lady!!!

喋り方:しゃべりかた:literally, way of speaking: macho, girlish, strict, street, etc. She’s 40 but still talks baby-talk like a little girl. Uncomfortable.







さいぶ 細部 :さいぶ  : a detail of a 3-dimensional thing: a machine part or body part.

詳細 : しょうさい : the details – used when explaining. This is the one Windows uses when it gives you an error message: To see the details of the problem, click here.


細かい:こまかい: details of a flat, 2-dimensional pattern. Also this is the expression you use when you say, ‘Don’t sweat the details.’








愚痴:ぐち:to grumble or mutter a complaint, quietly, over and over .


文句・もんく;$$$:  to complain. Often but not always has a childish feeling about it. You’d complain there’s too much fruit in your cake, but you wouldn’t use 文句 about human rights in Somalia.

クレイム: to complain to the management of a store. Usually クレイム is something like, “I bought these socks but there was a centipede inside them! I want a refund!” or “The portions of cheesecake are too small! What happened to the portions?!?”


苦情・くじょう:to complain in a business setting. More polite than クレイム。 For example, if you complain to your friend that your ipod is broken, that’s 文句, but if you go to the ipod store and politely ask them to fix it, that’s 苦情。 If you threaten to sue and call the manager a slag-bag, that’s クレイム。







Get tired of / get sick of something

飽きる:あきる: to get tired of something you used to like: I’m bored of this video game, let’s try another one.

うんざり: (angrier than 飽きる): to get fed up with something you never liked in the first place: paperwork, being scolded. You can say this to someone’s face if they’re bothering you.


へきえき:(the rudest) utterly fed up! Unlike うんざり, へきえき is anecdotal: you wouldn’t say it to the person’s face, but you’d say it to your friend while telling the story later. Also you only use うんざり and へきえき about things or situations that you can’t quit – where you have to do it or you have to deal with that person.








隙間:すきま:a crack between two different objects. Between the cabinet and the wall. Between two planks in a log cabin.

裂け目:さけめ:a crack inside of an object: a cracked brick or a rift in a glacier. Your butt. Also, typically すきま is used of 2-dimensional objects, while さけめ is used about 3-dimensional ones.






愛撫:あいぶ: to stroke or caress your partner with the intention of arousing them.

もむ: to grab someone with a full palm-and-fingers-open hand-motion for which there is no exact English equivalent.. Usually used about grabbing boobs but not always sexual. If you grab a little kid’s plump cheeks, that’s also もむ。

まさぐる:to grope blindly inside something looking for something. Usually used about reaching around inside clothes looking for your partner’s naughty bits, but can be used in a non-sexy situation: groping inside your purse feeling for your lighter.


いちゃつく: more childish word. To be all over someone – not in a bad, hentai blind date way, but in a good, first-month-of-dating-make-your-friends-naseous way. To cuddle or do some PDA.







逮捕・たいほ:to arrest someone, to catch a crook.



投獄 :とうごく:to imprison someone (used like in English: about someone who is imprisoned after a fair trial, OR someone who is imprisoned by a crazy warlord).


拘留する:こうりゅうする: not put, but KEEP someone in custody. i.e. what you do after you already arrested them! Or to detain someone prior to formally arresting them. I was detained 3 hours at the airport by Immigration officials.



拘束する:こうそくする;to physically restrain (handcuffs / strait-jacket) to legally restrict (carbon emissions / immigration quotas / freedom of speech)







懐かしい・なつかしい:$$$: nostalgia

郷愁 :きょうしゅう: nostalgia, specifically for your place of birth, your hometown.







デモ: regular word for a demonstration or protest march.

抗議・こうぎ:basically the same as デモ but you can do a 抗議 all by yourself, you don’t need a mob.








売春婦:ばいしゅんふ:a non-vulgar (or at least less vulgar) for a prostitute of any kind.

街娼 :がいしょ: a street-corner hooker, as opposed to outcall or in-the-brothel.

花魁:おいらん: A traditional prostitute from the Edo era.





Get fired

解雇:かいこ: get fired (formal)

失業・しつぎょう: to lose one’s job, to become unemployed. Basically you are 失業 because you  got 解雇。 OK?

首になる: to get fired (informal)






Glamorous, charming

魅力 ;みりょく; $$$: a captivating, charming, glamorous person (not used about movies or artworks)


魅惑 ;みわく; like 魅力 but a little more sinister – someone OR something that is tempting or bewitching, but might lead you to a bad fate if you look too long!









を 怠る :おこたる: neglect to do something you damn well know you should have done.


放置・ほうち: similar to 怠る, but it’s value-neutral. 放置する just means “leave it as it is.”


怠慢:たいまん: usually used in this way: アナタの怠慢だった! “Because of your negligence / laziness, XXX happened!”


なげやり: To do something reluctantly. Emphasizes the attitude of the worker more than the result. See also, 中途半端


中東半端:ちゅうとはんぱ:  I thought meant ‘half assed.’ But apparently 中途半端 means, something done not very well, IRRESPECTIVE OF THE INTENTION OF THE DO-ER. For instance, if the boss tells an eager employee to do some huge task by the end of the day, the worker might be doing her best, but the end result is kind of sloppy.


サボル: to loaf on the job – work slowly. Or to simply not show up to work / school altogether. Seeeee ya.





clumsy, artless


つたない: clumsy or artless – usually used about language. “Please excuse my clumsy Japanese!” Is a very Japanese way to brag about your skills, because presumably only a very advanced speaker would known what つたない even means.


ちせつ: clumsy or artless – usually used about artworks. “Pollock and Picasso suck! Their paintings are all sloppy! ちせつ! My three year old could paint better.”









容姿 – appearance, only used about humans. Unlike 要望、 容姿 tends to emphasize or be used about their clothes.




外見・がいけん: the outward appearance of anything; human or object.



見た目:みため: same as 外見.

外観:がいかん: Pretty much the same as 外見、 but 外観 tends to emphasize a detail of the appearance, whereas 外見 is only used about the overall or general appearance.

容貌:ようぼう: similar to  容姿、 but 容貌 also includes a judgment of the person’s insides or general vibe, not just their clothes. Like, Einstein had crazy hair and stuck his tongue out at the camera, giving him the general vibe of a homeless guy.









憂鬱:ゆうつ: clinical depression. Kind of a doctor word.


落ち込む:おちこむ:depression (lit: fallen into something). This is the one you use about someone who is depressed because of external hardships: lost job, divorce, etc.



気分がしずむ =  temporary depression, not clinical  depression.


きが滅入る: きがめいる: same as 気分が沈む.


陰気:いんき: gloomy – gothic person depressed. The sun is shining and you’re thinking angsty thoughts. Pessimistic.

ふてくされる: sulky like a teenager.


うかない: brooding, lost in deep thoughts.






Pretentious or arrogant

気取りや: きどりや: a poseur or pretentious person: someone who pretends to be someone they’re not.



尊大:そんだい: An arrogant person – used only about people who outrank you. Usually used like this : 尊大な態度


いい気 になってる: someone who thinks she all that (only used by young people)


いばってる: arrogant ( can be used about someone your own rank – like if you’re complaining about your spouse!)


XXX振ってる xxxぶってる:: same as 気取りや: someone who is pretending to be someone that they are not.


自惚れ :うぬぼれ: : (lit: ‘self love’) someone who brags a lot and is a narcissist.


仰々しい :ぎょうぎょうしい : someone who is too formal, pompous, high-falutin’.



横柄な: おうへいな: = arrogant, prone to giving ridiculous orders. You could say that a 尊大 or いばってる person does 横柄 things!







idiom, expression


表現・ひょうげん: a more broad word meaning simply, ‘expression.’ Freedom of expression. What the artist was trying to express with this painting. Etc.

Is this ever used about idioms?


慣用句:かんようく: an idiom. For example, 明日がまちどおし。 (’I can’t wait for tomorrow!’)


格言:かくげん : a proverb

ことわざ: a proverb




方言・ほうげん: a somewhat more informal word for dialect- i.e. all the idioms of a particular region.


xxx弁: xxxべん: dialect.







単に:たんに: merely


ただ: simply



Basically these mean the same thing, but if you want to express strong disappointment, you’d do it like this: 単にxxxにすぎない。 (he/she/it was only an xxx.) (I thought L. Ron Hubbard was a god but he was just a human.)













玄人・くろうと:anyone who is a professional at something – more of an economic word than a compliment.


達人:たつじん: someone who is at the very top of their chosen profession. The kind of talent that only one out of a thousand doctors or professors has.


名人・めいじん: basically the same as 達人、 but you can use 命じん for your friend who knows everything about golf or gundams.









用件・ようけん: errands that one is doing for work, whether done inside or outside the office.

用事 :ようじ: personal errands. Usually not work related.


事務:じむ: only refers to administrative work, office work, performed at the office.








とても: $$$ the normal, broadest, most common word for very.

非常に:ひじょうに・extremely. Usually used about situations, not people or things.

めっちゃ・ a girl teenager’s word for very. Unlike ちょう、 めちゃ is almost always used in a positive way.

超 :ちょう: a teenager’s word for very.





Slowly, gradually

段々・だんだん:gradually, little by little.


少しずつ:すこしずつ: same as だんだん

じょじょ : step by step – improving your skills at Japanese, say, or learning something one technique at a time.

次代に :しだいに:  over the course of time; as time passes. Unlike the others, 次代  is limited to things that are not intentional.  You can use 次代 about nature (as time passed, the hill eroded away) or about yourself (over the course of time my grief of my Mother’s death lessened).

Careful, though: if it has a に  after it like this: 次代に, then it has an entirely different meaning: ‘it depends on’ (more similar to によって).









扱う・あつかう: Treatment – usually applied to people, but originally used for objects, so it ‘s a little rude. Usually used like あつかいがいい or あつかいがわるい. Can mean ‘treatment of others’ but, confusingly, can ALSO mean ‘easy or hard for ME to DEAL WITH HIM/HER.’ For example, 彼は扱いが難しい does NOT mean ‘he treats me difficultly’, it means ‘He’s difficult to deal with.’


取り扱う :とりあつかい: Treatment – but unlike 扱う, 取り扱う is ONLY used for objects or cases. i.e. The police are handling the racial hate-crime very carefully.




仕打ち:しうち: terrible, unfair treatment. As in, “Is this how you repay me?” Or, “I’ll pay you back for this! “






sign, symbol, mark


標識・ひょうしき: ”marked”, as in ‘obey the rules which have been posted on the wall’. ‘follow the marked trail’, ‘Follow the target kitty which has been tagged with a blue collar’


記号・きごう: One of the weird squiggles used in codes. Also a specialty sign – like musical notation or chemical notation. Not a language per se, but a symbol used by a scientist or specialist. Also, an algebraic sign: “Let’s call the diameter of the circle X,” said the Professor, scribbling at the chalkboard. In that case, the X is a きごう。


象徴 :しょうちょう: literary symbol ; “In the novel, the trees symbolize life.” ‘The color red in the painting symbolizes communism.’


印;しるし: $$$ a symbol : a logo, a crucifix, a skull-and-crossbones.


符号・ふごう: basically it’s any kind of visual communication besides voice and ‘regular’ letters – Morse code, binary code, semaphore code. Also it can mean a hieroglyph or ideograph (old Chinese letters that are more like pictures), or a punctuation mark.


暗号 ( あんごう ) : secret spy codes, encryption.









誓う:ちかう: formal vow. Like at a swearing-in ceremony or when you visit a temple to promise / ask God for something.


誓う・ a vow. More strong than 約束. The first time you got caught cheating, you’d make a 約束 to not cheat, But the second time you get caught, you have to誓う!!! Has a feeling of trying to salvage what’s left of your credibility.


約束 :やくそく:$$$ :to make a promise


契り:ちぎり: a noun, never used in verb form (契る). It has the same kanji as contract- a 契り requires two people to pledge something to each other. An engagement.


誓約書 :せいやくしょ: an oath which is recited from a script, and  made at a specific ceremony:, swearing-ins, initiations, etc. Compare this to 誓う, which can be different according to the situation: “I swear I’m not lying!” “It wasn’t me, I swear!”





Guide, lead

導く・みちびく: to lead or guide – in the sense of MORAL guidance, reforming a juvenile delinquent, to lead by example, etc.


誘導 : ゆうどうする: a teacher leads the class on the field trip. the policewoman conducts traffic. To literally lead or conduct. It means literally going together with the people to the place.


案内:あんない: a guide – usually in the form of a map, or an information kiosk. Also if a clerk shows you around a store pointing out things you might want to buy, that ‘s 案内.






険悪:けんあく: 険悪な関係: a dangerous relationship – that is to say, a relationship which has gotten really ugly or bad, verbal abuse, etc. And you’re not sure how much more you can take.


物騒・ぶっそう: dangerous – in the sense of violence. Usually used in one of two ways: Don’t go there, that neighborhood is dangerous. or, it’s a dangerous world nowadays. You wouldn’t say that a mean dog is 物騒.

$$$b SITU



うさんくさい: shady. Like an email from a Nigerian arch-duke or some guy asking you to come to his cult meeting.



気味悪い:きみわるい: creepy – more like 気持ち悪い (きもい) than 怖い. Usually used about animals: Slugs or lizards. Although it is sometimes used about homeless crazy people. Not that I endorse that or think it’s rad. But the “usually animals” thing sets it apart from きもい、which has a much broader meaning.


危ない : the most common word for “dangerous.” Also means “look out,” as in, if you’re on the sidewalk and a bicycle is coming towards you, you’d tell your friend “abunai” rather than the more direct “get out of the way.”


意地汚い:いじきたない: This is an odd one! This is an insult used on someone who is so penny-pinching that they don’t have self-respect. Like if their hot dog falls on the dirt, they’ll pick it up and eat it, rather than buy another. Or if they lick the bowl clean because dammed if they didn’t pay for every molecule of soup. This isn’t stingy in the western sense of short-changing other people, refusing to tip, etc. Usually used like this: 意地汚い人間.







阻害 : そがい: a physical obstacle (a tree in the road) 阻害物 (そがいぶつ)


妨害 : ぼうがい: interference (used with people, not objects like 阻害(そがい))


支障 :ししょう: an obstacle to a plan: “There were so many obstacles we had to overcome to arrange this wedding – finding the right venue, getting affordable silverware, trying to find a band that knew how to play ‘ace of spades,’ etc.”


足手まとい:あしでまとい: a weak link: a person who holds back the team.






carry out /put into effect

実戦: じっせん: put a system of beliefs into practice – usually used with religion, straightedge, or something like that. It means that there is not one thing but a whole bunch of things you do, all according to a central philosophy.


行う:おこなう:- to carry out a task, to execute a command: used about a single person getting orders. (as opposed to related words such as  制定 or 実施 which refer to rules which affect all the people)



設ける:もうける: a somewhat formal word: to found an institution, to start a political party. Also can mean, to organize an event.


制定:せいてい: a law goes into effect.


実施:じっし: a new rule is implemented or enforced: school rules, family rules, or company rules. (as opposed to laws, in which case you’d use 制定 (せいてい)




創立:そうりつ: similar to 設ける、 but 設ける is used with events, while 創立 is only used about founding institutions which have physical buildings: a hospital, a rehab center, a research lab, etc.

成立:せいりつ: to fulfill the terms or a contract or agreement. Closer to 完成 than to 行う。




contest or game


試合・しあい: a game: baseball, checkers, football, chess.


競争・きょうそう: unless a foot-race, not a game. competing within a framework. the best score on the test, the salesman who sold the most this month. business or academic.


競技 :きょうぎ: games IN GENERAL. Like they don’t say ‘Olympic games’, they say ‘Olympic 競技’ . or ‘he really likes games’


争う:あらそう: competition. Unlike the synonym 競争 (きょうそう) ,  争う emphasizes a feeling of battle, a lack of rules, and only 争う can escalate to physical violence.


勝負:しょうぶ: a win or lose situation. Fighting over a girl/boy. Not necessarily the final, decisive battle, the Superbowl. . The game/battle is won or lost on account of ..XXX. $$$


競う:きそう: get the best grade, most sales. competing within a system. 90% overlapping with 競争. Same usage. Fugeddaboutit.


闘う :たたかう: a physical battle. but you can use it for a competition or sports, contest. not part of this set! life is a battle! not necc. with another person. battling with myself over an issue! man vs. nature fight for survival.







布:ぬの:  made from cloth (i.e. cloth bag as opposed to vinyl or leather bag)


衣:ころも: clothes, usually robes. Also, figuratively, to clothe something: the hills were clothed in green plants. The tempura shrimp coated in deep-fried batter.


衣装 : costume


制服 : uniform$$$


服装: style of dress: usually used with an adjective: dressed well, dressed poorly, dressed like a slut.


衣服:いふく:  apparel. Kind of an clothing-industry word.


衣装:いしょう:sometimes translated as ‘costume,’ but that’s wrong! 衣装 is like native garb that one would see at a festival. Or a Lady Gaga show where she did like 6 costume changes in 1 hour. Or at a wedding when the bride has to wear her Japanese costume and then change into her Western costume for the after-party. 衣装 is NOT used about cosplay.







壊す・こわす: to break something, but not necessarily shatter it.$$$


壊れる:こわれる: something doesn’t work anymore: your TV, your PSP, your dishwasher. Call the repair-person!



砕く・くだく: to pulverize. Construction workers smash the sidewalk concrete to dust. The mill turns wheat into flour. Unlike 割る、 砕く tends to take a certain amount of time and repeated smashings.



破壊・はかい: a noun. Destruction. Usually used about bombs, or ‘President Bush destroyed the economy,’. . . pretty much the same circumstances you’d use the English word.



滅ぼす・ほろぼす: to annihilate – usually used about an enemy in wartime, or destroy the earth, or wipe Al Queda out. Not used about a single person usually.



つぶす・ to flatten. Mash potatoes. The bulldozer flattened the kitten.



撲滅 :ぼくめつ; eradicate (a pest or disease) ‘The new task force will eradicate drugs once and for all!’ SITU


破る :やぶる: tear up – a piece of paper. Also when you break a rule or a promise, that’s やぶる。


割る : わる:to shatter, like a mirror. Also, to divide something in two.


割く:さく: to set aside part of a budget, or to allocate some time for a project.

裂く:さく: to pick apart something strand by strand – string cheese, cloth, etc. (why they have a word specifically for this is beyond me) . also, to break people apart, like Romeo and Juliet.






Morals, ethics




倫理学:りんりがく: ethics. Like moral values but founded in logic and philosophy rather than religion. Usually used with new, high-tech situations where the Bible or Koran doesn’t provide any precedent: medical ethics, corporate ethics.


道徳;どうとく:morals in general. When newspapers talk about “moral education in the classroom,” they use this word. $$$


How is りんり different  from 道徳? well, You can talk about MY 倫理, but you can’t say MY 道徳, because 道徳 are assumed to be universal. You can say “That’s not moral” (道徳に反する).


価値観:かちかん;one’s moral values – used with specific things, like drinking, smoking, gambling.



信念:しんねん: one’s convictions. Usually used about religious convictions. But you can also say, ‘He never wavered in his conviction that revolution was the only solution to racism.’






幻覚;げんかく: a hallucination – whether a pink elephant or an abstract geometric form.



幻:まぼろし: like 幻覚 but more broad – it can be sounds, tastes, etc.


幻想:げんそう: a vision – a hallucination that goes on and on like a movie. Like the English word ‘vision,’ 幻想 is often used to tell the future or help making a decision.


幻視:げんし: an illusion you see when everything else is totally normal. Like if you see a 幻覚、 you’re tripping balls and EVERYTHING looks weird. But if you see 幻視、 that is more like you’re walking down the crowded street and you catch a glimpse of your Grand-father . . . but he’s been dead for 10 years. But you could swear it was him!








quiet or peaceful


穏やか・おだやか:calm or mild – used about personality AND peaceful places, calm weather, mild ocean.


平穏・へいおん: used about someone’s personality OR their life. Peaceful but also uneventful. the quiet life.


静か:しずかな:$$$$ quiet.


安静:あんせい:a doctor’s word: get some rest. Peace and quiet is important to recovering from a heart attack. Don’t go back to work.







弟子・でし; student (more formal, usually used with the name of the institution: Harvard弟子、 Waseda 弟子)


学生・がくせい;($$$) student


生徒:せいと; religious follower or school pupil.


教徒:きょうと: only used about religion.






pressure / accelerate


促す・うながす: to press or encourage someone to do something. Could be good, as in “Get up and dance! It’s a party! Have some fun!” or bad, as in, “Work faster! If there’s time to lean, there’s time to clean!” $$$


促進・そくしん: to facilitate or give an incentive to. “The team-study groups are designed to facilitate the sharing of ideas.”


催促 さいそく: to repeat and repeat a demand for money. Can be used about corporations (This is your 3d notice of overdue library book) or between friends, (‘I keep asking you to repay that $5 I lent you’)


奨励・しょうれい: to cheer someone on, to encourage them through praise.


勇気づける・:ゆうきづける: to encourage someone who is afraid.


迫る :せまる; To urge someone in a coercive or threatening manner. To peer-pressure. Also you can say that something is pressing on you, like a deadline.







醜い: literally ‘hard to look at’ . . . physically ugly.


醜悪:しゅうあく: hideous – more formal and more extreme than just みにくい. Also – unlike みにくい it’s more often used figuratively to mean ‘scandalous’ : an ugly divorce, a scandalous rift between political factions.


気色悪い:きしょくわるい: ugly PLUS weird or uncanny: a slug. Also has the nuance of being contemptible BECAUSE ugly.

おぞましい: grisly or horrible crime or atrocity.





quit it

放っておけよ・ほっとけよ! : leave it or me alone.


よしてくれ: Don’t do that! Don’t say it like that! Don’t talk about rectal polyps when we’re eating!


いい加減にしろ:いいかげんにしろ:Knock it off (has the sense of parents scolding children) ‘~にしろ! ‘ is more manlike, but ‘~なさい‘ is more feminine.


辞めてくれ:やまてくれ: similar to ほっとけよ but has a more begging tone.








嬉しい :うれしい: $$$: casual


感謝;かんしゃ: a more formal version. 感謝いたします!






Bitch, slut:

All the ‘bitch’ words in Japanese have to do with being sexually promiscuous. They don’t really have a word like the English ‘bitch,’ which puts women down for being opinionated, loud, aggressive, or selfish. Hence, Japanese people think ‘bitch’ means ‘slut.’

If you want to put someone down for being loud or selfish, you have to use a gender-neutral term: 自己中: じこちゅう: literally, ‘Selfishness addict.’



ちゃらちゃら: the sound effect of shiny, bling-y things. This is almost always used about gaudily dressed, Guido-ish men, not about women.


派手・はで: loud or gaudy fashion – not always slutty. Polyester grandmas are 派手 too.


淫ら・みだら: This means ‘slut’ but is only used about sexy sluts, not about low-self-esteem sluts.


尻軽女・しりがるおんな: literally ‘easy-to-lift-up-the-rear-end-woman’.  A woman who it is easy to have sex with.


ヤリマン・literally, ‘hungry pussy’. Basically the same as 尻軽女、 but ヤリマン is more dirty, and emphasizes that she has a lot of partners, where 尻軽女 emphasizes the ease of picking her up. (opposite: ヤリチン, a male slut)


あばずれ :  This is a word men say to women, moreso than a word women use on each other. Ordinarily used if a man catches a woman cheating. Not used unless you really think she’s a slut.  You wouldn’t say あばずれ! If a woman was just acting bitchy.


糞女:くそおんな: literally, ‘shitty woman’. A woman I don’t like, for reasons not limited to sex.






important, vital


必要・ひつよう: A casual word for necessary


大切・たいせつ: necessary and also important. Stronger and more emotional than 必要。 I can’t live without you!


重大・じゅうだい;A serious or weighty matter. Unlike the others, 重大 can apply to bad things or problems.


重要:じゅうよう: More businesslike than the others. Today’s top priority.


大事:だいじ: Similar to 重大。 But it has the nuance of, ‘If you mess this important thing up, we’re all fucked.’ In other words, something is important because failure to do that thing will doom the whole project. As opposed to ‘trust is important in a relationship.’ – 大事 is something to be lost.








快い・こころよい: a pleasant THING. Comfortable, refreshing, or soothing: music, art, or activity. Has the nuance of relaxing or re-invigorating you.


心地よい:ここちよい: like 快い, but for comfortable, refreshing places.


親しい・したしい: NOT a place. A relationship between people. 私とケンジはとても親しい関係です!


優しい:やさしい: A considerate or caring person.







侘び:わび: The most formal, official word. More than 申し訳ない。 深くお詫びいたします!


誤る: to make a mistake.


謝る・あやまる: a casual way to apologize. Often used in anecdotes about a third party.


謝罪 しゃざい: a newspaper word for apology: “The politician gave an apology at a press conference Friday.”





filial piety


親孝行:おやこうこう:$$$: filial piety : obedience to one’s parents.

孝行・こうこう: includes piety to all older siblings and relatives.










期待 (きたい) : an expectation – always good. (I expect that today will be lucky for me! I expect that my students will give 110% effort.)


予想 (よそう) $$$: a prediction or forecast – good OR bad. (I predict that third quarter earnings will decline 9%. I predict that my sports team will win 33-21)


前提 (ぜんてい): a presumption (something upon which you predicate your argument) Like, “Your argument against gay marriage presumes that the Christian God exists.”


先入観 (せんにゅうかん): a preconception  (that all gaijin steal things!) The meaning of先入観 is closer to ‘prejudice’ or ‘stereotype’ than the other words in this cluster.






small corporations

傘下 (xxxさんか のyyy):  (literally, ” a YYY under the umbrella of XXX”.)  A company which has been taken over by a bigger company.  Often this means companies that started out independent and got eaten in an unfriendly takeover.


子会社 (こがいしゃ): literally, a “child corporation.” Unlike 傘下, a 子会社 is usually a company which was formed by the first corporation to carry out some specialized duty related to that corporation (i.e. a record label starts a fashion line, a legitimate bank starts an exploitive check-cashing operation in the ghetto, a house-cleaning service starts a temp corporation to hire maids). Their employees are loyal in a way that 傘下 employees are not.






the point is. . .

重点 ( じゅうてん ) : the point. Used for emphasis – “The point is. . . . .” The one thing you have to remember is. . .


要点 ( ようてん ) : the important points (unlike 重点(じゅうてん)、 要点 can be more than one point – the emphasis is that 要点 is a summary. Like instead of writing an essay, you’d just do a series of bullet points. Example: 要点だけ話して! (“Get to the point!”)$$$


焦点 ( しょうてん ) : literally, a focal point. Figuratively, the point of someone’s conversation. However it’s more general than 重点. 焦点 is more like “the gist” “the purpose”, rather than one single central fact. Examples: 焦点があいまい (What was her point?)  焦点がボケてる! (His speech was totally pointless!)





manage / dispose of


経営する・ けいえいする: $$$ : to manage a business


営む (いとなむ):To manage a business. Usually used by older people. A more casual word than 経営.


管理 (かんり): management or administration. Not like you run your own business (that’d be 経営する), but like you are the manager of a department of a larger business.


処理 (しょり): To take care of a problem. To resolve a complaint. Unlike 経営 or 営む, 処理 is not a full-time job; more like something you do when an emergency happens.


処置 (しょち):  temporary, provisional management of a problem, until a lasting solution can be found : usually medical (i.e. stabilize the patient), but sometimes used about jury-rigging a machine.


処分 (しょぶん): dispose of big, more-than-your-kitchen-garbage-can-type waste. Toxic waste. Giant dumpsters at a sports stadium. Old TV sets.








求める (もとめる): $$$: demand OR ask for, also to seek. (Chinese students were seeking democracy).


要求 (ようきゅう): $$$: demand – more strident than 求める; you wouldn’t use it to mean ‘to ask or seek.’


需要 (じゅよう): a technical, economic word. Supply and demand. Increasing demand for petroleum.


請求 (せいきゅう): demand for money – usually used only on invoices and bills.


欲求 (よっきゅう) : personal needs (love, shelter, food).





Union, league, alliance.

連合:れんごう: an alliance of independent organizations (usually politics, unions, or crime)


協会:きょうかい: a labor union.


同盟:どうめい: an alliance, league, union (used with military things: NATO, UN Security Treaty nations, the Warsaw Pact alliance, etc.)


連盟:れんめい: a federation : unlike 連合 and 同盟, 連盟 is made of individual people, not federated nations or gangs. Volunteers. Baseball clubs, Chess associations, the League of Women Voters, are 連盟。








得る (える):$$$: the normal word for obtain. Often used with permission, not just physical things.


獲る (える): usually used with hunting – the predator obtains prey. Also sometimes used about sports victories. LIT


獲得する (かくとくする): to obtain. Very similar to 獲る (える) but 獲得 has the connotation of “obtain with great effort”, or “FINALLY obtain.” 獲る is more like, obtain something easy or small.


収める (おさめる): Can be used to mean “receive money” or “receive a victory”, but usually means “To load things in an organized manner.” – cargo containers, for example.  What the hell?!?


遂げる:とげる: To complete a mission. usually やり遂げる: to finish your homework or project – used about really difficult things. The verb form of 完全。









殴る (なげる): to punch a person or dog.


打つ (うつ): to beat with a tool. Hammer. Baseball bat. Drumsticks. Can be used about beating with your hands, but only if you are pounding a nail with your hands.






predict forecast


予報 (よほう):$$$: predict weather or natural phenomena (earthquakes, tsunami)


予測 (よそく): predict the outcome of an event: the  stock market or the horse race.





強烈な (きょうれつな):intense, furious : close to 激しい (はげしい, meaning extreme): a punch, a violent speech. Emphasizes the extent of emotion invested in it.


猛烈な (もうれつな): severe, violent, terrible, fierce – usually used about natural phenomena: a fierce storm; a violent wild-fire. The toboggan moving at a scary intense velocity downhill. Also can be used with emotions: A violent argument after someone got caught cheating.






waiting room

待合室 (まちあいしつ) : $$$ : waiting room like at a dentist.


控え室 (ひかえしつ): only used in showbiz: “The Green Room.”





賞品 (しょうひん): a prize (like the lottery or a door-prize)


褒美 (ほうび): an informal word for a reward, like what a mom might give to a kid who was good.


xxx賞: xxx award (Academy Award, a Golden Globe, Nobel Peace Prize, etc.)




give consideration to


配慮 (はいりょする) : to be kind to xxxx. To give special treatment to (the handicapped, i.e. by providing ramps)


考慮 (こうりょ): (NP) to take into account the special circumstances (i.e. before you punish him for vandalism, remember to take into account that his dad just died).


検討する(けんとうする) : to give thorough consideration to the topic. To investigate something thoroughly. Often said by politicians who don’t want to give a real answer.




Discreet, prudent

弁える:わきまえる: to know right from wrong. To know one’s place. To know one’s limitations. More like to be polite or respectful than to be

慎重:しんちょう: used with plans or projects. To proceed slowly and carefully, avoiding risk.

思慮深い:しりょぶかい: someone who is sensible, prudent, level-headed. Not used about affairs and discreet bribes and etc.

用心:ようじん:  although the dictionary says “discreet, careful, prudent、” 用心 is more like “Look out!” – like if your friend is all ninja-ing her way into the enemy territory, or traipsing through the minefield, you’d use this one.


IMPORTANT: none of these words has the bad connotation of the English ‘discreet’, which conjures up images of people having affairs or taking bribes discreetly. The Japanese words are only good. If you want to use the bad meaning of the English ‘discreet’, then you should go with こっそり (secretly).


Or, if you’re about to meet your wife’s stuck-up boss for a dinner party, you wouldn’t use 慎重 or 弁える (unless you were being really rude!). You’d just say 気をつけないといけない。








美術 : fine art only:  Van Gogh, Picasso, and sometimes sculpture like Michelangelo’s David.


芸術 : all the arts: not just modern art, but dance, music, performance, installations, puppetry. . .






受領書 (じゅりょうしょ):

領収書 (りょうしゅうしょ)the same!

レシート: receipt – usually spoken. The clerk at the 7-11 will ask you if you want a レシート, then hand you a piece of paper with領収書 printed on the top.





礼儀 (れいぎ): Manners used in formal situations: correct bowing procedures, sonkeigo, respecting hierarchy.


丁寧 (ていねい): manners used in everyday situations. Just good common sense.








伴う(ともなう): a person accompanies another person.

添える (そえる): to come with, to be included with: (not used with people – in that case you’d say 伴) 添える is more like, the CDR comes with the textbook. Or the applesauce comes with the pork chops.


添付 (てんぷ): the noun form of 添える(そえる)。 (the file attached to your email) (read the attached instructions)








講演 ( こうえん ) : any public speech or talk given to a general audience. Authors doing a reading, dudes addressing the Friars’ Club, the graduation speaker at your  college, are all doing 講演.


講義 ( こうぎ ) : a lecture to a private group, a lecture at college.


セミナー: a seminar.


演説 (えんぜつ): a speech, usually political.







降参 する (こうさん) : a casual word for surrender: to give up mid-game. A politician concedes defeat. To say uncle. Similar to the expression まいた!!


降伏 ( こうふく ) : surrender – only used in wars.


自首 (じしゅ): a criminal turns himself in.






博物館 (はくぶつかん) : a natural history museum or aerospace museum.


美術館 (びじゅつかん) : a fine-art museum







曖昧 (あいまい): vague. Can be intentional, as in an “arty” novel with an ambiguous ending, say, or a girl who gives vague answers whenever you ask her out. “Wanna go to a movie?” “That sounds nice. Let’s do it sometime.” When?” “Sometime.” But 曖昧 can also be unintentional, like a bad public speaker who is vague just because they are not articulate.


紛らわしい (まぎらわしい): ambiguous, but unlike the related term 曖昧、紛らわしい has the nuance of confusing. Like you’re not sure who to believe: both interpretations seem equally correct. Is the picture of bigfoot real? It’s so blurry! Is the painting a forgery? The results of the test are ambiguous!


漠然 (ばくぜん): vague like an old memory. I only have a vague sense what the new Matthew Barney is about. Unlike related terms 紛らわしい、or 曖昧、 漠然 emphasizes the speaker’s own sense of confusion – it doesn’t refer to the confusion of the listener.








報告: (ほうこく):: the most common word for a report – usually a business report


報道 (ほうどう): a TV or journalistic report.


レポート : a school report, but also sometimes used in business.


情報 (じょうほう): data. The information that goes IN reports.







所属  (しょぞく): to belong to such-and-such a department. “Hi! I’m Ross Henderson, from Marketing!”PPP


XXXX附属YYY (ふぞく) : to be affiliated with such-and-such an organization. The library is affiliated with the university. The catholic elementary school is affiliated with the neighboring catholic high school.


付属 (ふぞく): It’s pronounced the same as 附属 and looks almost identical, but the meaning is very different: to be physically attached or part of a set. The bolts and nuts that come with an Ikea table.







武器 :ぶき:  old-fashioned arms, such as pistols and swords.


兵器 :へいき:$$$ :  also means arms, but unlike 武器, 兵器 generally means weapons that are very modern and big: bazookas, missiles, rocket launchers, howitzers.






保証 ( ほしょう ) : $$$ : guarantee or warrantee (if a product breaks)

保障 する ( ほしょう する) : safeguards or security (we have to increase security at airports) (use this mask as a safeguard against the flu). 保障also can refer to a deposit – a promise to pay money if you damage something.







連想 :れんそう: a mental association, like Pavlov’s dogs. “When I say a word, tell me the first thing that pops into your head.”


関連 :かんれん: something that is relevant. Something that seems related: two murders in the same week with both bodies’ heads missing.






保存 ( ほぞん ) : preserve – usually used with traditional culture or morals more than environmental causes. You’ll often see this: 保存員会 (ほぞんいんかい, meaning, preservation committee)


保護 する ( ほご する) : conserve, protect : can be used about protecting nature and the environment. But usually used with police protection (for snitches) or if you’re escorting a lost child or drunk to the police box.


(CAREFUL: a conservative person is 保守的な (ほしゅてきな) 人)


保守 (ほしゅ): doesn’t mean conserve at all! It means maintenance or upkeep of equipment or facilities.





Partition, separate

へだ*てる : to partition, to separate: separate the class into “gifted” and “not gifted” students. Partition the room using folding screens. Divide the property between people. 5mずつ隔てて: every five feet (there’s a pillar or fencepost).$$$


分離: ぶんり: The dictionary says “separation, ” as in separation of church and state, or “the river separates the two countries.” Politically it means to segregate people, like in the American South, or what Japan does to Burakumin.


隔離 :かくり: a  somewhat more forceful version of分離:. 隔離 means to quarantine people because of disease – or 隔離背策:(かくりせさく) which is, an official policy to keep people in concentration camps, like USA did to Japanese-Americans during the war, or like Israel is doing in Palestine.


検疫 : also means, to quarrantine





Enlarge, extend

拡張:かくちょう: to extend or physically enlarge a thing (an extended family, enlarge the factory).


広げる : ひろげる: to spread or widen (to spread a blanket on a bed, to widen a street, open one’s arms). Like the related term 拡張, but 広げる is only in 2 dimensions, I guess.$$$


拡げる : to spread or extend. . . 90% the same as regular 広げる. BUT, 拡げる-with-aー手 has one special meaning which 広げる-with-noー手 does NOT have: to expand your markets overseas, to expand your territory, to expand the circulation of your newspaper.


拡大:かくだい: more formal than 拡張: Literally it means to zoom in on or magnify. Figuratively it means to escalate (a conflict) or scale-up (a buildup of some sort)







Idea, notion


意識 :いしき; $$$ :  Consciousness, as in “I lost consciousness,” but also as in, “She’s environmentally conscious.” or “I hate those socially-conscious rock stars like Bono. Bono should perish.”


観念・かんねん; to have a concept of something. “Babies have no concept of right and wrong.” “My boyfriend has no concept of hygiene.”


現象:げんしょう: phenomenon.







名前:なまえ:$$$: one’s first and last name. This is the one you use in conversation. All the others are mostly seen on application forms.


名____、姓____:な、 せい: first name, last name (usually seen on forms: family name ____, first name ____)


名字:みょうじ: one’s last name – like 姓 , but 名字 is a spoken word, as well as written.


氏 : し:written AFTER someone’s family name to mean “mister XXX” = XXX 氏 .


氏名:しめい: BOTH first and last names. (***)


姓名 : せいめい: BOTH first and last names. Basically the same as 氏名 (しめい)。






攻める・せめる; attack – specifically, something which has been planned in advance. Not a bar-room brawl. You could use it about an army attack, but also about a fencer or kung-fu-er who deliberately chooses a certain attack-style to defeat her opponent.$$$


攻撃・こうげき; A massive, military-style, planned attack.


合戦・かっせん; a battle. NEVER uses “Suru”. Only ever a noun.


襲う・おそう; An unplanned, not-necessarily-lethal attack: a drunk, or a wild animal 襲うs$$$.


討つ:うつ: an archaic word for a revenge-killing.


襲撃する : a raid. Like an assault done by a team of people, not just one mean guy. Usually used about the SWAT team raiding a house. But a gang can raid another gang.








沈没(ちんぼつ) : something sinks. Usually a ship. Used with accidents or disasters.


沈む (しずむ) : to submerge ( a rubber ducky in the tub, a submarine submerges). Doesn’t always have the bad meaning of 沈没, but it can: Venice is sinking into the sea 1 cm a year!!! Also, unlike 沈没、沈む can be used figuratively: one can become ‘submerged’ in grief, self-pity, depression.$$$ TTT



潜る(もぐる): to go underground / dive underwater – literally or figuratively: used about fugitives as well as scared flounders.








後 (あとで) : $$$ : after, (normal word)

後 (のちに): same usage as あと, but it’s more used by old people. However, if a foreigner says it, it sounds like the foreigner is a very serious student of Japanese. It makes a good impression.






Leave it to me!

任せる:まかせる;$$$ a casual word for ‘designate someone to do something.’ Often you’ll near it like this: まかせて! Meaning, ‘Leave it to me!’. Who’s going to wash the dishes? 任せて!


委ねる :ゆだねる; a more formal word for まかせる。 To leave someone in charge of a large task. (a murder investigation, a corporate merger)


託す:たくす: to entrust someone with a very serious responsibility. Unlike the related words 任せる and 委ねる, 託す emphasizes the weight and grave responsibility of the task at hand: If you screw this up, the country goes bankrupt. The factory closes. The criminal walks free.






友達 (ともだち):$$$  :regular word for friend

友人 (ゆうじん);old peoples’ word for friend



仲間:なかま: friendship, as in “This event affected our friendship.” “Our friendship grows by the week.” HOWEVER, usually 中間 is NOT used to mean friendship, but to mean membership in a group (i.e. working for the same company, OR “The squid is the octopus’ 仲間.” “The salamander is the frog’s 仲間“)


仲良し:なかよし: a good friend.







生殖 – these are both kind of scientific, non-sexy words for reproduction, but 生殖 means reproduction in a very narrow sense: as in ‘reproductive organs,’ or ‘the reproductive process’


繁殖 – breeding. Unlike the related term 生殖、繁殖 refers to the entire process of finding a mate, not just the physical act of insemination: Breeding grounds. Mating season. Farmers breeding livestock.







業界 (業界):any industry (i.e. Hollywood, Silicon Valley, the ad industry)


産業 (さんぎょう): heavy industry (steel, cars, factories and shit)







場所:ばしょ: $$$ :  a literal place.


所:ところ: despite being used in the common word場所 , 所 by itself has nothing to do with places – instead, 所 means an aspect!: “He’s got a short-tempered ところ!”

So how is 所 different from 場?? Well, when used as a suffix, 所 has the nuance of a small place, or private place – 刑務所 (jail), 事務所 (office), 便所 (toilet), 台所 (kitchen).


場 (ば): In contrast to 所, when 場 is used as a suffix, it emphasizes the FUNCTION of the place. Xxxx-場 means ‘the place where we do xxx.’

Examples :劇場、( theater) 駐車場 (parking lot) 、処刑場 (hanging spot for executions) 、屠殺場、 ( slaughterhouse) 会場  (meeting hall) 会見場 press conference location.


地 (ち) : This is different from other ‘place’ kanji like 場 and 所 , because 地 doesn’t emphasize the a particular activity done at the place : 地 just means the land, the physical space. It has a more geographical feeling to it:

地域 : zone or district.

土地 とち: land. regardless of who owns it.

所有地 : property.








復活・ ふっかつ: Resurrection, rebirth: use this about Jesus. Also can be used about a revival of some retro trend.


再生;さいせい: this means “regeneration” or recycle, but is most commonly used on a DVD deck: “Playback.”!!



再来・ religious word – literal re-incarnation. Sometimes also used in sports – he’s the re-incarnation of Pete Rose!


新生:しんせい: doesn’t fit this group. Usually used in politics. The new, improved, reborn communist party. The new, improved whatever.


生かす:いかす:  can mean a doctor literally bringing a patient back to live i.e. after cardiac arrest.  However, it usually means “To make the most out of a limited resource or lucky opportunity.” So, you probably don’t have to worry about confusing 生かす with the other words.


返り咲く:かえりざく: literally, ‘to bloom a second time’ : a revival of a trend or a second-start for a washed-up celeb.






ask question


The two most common ways to say “ask” are 聞く (きく)  and たずねる (尋ねる) . For instance if you phone a business to ask when they’re open, it’s polite to say 聞きたいことがあるんですけど。 Or, 尋ねたいことがあるんですけど。 Both words have the feeling of a casual question that can be answered with a word or two. They’re 80% the same, but there are some small differences.


に聞く: きく: use THIS to say to your friends, “We’re lost! Can’t you ask that old man for directions?” or, “Can I ask you something?”


に尋ねる:たずねる: use THIS if you want to ask a question to a store clerk or hospital nurse. 尋ねたいコトがあるんですけどう.


に問う・とう: To formally ask a question where the wrong answer spells trouble: the teacher asks the student a question. The police questioned the suspect.  The situation calls his authority into question.


に質問する・しつもんする: like 問う, 質問 is used in a structured situation, like a classroom. 質問 has the feeling of a complicated question, that requires a long answer. You wouldn’t use this in a casual conversation with your friend.


に伺う:うかがう: the most formal way to say ‘question.’









公平・こうへい : $$$: Fair. PPP


平等 びょうどう : even-steven. (to cut the cake into equal pieces, to treat your adopted kids and your biological kids equally) PPP


等量・とうりょう : equal amount – usually used in math or science. TTT


同等・どうとう : a more casual form of 等量. Means equal, equivalent. 同等 does not have the moral judgment of, say, 公平.  ‘This engine does the work of 4 horses’ ;  ‘I have the strength of a dozen oxen!’ SITU



均等・きんとう: (not used in daily life). Uniform. Uniform size or shape. Uniform distribution.  When I die, I want my son and daughter to get the same amount of land. SITU



等しい:ひとしい: mathematically equivalent. Unlike the other ‘equivalent’ words,AMOUNT

等しい can used figuratively, as in, “He’s as good as dead!” “Your lies are tantamount to treason, and I’ll see you hanged!!”



等しい can also be used to mean ‘to look similar or identical’ . In this sense, 等しい  is closer to 同じ than 公平。 But it’s a little more formal.














Guess is a hard word to translate!  Because A) there are 6 or so words that your dictionary will define as ‘guess,’ and B) normally Japanese people don’t use ANY of those words, preferring to use 2 OTHER, seemingly unrelated verbs, in an idiomatic manner:

1) 何と思う?

2) 当ててみて! (literally, ‘try to hit!’) (guess my age!) $$$


However, here’s the rest of the ‘guess’ words:


推測する:すいそくする :  Formal word for ‘speculate’. “It’s too early to speculate about the economy.” “Scientists speculate that ………..”  Unless you’re being quoted in a newspaper, don’t use 推測 yourself.


推理:すいり: deductive reasoning, inference. Noun, not verb. A detective working from clues. Foreigners complain that in Japanese, you have to deduce the subject of the sentence, since Japanese usually omit it!


察する:さっ*する: infer the feelings of other people (usually in the sense of being a good host or sensitive friend) (as opposed to the related expression 気が利く , which refers to actually physically doing something for that person – like when you go to a host club and Dude lights your cigarette without you asking).


XXX/ 推察:すいさつ / : close to 推理and 推測、but less common. 推察 means, to guess or speculate about the meaning of someone’s behavior or words. 推察 is only used when you have no real proof.


推定:すいてい: noun, not verb : a guess, an estimate.


推す:おす :infer. Not often used. Also can mean to recommend someone for a job. To support a politician.


憶測・おくそく: wild guess. Unfounded guess. Guessing because you don’t have any other options. A shot in the dark.







逃れる (のがれる) :  to escape through luck (escape the death penalty/ there was an earthquake but my house escaped damage) .


逃げる にげる : to run away, to escape on purpose.$$$


避ける ・さける : to dodge (a bullet, a kick) (can be used figuratively)


免れる・まぬかれる: to get out of (your punishment, because you had a good excuse), get out of paying a fine (because you are related to the Chief of Police). To be exempt from. 免れる can also sometimes be used like 逃れる – to escape misfortune through luck.


脱出 : だっしゅつ: to escape from prison, escape from the POW camp like Rambo. escape from North Korea. . . but you can also use it like, “He escaped from the crisis.” Or, “She escaped from the wreckage of the crashed airplane.”


退く・しりぞく: withdraw (from competition, troops withdraw from the Gaza strip, sometimes also means retire).







希望・きぼう: $$$: An everyday, small, easily possible wish: “I’d like an aisle seat.” “I’d like to fly nonstop.” 希望 might be better translated as ‘request’: ‘Customers wishing to request a child-seat for their infant please see the waiter.’



意思・いし: A  really heavy wish, which usually involves getting someone to do something for you. “I wish to join this organization.”  “I want to ask for your hand in marriage.”  “When I die it is my wish to donate my organs.”


願い:ねがい: $$$ : Same as 意思、 but more common and less formal. A fairly serious request: お願いがあります( I have a favor to ask you).  Can you buy me a car? Can you loan me money? Can you bail me out of jail? Example: その願いを叶える (I’ll grant your wish.)


野心・やしん: an ambition – to move up the ranks, to expand one’s empire.


望み:のぞみ; an almost-impossible or impossible wish: a faint and idle dream. “Someday I’ll marry Tom Cruise.” “Someday I’ll be President of Moldovia.”



志す・こころざす;– similar to 野心, but 志す is only used with things relating to personal growth, while 野心 emphasizes more greed and a lust for power. 志す means, to have an ambition (to become a doctor, become a rock star). Also, you have to be doing something to realize the ambition – you can’t just be idly thinking about it (i.e. 望み) (I’m studying medicine because I want to become a doctor)









妄想:もうそう : $$$ : A delusion – something impossible: “I am currently dating Michael Jackson!” “Jewish aliens are following me in an invisible robot!”


望み:のぞみ; an almost-impossible or impossible wish: a faint and idle dream. “Someday I’ll marry Tom Cruise.” “Someday I’ll be President of Moldovia.”


幻想:げんそう: no one uses this.LIT



Can’t stand idly by (while this horrible thing happens)


見兼ねてxxx:みかねてxxx: can’t stand idly by while this bad thing happens, so you did xxx to solve the problem. Unlike たまるか or 勘弁できない!、見兼ねて is NOT used in anger. 見兼ねて is more like, “I couldn’T stand to see that abandoned kitten in the rain, so I adopted it.” Or “I couldn’t stand to see Grandma in such pain, so I checked her into the hospital.”


見殺し:みごろし:to deliberately stand by and ignore a dying/ suffering person.


勘弁出来ない:かんべんできない: very close to 我慢できない! But with a narrower meaning. I can’t stand it any longer!! This is the one to use about politics.


x たまるか:  More than “I can’t stand idly by.” More like,  “I won’t stand for it! I can’t tolerate it! more closer to” xxxものか!” than 見兼ねて. This is the one to use when you are beyond just words. Like when you are going to physically step in front of a person to stop them from executing their evil deeds.







引力:いんりょく; celestial bodies are attracted to each other in space.

重力:じゅうりょく; stuff on the planet’s surface falls downwards.






Each time


xxx都度: xxxつど:  pretty much the same!  But 都度 is used with more abstract, lofty things. You wouldn’t say “Eating some hash browns都度 I use Tabasco.”


(jissho kei v.)ついでに~: as long as you’re doing xxx, do YYY as well. As long as you’re in the kitchen, grab me a beer.








警備・けいび: a guard who protects innocent people: the security guy at the bank, the Secret Service.


監視:かんし: Sort of the opposite of 警備: to guard bad people – guards at a prison, a teacher who watches students at test time to keep them from cheating.


見張り・みはり: to stand guard. Not limited to prison guards! If you’re having a picnic, you can say to your friend, “Guard the food from crows while I go to the car and get a fuckin’ Frisbee!” and you’d use 見張り for guard in that case!







やってみる;the most broad meaning. I’ll try some lime ice cream. Let’s try flamenco dancing. If it doesn’t work out, whatever, we’re just killing some time here.

$$$ KIDS

試みる:こころみる; to attempt a difficult thing. Unlike やってみる、 you have a lot invested in whatever you are trying, and it tests the limits of your capabilities and/or tenacity.

試す:ためす: usually means to test out a thing. “can I try it before I buy it?” “He tested his serum on animals first.” Etc.







Border, edge


国境:こっきょう: border between two countries


境:さかい: boundary – can be used with countries OR property lines (say, between Tanaka’s farm and Ishii’s farm). 境 is usually used when talking about crossing a boundary, or being within the boundary.


境界:きょうかい: 80% the same usage as  境, but a bit more formal. BOTH WORDS ARE often used in the figurative sense – like “This film pushes the envelope of good taste” or “His art blurs the boundary between painting and sculpture”. Also used in science.


縁:ふち:  rim or edge of table, cup, picture frame (emphasis is that it’s not a point on the edge, it’s the ENTIRE edge).


端 :はし: edge (of your seat, edge of the plank)  (always literal, never figurative) .  In contrast to 縁、端 usually refers to one point on the edge,


the most extreme point (i.e. edge of the cliff, tip of the peninsula) .


末:すえ: the end of something- end of the month, the end of a story. 末期, for instance, means last-stage-of-life. 末梢 means peripheral, on the edge of a structure.


先:さき: the tip of a sharp thing.


外れ:はずれ: ONE OF the meanings of 外れ is ‘on the edge of something ‘ : example : 町の外れ (edge of town).


際:きわ: SUFFIX. When attached to a place or thing , it means ‘close to’ or ‘on the border or edge of’ something- usually used with locations: ‘I’m standing on the edge of the ocean, where it meets the shore.’  When used as a suffix, it’s pronounced GIWA, not kiwa.








Connected or entangled


を絡む:からむ: (VT) to get entangled in (BOTH lit. and fig.) (he got mixed up in his father’s gambling debts) (get entangled in a conversation with a drunk and you can’t get away).


に絡まる:からまる: (VI) something gets entangled ( unlike 絡む、 絡まる is never used with crime).


に関わる:かかわる: (VI) to be involved with, to get caught up in (a crime but also good things like involved in research or involved in business)  If you want to tell your son not to be involved with guys like Jimmy, use this one.


携わる たずさわる – to be mixed up in something, to participate or be concerned with something.. ( in the internet business/ a job with computers/ involved in a hijacking incident)


巻き付く:まきつく: entangled, but only used literally (entangled in string).








衝撃:しょうげき: an electric shock (like electroshock therapy), an emotional shock, or also just an impact (car crash)


衝突する:しょうとつする: also means impact (car crash) but can also mean a conflict (India and Pakistan are on a collision course), or mental conflict (his communism conflicts with his love for the sexy CIA agent).






( をーに)いど*む: to challenge someone or something to a win-or-lose battle. Used in sports or sometimes politics. ( challenge the world champ a fight / challenge the system)


挑戦:ちょうせん:  challenge  yourself (yourself to do better, test your limits / challenge the system) be defiant or provocative. take the Pepsi challenge!









~に欠ける・にかける: to lack an abstract thing (experience / confidence / creativity / trust)


足りない・たりない: To not have enough of a physical thing (money, time, a soup needs more garlic). 足りないalso implies that there is a specific amount that is required, which に欠ける does not. Example: I wanted to buy a candy bar but I was 4 yen short (お菓子を買おうとした、4円足りなかった!)







面倒くさい – $$$ : the most common, general word for annoying. KIDS

厄介な: やっかい: close to 面倒. Someone who is hard to deal with! A hard-to-fix appliance. A stubborn, persnickety person.


煩わしい : まずわしい: an annoying process (paperwork, say) which isn’t difficult per se,  but is really time-consuming, and full of trivial rules.


ややこしい : something which is annoying because it is a difficult and confusing process, which never seems to end. You always have to do one more thing just when you thought you were done. Can also be used of a person who keeps bugging you with “just one more question.”









まずい: $$$ : bad-tasting for any reason. The opposite of おいしい.


酸っぱい :すっぱい: sour, acidic flavor: lemons, vinegar, pickled plums.

苦い:にがい: bitter.  Medicine, okra. Can also be used figuratively – the bitter taste of defeat.


渋い :しぶい: a really arbitrary word for a flavor that only Japanese people seem to be able to taste. It means bitter, kind of. But it’s only used about unripe fruit, too-strong green tea, or certain species of raw persimmon. However, usually it’s used figuratively, to mean “cool older guy like George Clooney or Kiefer Sutherland.” Which only adds to the confusion.







巧みな:たくみな:  smooth, slick, and usually bad or cunning in some way: a clever ad slogan, slick flattery, adroit political manipulation.


巧み:たくみに: physical OR mental finesse : a PR man finesses a hard question with a bullshit answer so slick that the reporters don’t realize they got hoodwinked. A boxer with fancy footwork. Also, to do something deftly (a movie deftly interweaves 3 stories: a teenager deftly juggles church life and gang membership, etc.)



器用な:きような: adroit, dexterous.  This is more positive than 巧み. 器用な means someone like a kung-fu fighter that can jump around and not get kicked, or a pianist who plays hella difficult pieces without any fucked notes. There is also an implication that the person can improvise!$$$


巧妙な:こうみょうな ; used about speaking – the way a hustler or a grifter talks. slick talking.


素早い・すばやい: physical speed or agility. Without the emphasis on technique or skill found in 巧み or 器用. 素早い is a fast bird or lizard. Doing a simple task very fast at the office.$$$


機敏・きびん: agile or quick movement. OR quick-witted. Someone who always has a come-back.


俊敏な:しゅんびんな: agile, quick-witted. Very similar to 機敏、 but with the added implication of adaptable. Something that can adapt to changes in the environment.








柄 and 模様.


These two mean the same exact thing, but they are used in different situations. It’s really a case-by-case thing.


柄:がら: used about flowers, plaid/stripes / zebra skin – wood. Very broad meaning. . . basically 柄 means. . .anything not plain!  Can be used about textures as well as pictures or colors, like blue wallpaper with sailboats on it is 柄. Unlike 模様、 柄 also has the nuance of ‘personality or characteristic.’  For instance, the wonderful word お国, which means the national character of a country.


模様:もよう: a pattern which does not have pictures: fractals , mandala, plaid, zebra skin. Wood-grain are all 模様. Do NOT use 模様 about representational patterns like flower-print or kids’ pajamas with horsies on them. 模様 also has a more formal meaning: ‘the details of an incident’ : example: A train/airport announcement which says “We will explain the details of the delay” ( 遅れるの模様.)









程度:ていど: extent.  その程度いいだ。’That’s enough.’


程・ほど; like 程度, but it’s almost never used by itself (exception: 程がいい , which means ‘just like that!’ or ‘Not too much. Do it in moderation.’)





report on, publish, mention


挙げる: あげる: To bring up something (an objection, a point). Also, to give an example of . To cite a study or report which someone else wrote.


掲載する・けいさいする: To be printed. “The National Enquirer printed an article about bat-Elvis having a baby.”


載せる:のせる: a little more informal than 掲載. Also, 載せる can mean ‘put on top of something’ : ‘Put the skis on vehicle’ ;  ‘Put something on top of the cabinet!’


記述:きじゅつ:Similar to 掲載, but the emphasis of 記述 is, ‘to contain an account of’, rather than ‘to be published.’  “The report contains an account of blah blah blah.” 挙げる is more like an offhand comment, but 記述 is more like a whole article or a whole book.


記載・きさい: to mention in written records , ledgers, – ‘Your name was mentioned on the list!’


述べる: のべる: To report one’s own actions. Kind of a formal word. (‘Please allow me to mention or state something’) (usually used in a business or formal setting: opening remarks, proposals, extending a warm welcome, all that good-old-boy stuff)


申し上げる:もうしあげる:Like 述べる, but can be written as well as spoken. 申し上げる means, a lower person communicates or relates something to upper person. ‘I sent this in the email last week, Ma’am.’ ‘I humbly included the report in the fax.’








が開く:あく; a door opens

を開ける:あける:I open a door

が and を 開く:ひらく; this word is fucked up – because it is spelled exactly the same as 開く (a door opens), but a) pronounced differently (ひらく not あく) and it’s TRANSITIVE, whereas あく is INTRANSITIVE. Just nuts, right?!?!

Also, by the way, the meaning is different: ひらく is more broad and figurative: someone hosts or holds a party or event. Opens his house to the public. Flower petals open. A space figuratively opens up between the fastest runner and the runners behind her in the race.

が 開ける:ひらける: something has been spread out or opened up. Like ひらく、 ひらける is more figurative. You wouldn’t use them about doors or windows. ひらける is like, a vista opened up before your eyes when you got to the top of the mountain. Or china has opened up to foreign investment.





Period of time

時期:じき:  period of time of a natural or social phenomenon : the rainy season. The time that you can see fall leaves. The humid time of year. Harvest time. This is the time of year when xxxx is very cheap.


期間:きかん: a precise period of time that humans made up. (usually several months. or years). Summer vacation.  You are forbidden to enter Japan for a period of five years.






correct or just.


当たり前・あたりまえ: less formal. Has the nuance of, ‘Just or correct because it’s normal.’$$$


当然 : とうぜん: more formal. Unlike 当たり前、当然 has the nuance of ‘correct because it is natural, as God intended.’ “Men are stronger than women so only men should be allowed in the army – it’s only natural.” “I’ve come for what is mine!” “If he built the house, he should be paid for it – it’s only right.”


適当:てきとう: appropriate, as in an appropriate gift. But – incredibly – 適当also means irresponsible! Doing something without considering the consequences. Example: 適当な人間だ! “He’s irresponsible. He’ll say anything that pops into his head.”


正しい:ただしい: correct, in BOTH senses : literally , as in a correct answer. (unlike 適当、 正しいimplies that there is ONLY ONE correct one (after all there might be several appropriate gifts for a person!)). And figuratively: something that is morally correct or just.


適切:てきせつ: a more mild version of  適当.  適切 is more like, It’s appropriate enough to get the job done, but not ideal.


妥当:だとう: more half-assed than 適切 or 正しい. . .  妥当 is like, barely adequate. It’ll do.TTT


もっともの:  reasonable. Not perfect or just. もっとも is closer to 妥当。

正に:まさに: exactly (what he wanted all along), positively (the case), perfectly (fits the image).



対抗する:たいこうする: to counter (used with two roughly equal things that oppose each other) (i.e. a counter-reaction, counter-demonstration, two business giants compete in the marketplace, counter-culture, antagonist, counter-balance)


抵抗:ていこう : to resist (used about one person taking on the whole fuckin’ system, mannn!) (draft resister, resisting arrest, to encounter resistance, resist temptation, and the electric concept of ‘resistance’)


逆らう : さからう: to defy someone bigger than you. Defy a parent. Cuba defies the USA.










図る::  はか*る: a fairly neutral word for ‘to scheme or plan’: ‘The committee plans to raise interest rates’


企てる:くわだてる: Unlike 図る、企てる is more negative: to scheme, to be up to something. To be hatching a nefarious plan.$$$



謀る:はか*る: to plot a murder! Murder most fouuullll!!! (almost never used)







根本的 きほんでき: The – not exactly the secret roots – but the essential and underlying aspects of something – as opposed to the easily apparent bits on the surface.


本来 : ほんらい: originally or primarily . Emphasizes the historical roots.


基本的 :きほんてき : the basics (the emphasis is: minimum i.e. basic knowledge). Also means fundamentally (emphasizing the essential bits that various things or ideas have in common).$$$


基盤 :きそ: the basics, not as in “for dummies,” but as in basic cable, basic health care needs, basic industries like iron, steel, and cars. Also has the nuance of the basis for a judgment.   example: “I am basing my opinion on xxx.”  基礎はxxxにある。


基礎 :きそ: the foundation (Just like English, ‘foundation’ can be used literally or figuratively)









賛成:さんせい: agree (more informal). Can also mean to support, as in “Many people support this new law.” “Most of the committee members support the chairman’s fuckin’ proposal.” (in the case of “support” it is usually used about a great number of people, not just one individual)


同意 :どうい: agree (more formal). Usually used about serious matters such as contracts and organ transplants. When you click on a EULA, you 同意. You wouldn’t 同意 about  which restaurant to go to with friends, you’d 賛成.







Cheat or deceive


だます・ ($$$) the common word for deceive.


カンニング・ cheat on a test


ごまかす・ a small deception – To tell the cops, ‘I wasn’t driving drunk officer, I was just tired.’ ‘I don’t speak Japanese, officer!’ A related phrase: おつりをごまかす:  meaning, to keep some of the money  when you make change.


ずるをする・ child’s word for cheating


偽りの・ いつわりの: very official word for lie, usually used in a court. To perjure. To give false testimony. ‘I did not have sex with that woman!’ LIT


欺く;あざむく: the verb form of criminal fraud – deception for money


詐欺:さぎ: the noun form.









珍しい :めずらしい:$$$: unusual


まれ : also means unusual, but more formal/newspapery. Also has the connotation of rare-because-it’s-valuable (endangered species, a rare talent, etc.) If you see a dog-turd shaped like Lyle Lovett, that’s 珍しい , not まれ。


希少な;きしょうな: rare animals or plants. academic word. NP


妙に:みょうに:  unusual and strange! Usually used about behavior. Something strange is going on, I can feel it! She’s acting strange today. That homeless guy is acting weird.





Faithful, upstanding

誠:まこと: faithfulness and fidelity to your boss or superior person.


誠実:せいじつ: fidelity to your lover. (used as noun or na-adjective)


正直:しょうじき: integrity in your dealings with everyone.$$$


堅実 :けんじつ: reliability. 堅実 doesn’t have the moral aspect of words like 誠 or 誠実. 堅実 is more like, someone who works steadily, who doesn’t take chances, who is always on time, who is rock-solid and conservative.


忠実:ちゅうじつ: someone who is faithful in doing his/her duties. Also means like a movie which is faithful to the book, or a translation which is faithful to the original. Or even a forgery which copies the original dollar bill completely well.






Drive or ride

搭乗:とうじょう: to board an airplane or big boat


乗る:のる: to get on a car, train, or small boat.


運転する:うんてんする: to drive or pilot a vehicle.









運命・ うんめい : fate


さだめ : no one uses this, so don’t worry about it.LIT


宿命・しゅくめい: fate, often negative. A burden.  It’s my fate to work here. It’s my fate to do xxx my whole life, so I can’t change it.







made in Japan


日本製:にほんせい: things (usually electronics or clothes) made in Japan.


日本の出身:しゅっしん: a person WHO COMES FROM a certain place. “どちらの御出身?”= Which city were you born in? Depending on the circumstance, it can mean place of birth, which college you came from, which country . ..


日本の方:かた: a person who COMES FROM a certain place. More formal than出身.

Beware: you can’t say “I’m America の方” nor can you say “I’m America  の出身”.  They’re used when asking someone else.







傷・きず : $$$. damage to one’s body. Broken bones and such (visible or not).PPP TTT

怪我:けが: visible evidence of damage: scars, cuts, bruises. Both new and old scars.PPP






腫れる : swelling, like you got stung by a bee. PPP


膨らむ : ふくらむ swelling – not only of body parts, but of ANYTHING: sails swell in the wind, the universe expands. Often used to describe debt:  借金が膨らむ。


炎症:えんしょう: inflammation. Basically the same as 腫れる,but 炎症 is a doctor’s official word.









目 : め: normal word for eye.

眼 :  め: doctor’s word for eye.







start, begin

最初 :さいしょ; $$$:  at the beginning , first of all.


初めに – はじめに: pretty much the same as 最初 .


開始・かいし: a formal way to say ‘start’: the commencement.


始める :はじめる; to start (verb form)


初めて:はじめて: for the first time ever






よそ者 : an out-of-towner. Japanese use this on other Japanese.


のけ者 : an outcast. Could be someone who lives in town, but they are shunned like Hester Pyrnne.This is also used about burakumin and etahin.









災害:さいがい:: a TV news-worthy disaster: tornado, tsunami, earthquake.


災い・わざわい: a personal misfortune: house burned down, father had a stroke.


災難・さいなん: this means disaster in the sense of ‘How was your trip to Tahiti?’ ‘Oh my god, it was a total disaster!!! First we missed the plane, then I got an infection, then on top of all that our hotel was run by zombies!’ 災難  carries the sense of a bunch of random unconnected misfortunes. It never rains, but it pours, kind of thing.







完璧:かんぺき: $$$ perfectT.PPP TTT  完璧な人は居ない(nobody’s perfect)


完全  : かんぜん: complete or total. “Don’t stand up until the bus comes to a complete stop.” Perfect victory: 100 to nothing. Not used about people, 完全な人いない (nobody’s perfect).  Also used when creating things. To perfect a new invention or complete a new artwork. (not that it’s a perfect artwork a million times better than Michelangelo – just that it’s totally finished!)TTT









禁止・きんし: $$$ :  forbidden. Usually seen on signs: ‘IT IS FORBIDDEN TO WALK ON THE GRASS’ ;  ‘IT IS FORBIDDEN TO PARK HERE.’


廃止・はいし: to legally abolish a whole category of things: slavery, alcohol, heroin.


発禁・はっきん: to ban a specific thing: a book, a song. Unlike 廃止, the rest of the books or songs are still legal.NP


廃棄・ はいき: 1) to dispose or discard something (usually garbage, toxic waste) 2) to abandon something – a peace treaty. As a prefix, it means waste: waste-water, waste-electronics, etc.


駆逐:くちく: to force someone or something out. Microsoft forced Joey-Bob’s Computin’ Shack out of the market. Also used in wars: The Americans forced the Russians out of West Germany.NP


追放:ついほう: to deport someone.








get indignant


ムッと: informal word. To get indignant. Like if you meet a lady and say, “Hi! Is that a wig? How old are you? 54? Or more?” ムっと means you just make a brief face but usually keep your anger inside after that. This is one of these words you’d use when telling the story later. If someone’s a dick to you, you don’t reply to them, むっと!


怒る・いかる: A slightly more formal version of  おこる. You’d おこる if you dropped a hammer on your foot, but you’d いかる about politics or matters of principle. (or money!). You can use it about yourself: 私が怒ってる!


憤り:いきどお*り: moral outrage – at corruption, murder, etc. It doesn’t have to be expressed by yelling, though.NP


憤慨:ふんがい: This is a word for indignation which you use about other people to sort of invalidate their indignation: like some guy that talked for an hour about what a jerk his ex-girlfriend was, and wouldn’t shut up about it.


恨む:うらむ: to nurse a long-standing, corrosive grudge against someone.


癇癪:かんしゃく; a total flip-out temper tantrum: she killed him in a fit of passion. In a fit of anger, he broke the statue and crashed the car into the dead whale.










比べる :くらべる $$$ : compare


比較・ひかく : a more formal word for ‘compare’: You’d 比べる AC/DC albums to see which one rocked the most, but you’d 比較 the GDP of developing nations.








眠る :ねむる: sleepPPP TTT


寝る :ねる: go to bed. Lie down.PPP





Pipe/ tube

筒・つつ: usually defined as pipe but more accurately, it means cylinder.- chimney, exhaust pipe, drainage pipe, gun barrel, canister.


管:くだ: tube – rubber tube, plumbing pipe. To put it another way, 管  can bend, but 筒 is always straight.






人工・じんこう; $$$ : man-made


人造・じんぞう: don’t use this one.






go home


帰る:かえる: $$$ :normal

帰宅 : きたく: formal





syndrome vs. symptom!

症状 :しょうじょう:$$$: symptom.

症候群 : しょうこうぐん: syndrome (literally, a flock of symptoms!)






縄:なわ:$$$ :  rope – jump-rope, ‘do-not-enter’ rope, bondage rope


糸:いと; string

綱:つな: rope . . . the thickest of the three, which typically has the most vital jobs: 命の綱: lifeline, leash, tightrope, mooring line (ties boat to dock),LIT









説明 : せつめい:$$$: explanation


解説 :かいせつ: explanation, formal.









選ぶ:えらぶ: $$$ : informal. Choose eggs and hash browns.PPP TTT

選択・せんたく: formal. Choose a president.TTT SITU







鎖 : くさり:$$$ :  chain, like to chain up a dog or prisoner.

連鎖 れんさ: chain. Usually used figuratively: chain reaction. The cycle of child-abuse..NP






spending time :


時間が経つ :じかんが たつ: time passes. Usually a long time. Like, “After three days, the letter arrived.”  “As time passes, my grief fades.”


時間がかかる? : something – a taxi ride, a drug – takes time. How long does it take? 何分かかりますか? $$$


費やす:ついやす:  spend time in the context of work (literally, ‘consume time’ ) : usually used like, it was time well spent / it was time wasted.


時間を過ごす:すごす: – spend time on something fun, as like a hobby: spend time with loved ones, or with a rad book or an awesome pet.


流れる:ながれる: time proceeds (literally, ‘time flows’) . In the course of time, xxx happens.







没落:ぼつらく: to be ruined, bankrupt, downfallen. But usually ruined, or washed-up.NP


滅亡 : めつぼう: the downfall of a civilization or the dying-out of a certain ethnic group.


崩壊  ほうかい: to collapse – said of a building, but also (figuratively) like ‘The collapse of communism.’


Neither 滅亡  nor 崩壊 have the moral ‘It’s your own fault’ judgment of the English word ‘downfall.’


破壊:はかい: destruction. This usually means physical destruction, but if you’re looking for a word with the ‘this will be your downfall!’ blame-a-dude aspect, 破壊 works better than the previous two.


絶滅:ぜつめつ: (for animals) to go extinct.





Map / diagram

地図:ちず: map


図面:ずめん: blueprint


図表:ずひょう; diagram









侵攻(進攻)・しんこう;  :a full-scale invasion.


侵入 :しんにゅう; in war , it means an incursion ; a small raid, not an all-out invasion. More usually it means to trespass or intrude. Can also be used for an advance team of like marines or Special Ops and shit: unlike 侵略、 進入 is more secret-style , like a SWAT team entering the building where the hostages are being held.$$$
侵略 :しんりゃく:is a regular invasion, by troops. How is this different from 侵攻??? ???





mercy / magnanimity(lenience)


情け:なさけ; mercy (like, I could punish you but I won’t because your father was a good man).


体感;たいかん; sympathy (the good kind, not the patronizing kind), or concern


同情:どうじょう: pity (the bad, patronizing kind) as in, ‘I don’t want your fucking $$$ 同情! ’










軍人 : $$$- ぐんじん: all soldiers, warriors.

兵士:へいし: low-ranking soldiers : infantrymen.







翼・つばさ:  wing

羽: はね: feathers





image / picture


映像:えいぞう: any reflected or moving image, including TV or a computer screen, a shadow-puppet ,etc.


画像 : がぞう:  used to mean “portrait” but now means an (unmoving) image – on a computer screen. Basically it means .jpgs!


絵:え: an unmoving image on paper – a painting or drawing.


像・ぞう:a sculpture.(although in practice, it’s much more common to use the French  オブジェ )!










頷く:うなずく ::  this is the ‘Ok, ok, hai hai hai!’ little head-bob one does when someone else is talking or has given you an order.


お辞儀: おじぎ – serious, formal bow


会釈する:えしゃく : to give a head-nod  in greeting – a sort of ‘Sup?’ head-nod.







皮・かわ:skin, (human or animal, but not to be confused with fur, which is 毛皮!). Also the skin of an apple, or even the crust of bread!


肌・はだ: refers to the skin of a person – not to leather or animal skin


皮膚 :ひふ: skin (doctor word – like the English ‘epidermis’).





髪 :かみ;$$$ :  all the hair on one’s head


髪の毛・かみのけ; one single hair, (usually: is this your hair on the floor? cloggin’ the damn drain?)








細菌 :さいきん: $$$ : the regular word


ばい菌・ばいきん: the kids’ word. (usually used to taunt other kids)






嫉妬;しっと; the bad kind: angry and sexual.


うらやましい; the good kind : approving (I wish I had your looks!/shoes/vacation in Guam!)






説得 – せっとく : persuade

口説く :  くどく :  to persuade someone, in a bad way. . .to pester someone, usually for sex




lawn, grass


芝生 :しばふ: $$$

芝・しば: don’t say 芝!!






虐待:ぎゃくたい: abuse, or domestic violence.

迫害・はくがい: persecution of a minority group – political wordNP


虐げる:しいたげる : a limited word, which is only used about a dictator who is oppressing everyone!







永久に:えいきゅうに: the scientific ‘forever’: perpetual motion! The universe will expand forever! LIT NP


永遠に:えいえんに:  the poetic ‘forever’: I’ll hate you forever! We shall rule the world forever!!







火事・かじ: a harmful blaze, like a forest- or house-fire$$$


炎 : ほのお: a big but useful flame like a bonfire or auto da fe.


火災・かさい : a slightly more newspaper-ish word for a harmful blaze. Kids use 火事 but adults can use both 火事 or 火災.NP


火:ひ: any kind of fire – even a small fire like a lit match.







森:もり: : forest. Often goes after the name of a specific forest, i.e. “the black forest” would be 黒森 .

林: はやし : a grove. A copse.


森林:しんりん:  forests in general. (used in phrases like forest ecology, forest creatures, forestry)





体 からだ:$$$: body


姿:すがた: a figure, a shape ? as in, ‘I’ve got a bad figure ’ or ‘She saw  a shadowy  figure emerge from the darkness.’







運ぶ:はこぶ:to carry – with an emphasis on the fact that you’re  transporting something. If you pick up your suitcase and take it to the airport, that’s 運ぶ。

担う になう:to carry a heavy load – unlike 運ぶ、担う emphasizes the heaviness.  Can also be used figuratively – as in the English phrase “She bears the burden of caring for her retarded sister.” NP


担ぐ:かつぐ・”carry specifically on your shoulders” – like a backpack or a rifle.



負担:ふたん : a responsibility, usually financial, which is declared by a system. “If a guest falls off the hotel roof, it’s the hotel’s responsibility.” “The parent is responsible for paying for the child’s lunch at boarding school.”


背負う:せおう: an emotional burden, which is NOT part of a pre-arranged system: Taking care of your retarded sister, dealing with your son’s alcoholism, the feeling that you let down everyone on your team.




武士 :ぶし



OK, first off: white people love saying “侍.” Usually Japanese use “武士” – which means not only “a warrior” but is also used to refer to the spiritual or social class, as in “武士精神” (samruai spirit) or “武士道” (the philosophy of the samurai). The only time actual Japanese say “侍” is when they’re referring to something very concrete things like “samurai haircut” or “Samurai TV drama.”







船 :ふね: boat or ship.

舟 :ふね: is never used by itself. . . It’s only used in “jukugo-having-to-do-with-boats.” (箱舟 -ark, or漕ぎ舟 – rowboat)







豪華: ごうか:luxurious (in a good way)


贅沢 : ぜいたく: extravagant (luxurious in a bad way) In a way, 贅沢 is more like もったいない! (wasteful!) than 豪華.$$$





Examination or investigation

調べる:しらべる:$$$ :  a casual word for investigate, or find out about. To look up in a dictionary, to check tomorrow’s weather report. To find out about the blood type of your favorite singer.


検査 : けんさ: Medical checkup, or police investigation, or inspection: (financial audit, smog check, check the condition of goods that roll off the assembly line, etc). Has the nuance of a test where something passes or fails.


調査・ちょうさ: an investigation. (unlike 検査、調査emphasizes that there are no correct answers, and implies that the investigators are talking to someone, asking questions directly). 調査 is usually used about polls, surveys, and detectives questioning suspects and/or witnesses.


検討: けんとう・ a review or inquest (unlike 検査、 検討 means that a panel of experts are discussing the matter among themselves, rather than a superior person interrogating an inferior person).


診断 しんだん : medical diagnosis (not exam!)


査定:さてい: a totally useless word for ‘assess.’


検索:けんさく: internet search







展覧会・てんらんかい – art show. (kind of formal word)


博覧会・はくらんかい – expo, like a World’s Fair or something. Unlike 展覧会 and 展示, 博覧会 has educational value.


展示 ーてんじ trade-show or convention (for robots/insurance agents/any industry)








悲鳴をあげる :ひめいをあげる: to scream in fear.


を絶叫する: ぜっきょう、 -: this is only used about screaming-for-the-sake-of-screaming: i.e. roller coaster or MC Hammer concert.


と喚く:わめく : to yell in an angry way, but you’re still using words.


と・を 叫ぶ: さけぶ:  to exclaim! If you’re surprised and go AAAAAA or KYAA, that’s 叫ぶ。 Also you can use words – but unlike わめく it’s not always out of anger -you can use this for shouting slogans or scream your friend’s name.$$$


ほえる - to roar, bark! Used about angry animals.






薄い:うすい: faint, weak, (watery tea, faint light of dawn)


淡い:あわい: also means faint, but 淡い carries the connotation of, it’s faint because it’s weak or sickly. Fleeting. The faint light of the last bit of sunset.





to pretend or feign


振りをする:きどる: to pretend (that you’re rich, that you don’t know who ate the fucking last piece of pie, that you’re a real hard-core gangsta, etc.)


装う:よそおう: to pose (as a teenager online) , to masquerade (as a human even though you are a vampire). But also includes ふり’s meaning of to pretend (to be happy or whatever)


Basically, 装う means you’re trying to dupe other people intentionally, but   振りをする means you’re fooling your own self.


惚ける:とぼける; to feign innocence.  (although, it’s more common to simply say, 何も知らないを振りするな!!!)



made from wood

木製:もくせい:  a wooden table, a wooden sculpture, etc.

木材 . もくざい: raw cut wood – timber, logs, etc.




すれすれ:more of a bad meaning. That car rolled past us and we were almost hit! That thing you did is borderline criminal. There’s not enough room for the waitress to barely barely squeeze between the tables because the customers have selfishly pulled their chairs away from the tables to sit.

ぎりぎり: barely. We got on the train with just seconds to spare! I passed the test by one percent!




思い出:おもいで:$$$ : a specific memory (like that time in third grade)


記憶・きおく: memory in general (‘As I get older, I’m losing my memory’)






race or ethnic group


人種 じんるい:  race


民族:みんぞく: this word does double-duty: it means ‘ethnic group’, as well as ‘folk’ as in folk music or folk handicrafts.








人類 -じんるい: humankind / humanity in general (human history, anthropology, a problem confronting humankind, humans vs. robots) Does NOT mean humanity as in ‘He showed his humanity by giving money go charity.’ That’s  人情.


人情:にんじょう: humanity, as in kindness, compassion for the suffering, love thy neighbor, etc.


人間: a human.





Self- reliance

自立:じりつ:self-reliance through hard work. A kid who gets a job, moves out of her parents’ house, who does things for herself. PPP


・独立:どくりつ; autonomous – a colony becomes an independent country, a business start-up that is not under the umbrella of an established conglomerate, etc.  PPP TTT








練習・れんしゅう; practice – usually used with sports or performance (theater, band, etc.). Includes both physical and mental training.


訓練・:くんれん; martial arts / basic training in the army. The connotation is that it’s physical, and you do it over and over until you become a master of it.


研修:けんしゅう: special advanced study – like at a post-graduate seminar.





Burn or cook

焼く・やく – to roast food, but sometimes used with other stuff, like cross-burning or flag-burning, or even CD-burning.


焦がす・こがす – to burn to a crisp – to scorch – whether intentionally (flame-thrower!) or unintentionally (bad cook). Also, often used with hot, passionate emotions: burning with the fiiiire of looooooveeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!


燃える もえる : incinerate, destroy with fire. You’ll often see signs on garbage cans for 燃えるごみ!






大臣: だいじん: the Minister of something (Education, Defense, Health, etc.)


閣僚:かくりょう; a member of the Cabinet.


This is confusing, because by definition all members of the Cabinet are Ministers (大臣),


I guess they use 閣僚 when talking about X San with respect to the Cabinet, and they use 大臣 when talking about X San with respect to his Ministry.


For example, “There was a big public debate about whether pantsless chaps were legal in public, until Mr. Dongle, the Minister of ASS (大臣)officially ruled that it was awesome.”


as opposed to:


“Cabinet member (閣僚)Dongle is one of three Cabinet members with a wooden leg.”










償う つぐなう – to compensate someone for bad stuff you did. This is used in everyday life, and can take various forms : doing their homework or baking them a cake, It’s more of a sincere expression of regret than 弁償..


弁償する : べんしょうする  – to compensate financially, because of a lawsuit. More of a formal/legal term than 償う.


埋め合わせ: うめあわせ: to compensate yourself. Like, he grows his hair long in back to compensate for going bald in front. He bought a SUV to compensate for having a small dick.






To flip out

キレる・ $$$: to flip out – (used both with violence and shouting). Literally, it means ‘the string which is pulled too taught and breaks.’ A キレル-type flip-out is the result of a lot of stress which the person has been carrying inside for a long time, and finally a straw breaks the camel’s back, so to speak, and the person snaps. So the root cause of the flip-out is not usually obvious to people witnessing it.


怒鳴る どなる: to get screaming mad at someone (usually a subordinate) for fucking up, i.e. you’re doing it for a specific reason, but your reaction is out of control.


怒鳴り付ける どなりつける: like regular どなる but more.






数:かず:($$$) number as in “200 years ago” or “43 people showed up.”


数字:すうじ; an integer – 1,2,3 are 数字 the same way that a,b, and c are 文字。 (or あ、い、え、う、お for that matter!)


号:ごう: a number which has been assigned to an object, as in, ‘room number’ or ‘phone number.’







辛い・からい: spicy!


辛口 からくち: this is only ever used in tandem with its opposite: 甘口。 You only find these words on restaurant menus, where there is a spicy dish and you are invited to order 甘口 (less hot) or 辛口 (more hot).







泊まる・ とまる – stay overnight – at a hotel or your friends house. This is the one you use when you want to say, “I have nowhere to stay!”


宿泊 しゅくはく – same as 泊まる, but more formal. Only used in guidebooks. You don’t 宿泊 at a slumber party.





狩る かる – to hunt.


獲る・とる – also means hunt, except that this is never used





Belly, guts

腹・ はら or おなか : $$$ – your belly area.  My beer-belly.


Also used in common idioms: 腹が立つ: I’m angry! and  お腹がヘタ; I’m hungry!


腸 : ちょう – just the intestines – what’s INSIDE your 腹. A medical term.









Accusation or lawsuit.

うったえる: to accuse – can be used both in a legal sense, and in a more everyday sense of ‘Billy accused Mary of stealing the last piece of porn.’


訴訟:そしょう: lawsuit  (訴訟を持ち込む = to be involved in a lawsuit)


訴え:うったえ: the noun form of うったえる。 It also means lawsuit.  Basically the same meaning as 訴訟, but you never say 訴訟する。 You DO, however say, うったえする。


責める – to denounce or blame someone.


告訴:こくそ: an accusation, a charge. involves going to the police to formally file charges. Usually used with criminal charges but can be used with civil suits as well.


クレイム: to complain to the management of a store. Usually クレイム is something like, “I bought these socks but there was a centipede inside them! I want a refund!” or “The portions of cheesecake are too small! What happened to the portions?!?”








素人・しろうと: an amateur as opposed to a professional. An every-day, untrained person, as opposed to a specialist. Can also be used to describe someone who has never done XXX.


初心者・しょしんしゃ; a beginner at something – beginner driver, a noob.


未熟:みじゅく; someone who has really sloppy or clumsy, poor technique at something – who does it LIKE a beginner, even if they’ve been doing it for years.








秘密・ひみつ : $$$ :  the common word for secret. A 秘密 is a 秘密 regardless of how many people know it – or even if nobody knows it! The headline, “Scientist attempts to discover the secret to eternal life!” would use 秘密.


内緒 :ないしょ; usually defined as ‘confidential,’ but that makes it sound more serious than it is – like a spy document or something. Actually, 内緒 is kind of a kids’ word. “Keep this information between us two.”KIDS








大げさな: おおげさな: $$$ : To exaggerate in your attitude, without actually bending the facts. For instance, you get a little scratch but act like you need to go to the hospital. 大げさalso means, ‘to talk in a grandiose, pompous way.’

誇張する・ こちょうする: exaggerate in a fairly literal way: You saw one celebrity, but claim that you saw 6.





答え:こたえ: $$$: the usual word for answer.

回答:かいとう: Used mostly in politics, surveys, or interviews. Usually a 回答 is your opinion, on a question where there is no ‘right’ answer.


解答:かいとう: This means, to answer a question on a test, quiz, or other problem WHERE THERE IS A RIGHT ANSWER.





お仕置き おしおき! to punish.KIDS とか SM


罰する ばつする; to punish


The difference: You use 罰 when someone has broken an established rule. This is anything from the legal system to high school rules like ‘don’t run in the halls.’


お仕置き is used more like with little kids (or with s/m slaves, for that matter). there doesn’t have to be a rule – just a sense that someone did something bad. It’s more like ‘sit in your room and think about what you did.’







また: crotch (usually またのとこと )


股ぐら: またぐら: a more vulgar form of crotch


股間:こかん: a more polite version


股上:またがみ: the sexy naked spot above low-rise jeans.




Ritual suicide

切腹 せっぷく- $$$ - ritual suicide by slitting one’s belly open. This is the formal, written word.


腹きり はらきり – same thing, but this is the more casual, conversational term.






around here, in the vicinity


周り まわり:  everything/everyone in my circumference.


辺:へん: one particular thing which is around here somewhere!!


辺り あたり: this neighborhood, the vicinity (as opposed to far away or another ‘hood)


頃:ころ: around this point in time.


xxxぐらい: around this much.






Art or literary criticism.


批評する:ひひょうする: review of one specific performance (showbiz event, exhibition, play, etc.) More commonly used as a verb.


評論:ひょうろん; critique of an entire genre. More often literary (novels, plays) Usually used as a noun.NP


Both words can mean harsh judgment but not necessarily so.






巡回:じゅんかい: patrol

巡視:じゅんし: patrol – never used.






医者・いしゃ: Medical doctor – normal version


医師・いし: Medical doctor – formal version. Used in newspapers and documents. You wouldn’t say “I just got hit by a scooter! Call the 医師!”


先生:せんせい: teacher, but also any upper-class smart professional: doctor, lawyer, philosopher, etc.


教師:きょうし: a more formal word for teacher (and, unlike 先生、 this  ONLY refers to teachers ).








同伴する:どうはん する: a person accompanies another person.


伴う:ともなう: accompany, both literal and figurative : Bill accompanies Doug. But also, rain accompanies high winds at this time of year (notice how it doesn’t care about cause and effect)








負ける:まける:$$$:  to lose a game or fight or struggle.


参った:まいった: (spoken aloud) to say uncle. “No mas!”


敗北:はいぼく: a loss of a game or war


失敗 :しっぱい: any failure! Fail a test, your plan fails, no one comes to your party, your business goes bankrupt.


失う・うしなう: this one has a bewildering variety of meanings. To miss out on something (but not because of an opponent). To miss a chance. (to get a job). Also to lose a tooth, lose one’s cool, to lose a friend (who died.)



不合格 : unacceptable! Used with schoolwork, but also work reviews, or ‘this workmanship is unacceptable’ or ‘Son your room is not acceptably clean.’


落第 :らくだい: to fail a test



Pile up / cram in

積み上げる:つみあげる:pile up

詰める:つめる: cram in


More from gitaigos.




最悪な:さいあく な:$$$ : the worst!


最低の:さいていの: the lowest – both in the moral sense of “He’s the lowest kind of sexual predator” and in the mathematical sense of “Crime rates are the lowest in 30 years.” Also means minimum, as in, “Do this for a minimum of 5 minutes per day.





Ripen, mature

熟れる:うれる:  to ripen – used about plants.

成熟 せいじゅく: to mature. (emotional maturity, a mature orca whale eats 1,000 dogs a day, etc.) (also used of nubile humans).




Cut down on / reduce:






Timidly / reluctantly


のろのろ; too slow – like the people driving in front of you

だらだら:(literally, the sound of dripping) – people who work at a slow pace, deliberately going slow out of laziness, giving you just a dribble of effort.

ためらう: to be hesitant, to have second thoughts ためらいもなくxxx (I will do xxx without hesitation!)

しぶしぶ: reluctantly

おずおず: timidly, apprehensively. Usually we’d use おそるおそる  instead. If おずおず is used at all, it’s used by a parent scolding a scaredy-cat kid: おずおずするな!早くゴキブリを取れ!


おそるおそる: timidly, apprehensively. (the bird approached my hand with the birdseed in my palm)




苛める:いじめる :$$$:  bully someone, verbally or physically


ちゃかす: to take something that someone just said in earnest, and turn it into a joking matter.


ふざける : joke around with, usu. In a friendly way


冷やかす: ひやかす:  tease, usually about “Oooh, Sammy’s got a giiiirlfriend!” “No I don’t!!” “yes you dooo!”


からかう:  mess with someone’s head


嫌がらせ:いやがらせ: harass in a stalker manner






Go too far, jump the gun, press your luck

先走り:さきばしり: to jump the gun – to move too fast. To do something prematurely.

席を越す:どうをこす: same as 調子に乗る

調子に乗る:ちょうしにのる:to press your luck, to carry something too far.

あんまり: used about a thing/situation/extent. Too hot, too far, he studied too much and now he had a breakdown.








食う :くう:to devour!!! it’s kind of a more mean way of saying ‘to eat.’- most of the negative, dark expressions involving eating use KUU rather than TABERU. Also – very seldom – it means to make a living, as in the English phrase, ‘You gotta work to eat.’






pick up


拾う・ひろう: pick up off the ground, pick up big thing like a box.

取る・とる: pick up off a table or shelf; pick up a small thing like glasses or a plate.







狂う:くるう:$$$ : someone who has been insane since childhood. Ted Bundy or whoever. They might seem normal at first.


きちがい : Crazy fucker. Discriminatory term against the mentally ill. One of the worst insults in Japanese.


いってる: someone who is obviously nuts – a street person with Hefty Bag shoes or whoever. $$$


発狂・ はっきょう: someone who is normally sane but had a breakdown from stress, or a sudden flip-out.







特に:とくに: especially


別に:べつに: especially , but always used in the negative. Example:そのゴハンは別においしくない。 (’this food is not really delicious.’)







place an order for an item or service


依頼・いらい: To hire a lawyer, designer, ad firm, etc. Put another way: any relationship where you’d use the phrase “The client wants. . … ” is いらい。


頼む・たのむ: to ask someone to do something for you. You can use this when ordering food at a restaurant, but also when asking a favor from a friend. たのむ has the nuance that the person being asked can refuse. $$$


注文:ちゅうもん: to order something at a place of business – usually mail-order. But also ordering food. Also, if you ask your friend to do an annoying and detailed favor, like, “Could you do the laundry again with this other kind of soap!”, that’s 注文.








見捨てる・みすてる: to have nothing to do with someone anymore. To cut them off completely. Not just used about lovers.


振る:ふる:to dump your lover. Jorgeに振られた= to be dumped by Jorge.






dry out


乾かす:かわかす: to desiccate something – beef jerky or leather. Also used about arid regions of the globe.


干す:ほす:To hang out clothes to dry.


渇く: something which is normally, or ought to be, wet , becomes dry: My eyes are dry. 喉が渇いてる= I’m thirsty! (lit. ‘My throat is dry.’)






貯金 :ちょきん:$$$ : regular dollar bills in the bank.


貯蓄:ちょちく: All savings, especially investments such as stocks, gold and gems.





Small town or village

村:むら: a specific small village : “Look at that village over there!” =あの村を見てください!


里:さと: small villages in general, as in “Country life is more peaceful than city life.” Also has the nuance of being the village where you are from.  Be careful, though: If you say your wife or girlfriend went back to the 里、people think you mean she broke up with you!









~等:~ら: more rough, rude. Half the time hiragana. Only used with these three things:


あいつ等:あいつら:those clowns


彼等:かれら: him and his homeys


奴等:やつら: those assholes over there


達 :たち: Used with most “people” pronouns, but not with animals. Usually used only in these 3 situations:


仲間達:なかまたち: the group of friends.


人達:ひとたち: people.


子供達:こどもたち: the children.






wake up

起きる:おきる:$$$ : I wake up


起こす:おこす: I wake YOU up.


覚める:さめる: to regain consciousness (after fainting or being konked on the head OR sleep). Also to realize something – to become conscious that your sister is a junkie.




Fat or oil

油:あぶら: vegetable oil.


脂肪 :しぼう: animal fat – usually used when discussing how many calories this burger has. But you can also use it about the fat in your thighs.





Memorize vs. remember.

覚える: to put something new into your memory. Like “Learn 10 kanji a day.”


思い出す: to retrieve something which you learned before. “I remember the last time I saw him – in 1985 on a beach.”



Wall / fence

へい: tall and solid  fence – the gaza strip wall.

壁:かべ: regular house wall.

柵:さく: short, transparent fence: chicken wire, or little picket fence.



節:ふし: can be used about the knuckle, but mostly it refers to INANIMATE joints. That might seem like a contradiction, but consider the “knuckles” on a bamboo plant, or knots on a tree.

関節:かんせつ:regular human or machine joints i.e. moving joints.




目的:もくてき:$$$: the reason you’re doing something – “I’m seeing this movie because I want to have an excuse to say hi to the cute usher.”


動機:どうき: motive – usually used when talking about crimes.


目標:もくひょう: A goal – usually not something you do all in once. Usually related to self-improvement in some way. “My goal is to learn French in 2 years.” “My goal is to run a marathon next July.”


狙い:ねらい: your aim – sounds like hunting.


的:まと: TARGET


意図:いと: intention. Usually used like this: “Ahahaha! Just as I’d intended!” Or, “You did that on purpose! You did that intentionally!”  or, “She came here with the intention of stabbing the possum!”


xxx目当て:xxxめあて: hidden motive or ultimate (i.e. final) purpose. Usually used like, “金目当て女“。




誘う:さそう:$$$ : informal invitation – to a movie, to karaoke.


招待:しょうたいする: same but more formal – an invitation to a wedding or award ceremony.





Capability vs. talent

性能:せいのう: capability (of a machine) i.e. “The new iphone has more 性能 than a regular 携帯.”



才能:さいのう:talent (of a person). Usually used about hand-skills: surgery, piano, violin, painting. Unlike 能力 (which comes from arduous physical training)、才能 has the feeling of something inborn or heaven-sent.



能力:のうりょく: person’s capability. Usually used about one’s body, which has been trained to do something by a lot of exercise:  運動能力 (physical prowess – how fast she can run, how much he can lift)、 身体能力 (ditto).





Too intimate / too personal:


ねほりはほり聴く: ask nosey questions.

なれなれしい: To get in someone’s face that you just met, and take liberties that you would take with a good friend. This includes talking AND physically getting too close. “Wow, that’s a great moustache! *strokes*

気安くxxx:きやすくxxx: to do something to someone in a blithe, facile manner – too casually, without considering the other person’s feelings.  Like touching a girl’s ass, or telling your friend who just got cancer, “Oh bummer dude, Whelp, you’ll be ok. Gotta skate!”



Data entry

入力;にゅうろく:data entry (used with computers)


記入:きにゅう: data entry (used with physical paper)


登録:とうろく: register (fill out a form)




未来:みらい; the future


将来:しょうらい: a specific person’s future (i.e. the dumb interview question, “What do you see yourself doing 10 years from now?”).  Also sometimes used with the future of a specific entity, i.e. Japan’s future.





見過ごす:みすごす; to accidentally overlook (a red light, a stop sign)

大目に見る:おおめにみる: to turn a blind eye deliberately





持ってる:もってる; $$$ : to own a small thing – a book, a pencil, a PC. (literally, to hold)


所有する・しょゆう: to own land, a car, a house – any big thing. Also, when it comes to crime, 所有 means the crime of possession, (a gun, some drugs, etc.).



Point of view


立場:たちば: Literally, “from where someone is standing.” Usually used like, “If you look at it from her point of view. . . .”

見方:みかた: Literally, “a way of looking at things.” Pretty much the same as 立場、 but 見方 seems to mostly be used in metaphors or explanations, whereas 立場 is more used in arguments, with a sort of right/wrong angle to it.

味方:みかた: that’s right. . . not only are they synonyms but they’re also SPELLED THE SAME. THIS particular みかた means, to support or be on the side of someone. Closer to 応援 than to the FIRST みかた。

世界観:せかいかん:one’s value system. This is the one you’d use about politics.

彼にして見ればxxx; かれにしてみればxxx:  If you pretend you’re him for a second, xxx




Social status

身分・みぶん: Social status – from kings to peasants and slaves. One’s status never changes in Japanese society – it is with you no matter what you do with your life.


分際 :ぶんざい: kind of a prejudice hate-speech word. Means “your inferior status.” As in, “Don’t forget your place!” Usually said like this: xxxの分際でそんなこと何で言うんだよ! (”How dare you talk to your betters like that?”)- but you don’t have to be a stuffy headmaster or wizened dowager to use 分際. You could be a neighborhood bully or something. 分際 doesn’t mean just social class – it could refer to someone’s place in any pecking order.


階級:かいきゅう: Means the same as 身分 but is generally understood to refer to foreign societies. Unlike 身分、 you can change your 階級 with luck or hard work.





通勤:つうきん: commute to work only


通う:かよう: routinely go somewhere (school, work, church, the gym, etc).







突然・とつぜん:$$$: out-of-the-blue ; unexpected. An email from an old friend. Rain suddenly falls when you thought you had a couple of hours of fog left.


唐突 :とうとつ: really unexpected – so random it is shocking. Rain from a clear blue sky.






受ける:うける: to receive anything – a letter, an email, some bad news, a bad influence from the neighbor’s kid. . .


受け取る:うけとる: to receive a physical thing that is handed to you – paperwork or a summons.


もらう: used with another verb, as in 手伝ってもらう or 買ってもらう. To receive an action (from someone) – used when you ask someone for a favor and they do it. $$$


くれる: This is tricky – used by itself, it means “to give.” But if – like もらうー you use it with another verb, as in 助けてくれた or 食べてくれた, it means ‘to receive an action from someone else – THAT THEY DID WITHOUT YOU ASKING’. Literally, “She gave me XXX.”







切手:きって: letter or stamp only


切符:きっぷ: train or concert only


チケット: movie or airplane.








宮・みや: old-school Japanese palace from the Heian era (later eras had palaces inside stone castles, so they are called castles: 城)


宮殿 :きゅうでん: foreign palace, Taj Mahal, Russian onion-domed places, Versailles.




break or vacation

休み やすみ:$$$:  could be anything from a short break to summer vacation – it all depends on the word before it.


休憩 きゅうけい : break at work (昼休み is actually a type of きゅうけい) OR break from studying/training. Just long enough to eat some food and stretch – usually 15 minutes to an hour.


休日:きゅうじつ; A holiday – Christmas, Arbor Day, etc.


休暇:きゅうか: long vacation from work (maternity leave, 2-week vacation to Barbados, etc.)









断つ:たつ: quit smoking or drinking booze. Cut off all relations with someone. Cut off funding to terrorist groups.


辞める:やめる; quit a job. Quit bothering me. Quit hitting.


あきらめる: to try something and give up – without ever accomplishing it to begin with! (winning the heart of this girl, learning Japanese, etc.)





that’s too bad!


残念;ざんねん;$$$:  more informal. “That’s too bad.” – say this when someone didn’t enjoy a movie they went to, or couldn’t come to your party.


遺憾・いかん; Kind of formal – something is regrettable -some big thing – North Koreans kidnapping people, the fingers you lost in a factory accident.


悔しい:くやしい; say this when you lost a big game or got dumped.






が 緩む:ゆるむ: something – a string, say, or some baggy pants –  comes loose. Figuratively, a situation becomes more calm or relaxed.


を 緩める:ゆるめる: someone loosens a thing or (figuratively) loosens their attitude.(China loosens restrictions on capitalism)






仕返し;しかえし:more of a child’s word. Used about small revenge: You punched my arm, so I’ll punch your arm or maybe squirt juice on you.KIDS


復讐 :ふくしゅう: really heavy, vendetta-style, “I must avenge the death of my kung-fu master!” type of thing.








中身:なかみ:contents (both literally, as in the contents of a purse, and figuratively, as in ‘this movie contains violence and adult language.’)


内容・ないよう: same as 中身, but slightly more formal.





pile up, cram in


積む・つむ : to pile up things (luggage, cargo, crap) or, to accumulate. Almost always used like this : 積み上げる.


重ねる -かさねる – to overlap (usually said of flat things). Also, mostly it is used in the figurative sense: problems or responsibilities are growing out of control, you can’t do it all at once!


詰める: to pack in, stuff in, cram.







~店: みせ・ a shop, speaking generally. “I got to go open the shop now.” (The speaker can use this no matter what kind of shop it is).


~屋 : や :store – usually used for stores that only sell one thing: fish store(魚屋), book store(本屋), used clothes store(古着屋), bakery パン屋$$$


~店舗 : ~てんぼ: branch of a chain store.







作戦・さくせん: $$$: any strategy for succeeding


戦略:せんりゃく: only used with actual war or conflict where one side must triumph at the expense of the other. (usually between two rival businesses like Coke and Pepsi). For instance, the Republican ‘Southern Strategy’ of appealing to the racism of the voters they’re screwing over economically.






Believe in


信じる・しんじる; $$$: believe something (a friend’s excuse, believe that your dad can win the hockey game, etc.)


信仰 :しんこう: religious faith









謙虚:けんきょ: this is a word you use about others. “She’s got a very modest attitude.”


謙遜:けんそん: To downplay your own skills in front of others. You don’t ever say “I 謙遜-ed.” or “She’s really 謙遜-ish.” Normally it’s only used like : “Please don’t kenson. We both know you’re rad.” or “He declined the offer out of modesty.”






make a living


稼ぐ:かせぐ:to earn money by doing xxx, to make a living at xxx. “She likes to DJ but she can’t make a living at it.”


暮らす:くらす:This doesn’t correspond to any English word. Maybe the closest phrase is, “To lead one’s life.” Homeless people, retirees, rich divorcees all 暮らす even though they don’t 稼ぐ。暮らす means “to live in a place” as well as “to do all one’s daily junk (eating, sleeping, hanging out).” 暮らす is usually used in sentences like, “over 30,000 people are living in the city.” or “Live on $20 a day,” or “Have an easy/hard life.”


住む: すむ:$$$:  this also means ‘to live’ but in the much more narrow sense of, ‘to live at this particular address.’ (i.e. I live with my parents / I live in an apartment / I live in this town)





捕まる・つかまる:$$$: catch – a cat catches a mouse. The cops catch the robber.


捕える:とらえる:catch – a little more literary than 捕まる。 You can use 捕らえる to mean catch your prey OR to catch the meaning of a complicated sentence. Or you can use it to mean ‘The author of Condoleeza Rice’s biography really captures her personality well.”PPP


both 捕まる and 捕らえる mean ‘catch’ and they can both be used to describe an animal catching prey OR someone grabbing someone else by the arm.PPP TTT


逮捕:たいほ:caught by police.PPP

取る:とる: to catch a ball.






済ませる:すませる: to finish homework, chores. “No dessert until you finish your spinach!”


完成: かんせい: to complete – usually said of a painting, construction of a building, or other physically creative project.


完了: かんりょう: to finish work on a project – an annual report, a re-formatting of the database, etc.


終了 : しゅうりょう: something (a contract, a subscription, a statue of limitations) expires or terminates.


結末:けつまつ: the conclusion of something – the last chapter of a book or the last scene of a movie.


終わり : おわり: “the end” – usually written at the end of old movies. Also said out loud by someone who wants to declare victory and change the subject.


完全:perfect, as in ‘the perfect crime’ or ‘perfectly safe.’ Also, perfect as in, ‘My new project is perfectly complete, now the finishing touches are over.’








激しい:はげしい:$$$: the broadest word. Has the nuance of something that is aggressive and over-full of energy: weather, emotions, or even a place that is crazy packed and busy can be 激しい.


極端:きょくたん: used about people – people who take things too far. A 2-foot-tall mohawk is 極端.


過激:かげき: used about extreme politics only.









語源:ごげん: linguistic roots of a word – although people usually use the English ル­ーツ (’roots’)


由来:ゆらい: the origin of anything, a word, but also a custom or the origin of a culture or origin of a city.






瞬間;しゅんかん; $$$: an instant


一瞬:いっしゅん; an instant – but even shorter than 瞬間。 ’instant glue’ is 瞬間, but 一瞬 is like a bullet popping a balloon.





Salary, wages

給料:きゅうりょう: $$$: salary


給与 :きゅうよ: salary.

You can use either 給与 or 給料 for salaried jobs or hourly wage jobs.


But 給料 is a bit more useful. For instance, ‘payday’ is 給料日、 not 給与日.


収入:しゅうにゅう: all income (job as well as 401k, stocks, allowance, etc.)






old person


年寄り:としより; (’70s and up) this isn’t rude per se, but if you want to dismiss or belittle what an old fart just said, this is the word you use. $$$


老人;ろうじん;(’70s and up) old person


年をとった:としとった:(’70s and up) just like 老人 but it’s an adjective.


年輩:ねんぱい; this is the most polite – you can even use it for someone in their ’60s – but it’s so formal you can’t say ‘年輩の人’, you have to say ’年輩のカタ’




get old


ふける:to get old, a somewhat pejorative term: Danny Glover saying ‘I’m too old for this shit!’ – “Dumbledore’s getting old, he makes mistakes.” Also means “To be a kid but look older than you are.”


老いる:おいる:another word for ‘to get old, to age’, but without the pejorative connotation of ふける.





Start-of-sentence words for “Perhaps”

たしか~: the dictionaries say “perhaps” but in reality たしか is more like a “softener” that you put in front of a statement you ARE sure of, but you want to make it more polite/indirect.


ひょっとして~: this one is more like “could it be. . .? Naw, it couldn’t. . .but..??” Like if you run into someone that looks like your long-lost friend from 4th grade.

万が一~: this is usually used for bad things only. “Just in case.”  Kind of thing. “In the unlikely event of a water landing, pull out your inflatable cushions.”



Stocks and bonds.

株:かぶ: actual individual stocks – ‘I bought stock in Enron.’ “He made a killing in stocks.” ‘I hear stocks are really down this year.’


株式 :かぶしき: This is the word used in financial terms about stocks IN GENERAL – IPO or ‘go public’ or ‘stock amortization’ and the like.




Soften or relent




What’s the word for weather or seas that calm down?



story or legend


童話・どうわ: children’s story


伝説・でんせつ; a legend – King Arthur, Robin Hood, etc.


神話・しんわ: myth  (literally ‘god story’ )


小説・しょうせつ: a novel


昔話・むかしばなし:old (over 1000 years!) story – but not about gods, (that’s 神話) Think of Beowulf or the Icelandic epics.


物語・ものがたり: a tale- often used in the title of a book or movie. As in ‘The Tale Of Genji’ or ‘The Tale Of Two Cities.’


語り:かたり: narration


逸話:いつわ: anecdote


メルヘン : A German word, referring to Grimm’s Fairy tales and the like.





old saying


名言・めいげん; a quote from a famous person – even if they are still alive. “I knew John F. Kennedy and you, sir, are no . . .” Can be funny, too. $$$


格言・かくげん: an old proverb – always moral in nature.


“ ことわざ ” : an old proverb – always moral in nature.


合言葉:あいことば: a slogan of a group or company: “coke is it!” “power to the people!”






theater, play


芝居:しばい: play or theatrical performance – usually used by old people only.


劇 :げき: a play. (NOT used about kabuki or noh. – you got to say kabuki or noh if that’s what you mean!)


ショー: a Broadway musical


演劇:えんげき: pretty much the same as 劇: but a little more formal? Shakespeare is 演劇、 but a school play or Christmas pageant is 劇.








活躍:かつやく: used in business or showbiz – to be doing a lot of things which are getting the notice of one’s peer group. To succeed in making a name for one’s self. To be going places.


活動;かつどう:not used in a business context. かつどう means ‘She’s active in charities and AIDS awareness.’ ‘He’s really active in the youth baseball league.’  ’This area has been a hotbed of gang activity.’


積極的・せっきょくてき;: someone who is active, as in always getting stuff done, a self-starter, someone who is DIY – as opposed to a passive, timid, apathetic, obedient person.






張る:はる: to physically make something longer. Stretch a rubber-band、 stretch a canvas on a paint frame, pitch a tent. Also to extend one’s influence.


引っ張る:ひっぱる: to drag (a kid by the hand / a box along the ground). Also to pull on a rope


伸ばす:のばす: stretch your muscles – to grow your hair – develop your talents.


延ばす:のばす: to stretch IN TIME – to extend, prolong, delay something.






官僚:かんりょう: a high-level minister, someone who is big enough to get kickbacks.


役人 :やくにん: a low-level bureaucrat, like at the DMV. An ass-grower.





Way to do

方法・ほうほう : kind of formal. “Way to get a Japanese Visa”. Used in instruction manuals. “Way to operate this dishwasher.”


仕方:しかた: not often used – except in the negative: “仕方ない。” -“There’s no way.”


Usually you’d say the name of the thing you’re doing plus 方。 泳ぎ方(how to swim) 跳び方(how to fly) etc.





儒学:じゅがく: the study OF Confucianism

儒教 :じゅきょう: Confucianism





Planet vs. star

惑星:わくせい: planet


星:ほし: planet OR star






乱暴:らんぼう: violent – “He’s a violent guy” or “She’s a violent /crazy driver” – violent weather.


暴力:ぼうりょく: violence of person against person




Power, authority


勢い:いきおい: momentum, the power to influence something – like, “The car had a lot of 勢い so it was hard to stop the car before we hit the cat” or “Because of the whiskey’s 勢い, I could do a table dance in the White House.” Also means to gain steam or lose steam – said of political momentum or the momentum of a trend or ideology.


力;ちから: force or strength (of a person but also of a thing – tidal wave, lightning, mighty rhino, etc.)


権力:けんりょく: power (over other people)(as in boss, parent, governor, pope, etc.)


威力:いりょく: power in a bad way- scary power. Like the power of heroin or the power of a corrupt cop. Not very useful.


政権:せいけん: political power.


権利:けんり: the right to do something.


権威 (けんい) an authority one has based on power alone (parents, cops, etc.) rather than on rights (like the related word 権利(けんり))







ちくる: more of a slang term- to tell a teacher that Jimmy smokes weed. To tell Dad that Michiko has a 30 year old boyfriend.KID


密告:みっこく: snitch on a crime- used in newspapers or police reports.


言いつける:いいつける: kind of a childish word – someone who betrays a secret without knowing they’re doing anything wrong. “Daddy! The lady you called fat is at the door!”






予定:よてい: $$$: a very everyday sort of plan – go to the movies, go to karaoke with friends.


計画・けいかく: Pretty close to 予定 in meaning, but perhaps more elaborate – you’d use 計画 to say “I have a plan to get rich!” or to say “I planned out our whole vacation to 3 countries.” . .  you wouldn’t use 予定 for that.


案・あん;an idea you just had – or a proposal you’re making – to specifically solve a problem.


企画 :きかく; a corporate plan. I.e. to build a high-rise building by 2011, or to release a new type of car.


策 :さく: never used by itself.






娯楽  : ごらく: : entertainment like movies, comic books, Disneyland. . .


愉快 : ゆかい:  entertaining. A little formal. Usually used about people, rather than movies or circuses, etc.  Like this: 愉快な方。ゆかいなかた。(an entertaining individual!) $$$


快感:かいかん: a physical sensation of pleasure – usually but not always sexual.




Spaced-out, forgetful, absent-minded.

忘れっぽい:わすれっぽい: describes someone’s personality: absent minded; someone who always leaves their umbrella on the train.$$$


ぼんやりしてる:to space out. – to be all ‘duh.’ Describes a specific action – even the most lucid person sometimes does ぼんやり-


忘れる:わすれる: to forget something – not limited to physical objects like 忘れっぽい。


思い出すせない:おもいだせない: to be unable to remember something (like a word, your Dad’s birthday, or a Kanji!)










Both words mean “husband” and both are used on formal as well as informal occasions. But 夫 is used in documents, while 旦那 is more used in conversation.


The female equivalent of 夫 is  妻。(つま)


the female equivalent of 旦那さん is 奥さん (おくさん)





speak, talk


言う:いう: to say: ‘He was like, . . .she was like. . .’


話す・はなす:to have a conversation. If you want to say, ‘I’d like to talk to you about. . .” then you use話す.


しゃべる・しゃべる:to be ABLE to speak a given language. Speaking in general. 喋り方 means “the way he spoke” (it was gangstery / it was childish even though he was 45, etc.)


語る:かたる; to relate a story.




Set aside, store

蓄える・たくわえる: setting stuff aside for a rainy day. Used about good things. Also – in contrast to 貯める、 蓄えるis used about important things: bears accumulating winter fat for their hibernation. One’s retirement nest egg.


蓄積:ちくせき:accumulate. Used about bad things mostly – bills or stress pile up. But it also can be good, like the compound interest or accumulated knowledge.


貯める:ためる: store up unimportant things; things that you didn’t deliberately seek out but accumulated nonetheless: change from your couch cushions. “I left the bathtub full for you if you want to use it.”


留まってきた:half-done things pile up. Always bad. Bills, two weeks’ worth of half-done homework that is all due tomorrow, ohhhh shiiiiittt!!!

滞る:とどこおる: unlike 留まってきた (weeks or months worth of stuff piling up)、 滞る is used about bad things that are piling up right now: traffic jams, delays. The idea of 滞る is that things which are currently in progress. . . .don’t progress.

重なる:かさなる; used when a series of bad things happen to you. It never rains but it pours. Yesterday my boyfriend dumped me, then I lost my cell phone, and now I just lost $200 playing pachinko.

積み重ねる;つみかさねる;a super-strong version of 重なる。 積み重ねる is like, you have such bad luck you’re suicidal.



short temper



Both have exactly the same meaning, and both used around the same amount. Sorry, dude!







へ伺う:うかがう: lower person visits higher person.


に参る :まいる: Archaic, not much used anymore. Person visits temple. Feudal lord and his huge entourage visit a town.


を訪ねる:たずねる:an important person visits another important person (an official state visit, visit the pope, etc.)


を訪問:ほうもん: same as たずねる, but this is the noun form.






scanty, meager


乏しい・とぼしい: meager or scarce RESOURCES: forests, natural gas. opportunities are scarce. Someone’s experience or knowledge of a subject is scanty.


貧しい:まずしい: Mostly used about money.


少ない:すくない: a small AMOUNT of something – emphasis on the amount.








先祖:せんぞ: one’s own personal ancestors. Ancestor worship.


祖先:そせん: ancestors dating back to monkeys, fish, germs, etc. “The two words/species/languages share a common ancestor.”








control or govern


支配:しはい: to control – as in “a white-controlled society of South Africa” or “Thor controls the weather” or “The hotel owner controls the hotel.” “the CIA is controlled by the Illuminati.” The implication is that the thing / people being controlled doesn’t really have a say in the matter.


操作:そうさ: to operate or control a machine. Also – in the financial world – sometimes 操作 means ‘manipulate’, as in ‘manipulate the stock market.’


治める:おさめる: to govern – it feels a little less harsh than 支配. Like the government is legitimate. Also unlike 支配、収める is limited to politics.


操縦:そうじゅう: manipulate – a machine or a person. Manipulate the government from behind the scenes!





get a job

就職する:しゅっしょくする: $$$ : get a job (normal)


仕事に就く:ひごとにつく: to get a crazy job – usually said of a prince becoming a king or a politician getting a seat in parliament. Also in some idioms it is used to mean “Set out on a journey” – although most often it’s used as 眠りに就く (go to sleep!)







治す:なおす:$$$: (VT) to heal a person or animal.


が癒える・いえる: (VI) something heals.


を癒やす:いやす: to heal (emphasis on making the pain go away) ーusually used metaphorically – these show trials will quench the public’s thirst for blood! Patch the romantic wounds.


治癒:ちゆ: healing in general : (the healing process / an unhealed wound / taking too long to heal)


治療・ちりょう: cure, as in “the cure for cancer.”


医療・いりょう: medical treatment- the kind one gets in a hospital (x-rays, MRI, surgery, etc.)


手当て:てあて: medical treatment – the kind you can do at home (band-aids, gauze wrap, simple stitches, etc.)







修理・しゅうり:$$$ : repair a machine


直す:なおす: fix a thing. Like 修理 (しゅうり), but can also mean “to correct a mistake.”$$$

繕う・つくろう: two meanings. 1) to mend clothing, 2) to keep up appearances.


修繕する:しゅうぜん: an archaic word for fix. Ignore this.






Pain or suffering

痛い:いたい: pain


苦しい;くるしい: suffering which is caused BY pain. i.e. ‘I got the flu. My throat is 痛い、 so talking or swallowing is 苦しい’


悲しむ:かなしむ: emotional suffering


苦しむ :くるしむ:physical suffering.







身振り:みぶり: a gesture, conscious or not – a motion of any part of the body – from flipping someone off to waving to shaking one’s booty.


手振り :てぶり: a hand gesture made specifically to pantomime. “I caught a fish, it was about thiiis big.” ‘Did you see the dildo? It was about this long.’


痛める:いためる: to hurt – one’s body not feelings, emphasis on the pain rather than the actual injury.







硬貨:こうか: currency: all coins in circulation. “Japanese currency has holes in the middle, but American currency does not.”


小銭:こぜに:$$$:  coins in your pocket.


通貨;つうか: coins and bills






批判: ひはん: broad meaning. To criticize something for a reason. Usually about people but can be used about books, movies, bad TV, etc.


非難 (批難):ひなん: to just criticize someone for no reason, to nag or yell.




sign or symptom


兆候:ちょうこう:a sign that something will start soon: (Those clouds on the horizon are a sign a taiphoon is coming)


前兆:ぜんちょう: a sign that something has already started (That slamming door means my wife has come home from work hella mad and I shouldn’t disturb her).


縁起:えんぎ: an omen in a superstitious way (I saw a rainbow after I bet my life savings on a racehorse- that means he’ll win!) Unlike the English word ‘omen’, 縁起 can be both good and bad.


直感:ちょっかん:  premonition – unlike 縁起、 直感 is not based on anything. More like a hunch, but with a supernatural tinge to it. Can be bad or good.





体重:たいじゅう:weight of person

重量:じゅうりょう: weight of object



Abundant; abundance

盛 さかんな : robust, active, overflowing with something-or-other : A flurry of applause, a fire vigorous enough to roast an ox, a flowering of culture.


豊か・ゆたかな; abundant – like a rainforest abundant in life or a country’s abundant natural resources. You can also use it for a person – he has a lot of education or a wealth of wisdom. (but not used for actual dollars – in that case you’d use 裕福) 豊富 ; ほうふ:Pretty much the same exact meaning as 豊かな, but the kanji for ‘wealthy’ (富) makes ほうふ a bit more complimentary. More like ‘rich in calcium’ than ‘calcium is abundant.’  .


栄える: さかえる: to flourish or become prosperous – almost always used to describe civilizations or countries. (i.e. the Roman Empire was flourishing in 1000BC)


裕福な:ゆうふくな: abundant in dollars. Rich.









助ける ;たすける:$$$ : to save someone – it’s stronger than 手伝う but not as strong as 救う. Like if someone was mugging you you’d yell, 助けて! but if a ninja is trying to kill you, you’d say 救って! You can also use たすける for more minor things like if you’re carrying a pot of hot water and it’s so heavy you are about to drop it.


救う:すくう: really dramatic – only use this regarding bankruptcy or death.





Immature, childish

幼稚 ;ようち: childish, immature, puerile. “Hey I wrote POOP on a picture of the president! Want to come see?”


幼い:おさない: like 幼稚, but one difference: if you use it about an actual child, it doesn’t have a bad meaning. It just means ‘of children’ – like  ‘childhood memory’ or ‘At an early age,’ or ‘in infancy.’






親切: しんせつ: kind, emphasis on action: specifically emphasizes doing favors for people.


優しい:やさしい: warm-hearted , emphasis on the person’s personality rather than their actions. 優しい folks make people feel comfortable and understand the feelings of others. Young people can use 優しい人 as kind of a put-down, like “He’s just a ‘nice guy.’”






使う:つかう: $$$ : use


用いる :もちいる: Means the same thing as 使う, but more formal. As in, “Please use this pencil to complete the test.”







家族: かぞく: your immediate family – parents, grandparents, siblings.


家庭 :かてり: the family you are living with.


親戚:しんせき: all living relatives, even ones you have not met


妻子・さいし:a wife and children. Like, “Don’t kill me ! I have a wife and children!” or “She fell for a guy who had . . .”







貪欲 :どんよく:  can be used about people or greedy institutions- you greedy Americans, greedy-ass Wall Street.


欲張り:くばり: usually used about persons rather than institutions – not usually used about business. Someone who thinks they are entitled to everything. Someone who asks for too much money.


意地汚い;いじきたない: usually used about kids  who take toys from other kids.







名誉・めいよ: An honor or prestige that comes in the form of a seal of approval or bonus points from an authority figure. Usually used like this : 名誉なこと。 名誉を受けた。


光栄・こうえい: Usually used by lower person to higher person. “It’s an honor to meet you, sir!” “I’m honored to have a chance to work with you, ma’am.”


潔さ:いさぎよさ: unlike 名誉 and 光栄, 潔さ happens even if no one is looking. 潔さ means someone who puts principle above everything else – someone who will turn down a job offer from a mob-connected business, even if they are really broke and don’t have enough to eat. This is also the word used about guys who commit suicide for honor.


正直: can mean honorable – well, no. A 正直な人 is more like an ‘honest person’ or  ‘a person of integrity.’  But 90% of the time you see 正直, it’s not about a person’s personality at all. It usually means ‘Honestly, I think blah blah blah.’





skip / omit



消す:けす: erase

略す・りゃくす: to omit some information. Usually used like : りゃくして: “I won’t mention in more detail because you already know this part.”  (OPP: りゃくさずに: “to say it in full. . . .blahblaahblaaah”. )


省略;しょうりゃく: to abbreviate.

略語:りゃくご: abbreviation


飛ばす:とばす: to skip a page, to skip a step in a process, to skip a turn in a game. (lit: to leap over something)


除ける:のける: to physically take something and put it aside, get it out of the way: I’m eating curry but I hate carrots, so I’ll heap all the carrots in one corner of the plate and eat everything else. Or, “I’m going to put this new tv set on the table, so get all that shit off the table.”




portent, omen


吉・きち: 90% of the time this is only used in fortune-telling. Usually used like this 吉 (きち)(good omen) or  不吉な兆し (ふきちなきざし)bad omen


縁起の悪い:えんぎのわるい: This is used when there is a rule or superstition (i.e. black cat crosses your path, mirror breaks, ’tis bad luck to have a woman on board a ship! kind of thing).


吉兆 (きっちょう) : an omen – used when there is NO existing rule or superstition. You just see an event and decide arbitrarily to interpret it as good luck (“Aha! It’s raining! I’m going to put all my money on the horse called ‘Mr. Rain Balls’ to come in first place!”) ZZZ





society, the world

世界・せかい:$$$ : 2 meanings. 1) the world, as in “biggest in the world!” “fastest in the world!”


2) “the world of politics”, “the show-biz world”, etc.


世の中・よのなか:$$$ : the social, everyday world – more poetic than 世界。 Used in dramatic declarations like, “I’m sick of this fuckin’ world!” “I don’t care about this life!” “Poor Kurt Cobain, he was just too sensitive for this cruel world!” Also, usually implies JUST Japanese society.


世間・せけん: the world- metaphorically. Usually used by older Japanese, as in, “Excuse my son, he doesn’t know how the world works.” “You young people don’t understand the world!” “Money makes the world go round.”


社会:しゃかい: society


地球・ ちきゅう: the literal planet Earth. Not figurative.








歌・うた: song (limited to songs with lyrics) (usually non-musicians use this one)

曲:きょく: song (regardless of if there are lyrics) (musicians generally use this one)




Europe and the West.

欧米:おうべい : Europe and America – as opposed to Japan. (it’s not politically correct, but – despite meaning ‘Western’, 欧米 only refers to white-people countries, and leaves out South America, Africa, and Arabs)



西洋・せいおう :the West – as opposed to all of Asia in general. Like Western medicine vs. Eastern medicine.


西欧:せいおう : Europe






get scared


怖がる・こわがる: $$$: the general word for being scared. KID


恐れてる:おそれてる: Basically the same as 怖がる, but a little more formal. 僕がxxxをおそれてる = I’m scared of xxx.


怯える : おびえる・ used with things like political intimidation or domestic violence. To be scared into complying or obeying. To be cowed.


びびってる: street slang;  also kids’ word.





model or ideal of something


模範・もはん: a role model, (person) a model student, a model home. Not model like a plastic model tank.


理想:りそう: idealistic, as opposed to realistic. High ideals.







構造:こうぞう; structure of a physical thing: cell structure, structure of a society.


構成:こうせい:more abstract than 構造. The structure of a sentence or other concept.


組織:そしき: an organization of people – for instance, the Yakuza.





intimidate, threaten


脅す・おどす:$$$: the normal word for threaten.


脅す:おどかす:to intimidate. 脅かす doesn’t really sound like a literal “Do this or else I’ll break your legs!” type of verbal threat. If a big enough guy shows up at your house at 3AM, he doesn’t need to put it into words.


脅迫 :きょうはく: more formal. Not just to threaten, but to be intimidating.


恐喝:きょうかつ: The legal term for blackmail or extortion.





材料・ざいりょう:$$$: the normal word for ingredients of food, but it can also be used for building materials of anything – a shed, a clay pot, etc.


成分・せいぶん: has the nuance of being a microscopic thing: MSG, protein, vitamin C. This is the word used on the official “ingredients” labels of food.




Remodel, improve, reform


改造:かいぞう: remodel a house or building.


改善:かいぜん; improve a thing – your performance in Math class / the economy / the efficiency of the car


改良する:かいりょうする: reform or improve

改善・かいぜん: Almost the same as 改良: to improve something – like new technology improves the productivity of the factory, but also like “If you don’t improve your grades, you can’t stay on the varsity football team, young man.”


改良:かいりょう: Almost the same as 改善 , but usually used only about technology, rather than social reform or personal betterment.


変更・へんこう: to change, but NOT to improve: to change the schedule of a meeting, or change a plan – (‘Instead of completing the building on January, we’ll finish it in March’)


更新・こうしん: renew – a license or a library book.


改める・あらためる: change PLUS improvement. Usually used with behavior – meaning to turn over a new leaf, to quit self-destructive or bad behavior. Also has a totally unrelated meaning: When a customs official or police asks to see your ID card, that’s also 改める for some reason.


改革/:かいかく: radical revolutionary change or total overhaul.


レフォーム: can mean re-modeling a building, but also means corporate re-structuring (i.e. firing people)



矯める:ためる: fix or improve a system, correct a bad habit.





感触・かんしょく;a physical sensation of touch, as in “I’ve lost all feeling in my left ball.” Also can be used as “impression”, as in, “What kind of feeling did you get from the interview? Do you think it went well?”


肌触り:はだざわり; texture.







追う・おう:  : chase – not just cat chases mouse, but also can mean to chase someone in a certain direction, for instance, to drive someone off, or to herd cattle.


追求・ついきゅう: to pursue, usually used figuratively (pursue justice, pursue happiness, pursue a career)


追いかける to chase after – Like a cop chasing a crook. A more narrow meaning than just 追う.$$$


追いつく: catch up to


追い越す:おいこす: overtake.






copy / look like


写す・うつす: like the English word ‘copy’, but a bit more broad:  not just make a Xerox, but also to take a picture, or to reflect in water.TTT


複写・ふくしゃ: only means to make a Xerox copy. TTT


真似る:まねる: to imitate -as in doing impressions (ものまね) as well as to bite someone’s steez in a negative wayPPP. TTT


似る:にる: a child that resembles his or her parents.PPP TTT






Emergency vs. crisis


救急・きゅうきゅう:an emergency like fire, heart attack, etc. (ambulance is called the 救急 car!)


危機・ きき: a social crisis (oil crisis, global warming, etc.)





Hinder, obstruct, put a stop to.


阻む・はばむ; to stop the advance of something by physically obstructing it: The defensive lineman stopped the other team’s football guy. The army checked the advance of the other army. Our vacation was stopped by the hurricane.


阻止する・そし: To put a stop to something: cops put a stop to drug-dealing near the school. The bad senator stopped the reform bill in committee.


障る・さわる: not often used. Hinder – but could also be translated as ‘take a toll on’, as in, “The problems at work hindered his sleep.” ‘The excessive drinking took a toll on her health.’


防ぐ・ふせぐ: A more positive word. To hinder in the sense of ‘guard against’: anti-crime cameras, anti-theft devices, and such all use this kanji.


妨げる:さまたげる: Also means to hamper, but it carries the nuance of ‘interrupt’ or ‘disrupt’, like ‘The guys at the next table are hampering our conversation,’ or ‘The corporate extortionist kept interrupting the shareholders’ meeting.’





repress ,


慎む:つつしむ:to be cool-headed, prudent, or discreet when it comes to something potentially disruptive. Could also be translated as ‘refrain’, like, ‘refrain from smoking or talking loudly.’


抑える・おさえる: To repress one’s true feelings – unlike 慎む, which applies to behavior.


抑制・よくせい: Noun form of 抑える.


控える・ひかえる: To repress one’s true feelings or refrain from actions you really secretly want to do. – Pretty much the same as 抑える、 but there are two important distinctions: 抑える is something you do because society forces you to, but 控える is something you do because YOU want to. Also 控える is usually used about repressing or refraining from doing ACTIONS, while 抑える usually refers to only repressing feelings.





Pathos, misery, pitifulness

かわいいそうな: $$$ : poor you. Poor him. Often used sarcastically if not with a sneer of outright cruelty. I guess its appeal is the ambiguity – you can’t prove the cruelty.


哀れな・あわれな: you poor bastard! God help you. Utterly fucked, pathetic, but you honestly feel bad for them, rather than just looking down on them.


惨めな・みじめな: pathetic. This is a pretty un-sympathetic word you use for some poor schmuck who is in a wretched state but, you know, you couldn’t imagine them ever being happy anyway.


哀愁・あいしゅう: a poetic, old-fashioned word for sorrow or melancholy or, um, pathos.


心細い・こころぼそい: forlorn, having given up hope. Also strongly implies alone or helpless. A puppy in the rain with big eyes staring at you.


悲惨な:ひさんな: terrible, harrowing, tragic. Usually used not about a single person’s misfortune but like the tragic cost of war, the terrible catastrophe that befell the small town in Godzilla’s path, etc.







Me, myself, us.

身:み: means ‘me’ but usually it’s only used in certain set idioms, so don’t use this one when you write, unless you know the idiom.


自分:じぶん: means ‘me’ but also means ‘you’, like 彼が自分のゴハンを持ってきた。(he brought his own lunch).


我:われ: Me (or, often, 我々, ‘us’) – kind of a pompous, old-man word.ZZZ


己ー おのれ – one’s self. Literary.


自我:じが: The self. Used only in psychology or philosophy.





remaining surplus


残り・のこり; the remaining (food on the plate); the remainder (of the kittens which were not adopted)


余り:あまり; the excess, surplus (excess labor drives down wages)


余計・ よけい: uncalled-for, un-necessary – much more negative than 余り.


過剰・かじょう: a business word for overstock, over-population, over- anything.





別の : べつの: a different kind of thing.


他の:ほかの: another thing of the same type.


よその: not just a different thing, but something which is NOT YOURS. A strong word. “Don’t touch candy that is not yours!” “Don’t date a guy that is not yours!”





Housekeeping, housework


掃除・そうじ:cleaning the floor: mopping, vacuuming.


家事 :かじ: ANY kind of housework, including cleaning, but also laundry, putting things on shelves, pounding the futon, doing laundry, etc.







片:かた: never used by itself. Don’t worry about it.





ビル: western-style buildings. concrete, steel, and usually tall (over 3 stories)


建物 :たてもの: any building or structure.








片付ける:かたづける: to tidy up, to straighten, to take a messy pile of crap on your desk, and make it neat.$$$


整理:せいり: to organize – books by author, say, or CDs by genre.


配列:はいれつ: to put experimental data in a sequence. A very technical, limited word.


整える:ととのえる: to arrange or prepare – usually used with “prepare a hairstyle”, or “clean up a sentence on a re-write of a paper”, and not used anywhere else. Sometimes books will refer to someone who is pretty as having a 整った顔  (literally: a well-arranged face!)








腰抜け・こしぬけ: someone who becomes paralyzed when the shit goes down. Someone who is too frightened to react.


意気地なし: いくじなし: Someone who is a coward – not just that they run from a fight, but they run to tell their Mom and ask her to kick your ass.


卑怯な:ひきょうな: to do something both cowardly and mean – to hit below the belt.






get close


近寄る・ちかよる: to intentionally approach, usually used in the negative: 近寄るな! is a sign you’ll see on electrical or power equipment.


近づく:ちかづく: to get close to a physical destination or a goal.




to confront, to face


向く:むく: to turn towards something. Only used literally, not used figuratively to mean ‘confront a problem.’


向き合う:むきあう: to confront the issues. To face an opponent. To face reality.


面する めんする: a thing faces another thing. Only used with geography: “The house faces the ocean.”


対向 たいこう:oncoming (almost always used with traffic)


臨む のぞむ : the dictionary says it means “to face”, like “You’ll face sanctions if you keep trying to build atomic weapons.” , But usually it has the nuance of “Stand strong and resolute even in the face of something scary”. Like,


“He must face terrorism without flinching.”







great / magnificent


上手・じょうず; skillfully done! Usually used to praise one’s friends’ efforts (at art, music, cooking, etc.)$$$


うまい: is used in the exact same context as 上手, but the emphasis is slightly different. うまい emphasizes that the thing (art, food, song, etc.) was pleasant to experience, whereas 上手 emphasizes that it was skillfully done.


素敵:すてき: Wonderful! Magnificent! This is usually used only by women, and it is used in reference to things made or done by a third party – you wouldn’t say your friend’s cooking was すてき, but you’d say a dress your friend wore was すてき.


立派:りっぱ: Splendid! Magnificent! Unlike other words of praise, 立派 has a connotation of something very high-class, refined, elegant.


素晴らしい:すばらしい: the best! Usually used about art or theatrical performances.


見事:みごと: amazing! Funny to see! That monkey can ride a bicycle! Those fireworks are amazing! Or (sarcastic): that 3-year-old fell down the stairs really well! Do it again!  You wouldn’t use this to compliment something your friend did (unless you’re being sarcastic).






Provide or supply

与える : あたえる:$$$: to provide (students with free lunches, or with a good learning environment). Can also be used about providing work or money.


供給:きょうきゅう: to supply – used usually about economics. (supply and demand / supply the troops with guns / the feed chute supplies grain to the conveyor belt at the cereal factory)






good point


価値・かち: value (‘This painting has artistic value’)


長所 :ちょうしょ: strong point, as opposed to weak point (欠点).  長所 can be used about people (his 長所 is his courage, her 長所 is her brain) or machines (‘The strong point of this PC is its long battery-life’)


特技:とくぎ: a specific skill that one has; one’s area of expertise




bad point


苦手:にがて: 2 meanings. 1) something I am poor at doing, 2) something I dislike. My 苦手 is rave music.


欠点・けってん: shortcoming. Opposite of 長所(ちょうしょ). Can be used about people (he drinks too much, she always lies) or machines (this PC is very slow and prone to crashing).PPP TTT


弱点:じゃくてん: Achilles heel, soft underbelly. A weakness that – while not correctable – is not a deal-breaker either.PPP ( sometimes TTT)


欠陥:けっかん: defective. Have to take it back to the store. TTT






propose something

提案:ていあん: $$$ : a proposal – not just in business but also in everyday life : “Let’s go to this movie!”


提出;ていしゅつ; to physically submit or hand over a document or report.


提唱:ていしょう: to politically advocate a certain position.







機械・きかい; A machine, particularly something with a motor in it which moves when activated. A computer is not a 機会, but a robot arm is. Emphasis is that the 機械 is one single big thing.


器械:きかい: more like the English word ‘equipment.’ Somewhat simpler or smaller than the other 機械 – and also more likely to come in a set than 機械. Examples of 器械 are: exercise equipment, scientific measuring devices, or those weird metal boxes you see on tops of mountains that measure earthquakes or weather. ZZZ


そうち:  Devices which are not particularly hi-tech and do not have moving parts: fire extinguishers, air-bags, defilibrators.


器具:きぐ: an appliance: anything from chain-saws to gas stoves to birth control devices like IUDs can be called 器具. Honestly, it’s really arbitrary!


道具:どうぐ: a tool which has no moving parts: fork, shovel, hammer, scissors.






behavior/ action


態度・たいど: an attitude/manner (defiant, peaceful, etc.) or stance (anti-trade, pro-shinto, anti-corporate). When it comes to the first meaning, 態度 is something you can tell just by looking at the person – they might not be doing it intentionally.


姿勢:しせい: posture, both literal and figurative. Unlike the related word 態度one’s 姿勢 is always intentional – something one consciously adopts.


行動・こうどう: one’s behavior. Can be used in a good or bad way.


行為:こうい: one’s behavior. Basically the same as 行動, but a little more formal. Usually used in newspapers or discussions of trials.






be addicted to / have a bad habit of. . .


はまる: obsessed with something. Usually used like this: はまっちゃった。$$$


癖になる:くせになる: have a bad habit – not like drugs but like biting one’s nails or saying “like” every other word.


やみつき・やみつき: to get hooked on (verb form: やみつきになった!). Not a strongly negative word. . . you can use it like “He’s hooked on this video game” or “She’s hooked on this new pop star.”


中毒・ちゅうどく: hooked on drugs or gambling. The nuance is, the person is so hooked they can’t live a normal life – they lost their job or their marriage, etc.








つまりxxxx ・$$$:  in other words, xxx

要約:ようやく: a summary of something (usually a written document which summarizes a longer document!)


要はxxx・ようはxxx: “In short, xxx” – a rhetorical word.






仕事:しごと:$$$: the normal word for a job.

職業・しょくぎょう: a more formal word for job.


稼業・かぎょう: an obsolete word for “the family business. “Nowadays if you say it, people will assume it’s a euphemism for Yakuza! NP






show off


見栄を張る・みえをはる: (noun form: みえっぱり!$$$) a soft, friendly criticism that you can say to your friends without causing offense. It means ‘show off’ but more specifically “to be fronting that you are something you are not.” (for example, if your friend is buying a $500 suit to wear to the class reunion, that’s 見栄っ張り) So you wouldn’t use this about someone who is phony ALL THE TIME. (that’s きどりや)。


見せびらかす:みせびらかす: to show off. This is not an offensive term – you can even say it about yourself, “I’d like to show off my new boyfriend!”





hang / attach / adhere


はる: attach something sticky: tape, band-aid.


掛ける:かける: to hang something from a vertical surface, using a hook or pin. Also, to sprinkle something on something else (pepper, salt, etc.). Also means to drape over : drape a blanket over a sleeping child or put a tablecloth on the um uh table. Also means to turn on something electric, although how this is different from 使う is unclear!


is this the kakeru from 染みをかける and 汗 かける??

染みになる 汗をかく  だよ!







expose hidden thing


暴く・あばく; expose some bad thing in public – like a journalist or watchdog group would.


ばれる・ to give away one’s own lie unintentionally. Like, saying “I’d never cheat on you, baby.” but you have lipstick on your collar. ばれた!!!


摘発 ;てきはつ; a legal/police term for exposing wrongdoing. But not necessarily making it public, like 暴く. ‘The investigation exposed corruption in the parking department.”


指摘:してき: To point out a shortcoming – You can use it about your friends. Or “The critic pointed out the shortcomings of the play.”







デカイ:$$$ : a young people’s word for huge.KIDS


巨大・きょだい: huge guy! Like a dinosaur or Gandam.


甚大・じんだい: Gigantic – used about disasters. “The gigantic earthquake killed 1,000 dudes.”NP


膨大な:ぼうだいな: Colossal, but not used about physical things. You’d talk about the colossal deficit or budget or a huge amount of data.







銃・じゅう: a firearm, any firearm.


拳銃 :けんじゅう: a pistol.








侮る:あなどる: very close to 見下す(みくだす): to hold in contempt. Usually used when you’re talking about someone, not when talking TO them. It sounds odd to tell someone to their face, “I 侮る you”  – even if they are an asshole.


嫌がる : いやがる: to hate something  (going to school, listening to your bullshit, etc.) (as opposed to 侮る, which is used about people). Usually used when telling an anecdote, something that happened yesterday involving a third party. You’d never use 嫌がる to say “I hate your cooking!”


憎しみ:にくしみ: to hate. Not like “I hate sports” or “I hate the Insane Clown Posse,” but like “I hate Hitler and female genital mutilation.”


憎らしい:にくらしい: hateful, just odious, terribly immoral.

卑しめる:いやしめる:similar to the word 憎らしい(にくらしい): to hate something because it’s utterly fucked: terrorist bombings or child molestation.


いやしむべき: the adjective form.ZZZ


忌み嫌う:いみきらう: to abhor someone for superstitious reasons, to abhor them because they are taboo. “Let’s not invite him because he brings bad luck.” “He has AIDS, we better ostracize him.”


忌まわしい:いまわしい: the adjective form of 忌み嫌う.


卑しむ:いやしむ: an archaic, literary word. Means an action (genital mutilation, human sacrifice, etc.) which is an offense against God.









Rule or law


法律 ほうりつ: $$$ : a law.

規則・きそく:$$$ : a rule, like school rules, or “no smoking in the lobby.”


法則・ほうそく: a physical law, like the Law of Gravity or Murphy’s Law.


規律・きりつ: literally, “rule,” but closer to the English word for “discipline.” Rules typically say “don’t do this or that,” but 規律 give long lists of things you HAVE TO do, in the order you have to do them. Like if you’re at military school, you have to get up at 5:30, have your bed made by 5:35, shine your shoes by 5:40, and report to the mess hall.


掟 おきて : the rules or codes-of-honor of secret societies: right-wing militias, yakuza, ninjas all have 法律.ZZZ






頂点・ちょうてん:can mean the apex (in a mathematical sense) or the peak of a mountain, but usually refers to a brief period of time when something is at its peak (the peak of his popularity, the breaking point of public outrage, etc.) Also can sometimes refer to the high point of a movie or book.

見所:みどころ: the highlight (of a work of art). This can also be used to mean the climax.


頂上・ちょうじょう: the summit – of a mountain, but also can mean the top of a hierarchy or a “summit meeting.”


山頂・さんちょう; top of a mountain more of a geographical, term than 頂上(ちょうじょj), and not as formal/literary as the related term 頂(いただき). You’d point to a 山頂 on a map, but if you wanted to say “The view from the summit is gorgeous,” you’d use 頂上.

天辺:てっぺん: the summit of a mountain, OR a tree, or even the top of one’s head – usually used in the phrase ‘from head to toe.’ A more blue-collar word than the related term 山頂.


頂:いただき: the summit of a mountain. A sort of literary or formal word.






汚染 :おせん: $$$ :  pollution OR contamination. If you want to say “environmental pollution,” you have to use 汚染、 not 公害。


公害・こうがい: pollution. Has a more broad meaning than the related word 汚染. Not just dirty smoggy air, but also noise pollution, the annoyance of someone talking on a cell phone on a train, and 情報公害 (じょうほうこうがい): “ad pollution” – the inescapable advertisements one sees everywhere.





make sure of


確認する: かくにんする:$$$ : to double-check, to make sure of.


確実に:かくじつertainty. This is never used as a verb. You’d never say 確実する.






証拠・しょうこ: physical evidence, such as a footprint, or,  “This green tap-water is evidence of pollution.” Also, this is the word one uses about evidence at trials, not 証.



証明・しょうめい: proof, mathematical or logical.


証:あかし: somewhere in between 証明 and 証拠. You’d typically use 証 when you’re talking about evidence of God, such as miracles. Or you’d challenge someone: “You say you’re honest and give to charity, but do you have any evidence of this?” Unlike 証拠、 証 does not have to be physical, it can be verbal. NP


証言:しょうげん: verbal testimony given in court





性格:せいかく:$$$ : personality. PPP


性質:せいしつ: natural quality. In contrast to 性格, 性質 applies to rocks and things, as well as people and animals. Also it refers to the inner nature of people, rather than their social selves. So if you wanted to say that someone was very outgoing and loved sports and bars, you wouldn’t use 性質. But if you wanted to say that someone was very stoic or honest, you would. TTT


品性:ひんせい: moral character, as in “Eat your broccoli, it builds character.” Example: 彼は品性がある =He has good moral character.PPP









機会 :きかい: a chance, as in, “I hope I will have a chance to go to Australia someday.” Or, “This could be my only chance to see yo mama’s huge collection of Rosie O’donnel pap-smears.”


きっかけ: a chance or opportunity. Unlike the related word 機会、きっかけ is used with opportunities that one DID take. Usually used in the phrase きっかけをつかむ (to seize the opportunity).


可能: かのう: a possibility. xxx可能性がある=”there is a possibility of xxx.”







Boss or superior person

目上・めうえ:anyone who outranks you – at work, school, or in society.


上司・じょうし: one’s superiors at work. Not just your manager, but his manager, and his manager too.


課長:かちょう: A vice-president or division chief of a big company.





unexpected, chance, coincidence

偶然 :ぐうぜん:   : coincidence. This is what you say when you run into an old acquaintance on the street.


意外・いがい: unexpected. “Her death was quite unexpected.” Also means, “contrary to expectations.”


案外・あんがい: More than one expected. “I think you’ll find becoming a police detective is going to be harder than you expected.”







承る・うけたpeak) What you say when you have heard an understood a proposal. Does not necessarily mean you agree.


承知する:しょうしする:   (business – speak) What you say when you have heard and understood a business proposal, AND you agree with it. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you will sign the contract or do whatever the person says, but that you want to work together with them to accomplish these goals.


肯定:こうてい: To affirm what someone said (opposite of 否定 (to deny) ). Be careful – 肯定 is kind of formal. If someone says “James Brown is good,” you wouldn’t say “肯定です!” It’s the kind of word you might see in a newspaper: “The actor confirmed that he would start shooting the remake of ‘zombie woof’ in November.”)


承諾:しょうだく: To comply with a demand.


納得:なっとく: This is translated as “consent,” or “agree,” but it is more helpful to think of it as “Well, in THAT case, I understand, OK.” (as in, “Why did you jump on my dog at my party and then throw up on my Raggedy Andy doll?” “Well, someone drugged me with knockout pills.” “Oh my God! Well in THAT case, it’s ok. 納得!”)





Small or trifling

ささやか・ this is only used in the phrase “ささやか な 贈り物ですが、受けとて下さい。”(ささやか な おくりもの ですが うけとて ください。) = This is a rather humble, poor gift, but please accept it nonetheless. It’s what you say when you’re giving a gift to someone.


小さい・チいさい:  physically small.


些細 :ささい: small, in the sense of petty or trifling, insignificant. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t bother me with such trivial complaints. Here’s a good phrase to learn: “些細な事に気を使うな!” (ささいなことにきをつかうな)= Don’t worry about such trivial things!


わずかな・わずかの: insignificant. Also, barely. The chances of  surviving this surgery are insignificant. Or trifling: I have a scant 34 cents to my name. Don’t waste my time with such insignificant nonsense.






些細:ささい: annoying petty details. (an application form, procedure, etc)

細かい:こまかい:similar to 些細。 You can understand the difference like this:  the procedure is 些細 because it’s full of 細かい details. However, unlike 些細、 細かい can also have a good meaning (fine or detailed textures on a work of art), so be careful.

執念深い:しゅうねんぶかい: If you want to use ‘petty’ in the sense of a person who is vindictive or spiteful, use this. But it doesn’t exactly fit the English version: 執念深い applies equally to grudges that are legitimate as well as grudges like “You ate my doughnut so I’ll get you back next year as you’re about to get promoted.”






接する:せっする: direct contact. Like the mobster says, “Never contact me directly, always talk to my Consigliore.” Or “The building directly contacts the buildings on either side of it.”


直接:ちょくせつ: $$$ : direct – communicating directly as opposed to communicating with hints and insinuations. To take direct action (i.e. a protest) as opposed to writing letters to one’s congressperson.


つなぐ: to connect two things, in a way that is not easily separated: train cars, for instance. But also holding hands.


直にーちょくに: To be directly pressed against – Usually used with objects. For instance, “Don’t put the chair directly on the floor, it’ll scratch. Put the chair on this throw-rug.” or, “Don’t put the coat on the baby directly, he’s allergic to wool. Put this nylon undershirt on him and THEN put the coat on.” Unlike the related word つなぐ、 直に refers to things that are not connected or bonded to each other, it refers to adjacent, moveable layers.




Lean or incline

傾く・ かたむく: to lean, as in “Leaning Tower of Pizza,” but also to lean ON, as in, “The drunk leaned on the wall for support.” Can be used literally OR figuratively.


偏る : かたよる: Figuratively, to be biased. Literally, to have an asymmetrical distribution of objects. For example, “There are crows in every prefecture, but there is a much higher distribution of them in Aichi prefecture.” Or, aesthetically speaking, “I put all the chairs on the left side of the room to make it かたよる.”


傾向 – けいこう:a general tendency or trend (not one specific person, and not with any intention) (i.e. people who watch 8 hours of TV a day tend to drool) 傾向 is NOT a fashion trend – that’s 流行.$$$








発達・はったつする: a living thing or baby develops. PPP TTT


発展 :はってん: technological development. The development of civilization. Also, to “develop” an “uncivilized” country by exploiting its resources and people. TTT SITU





bounce / leap


飛躍:ひやく: to leap. Usually figurative. Make a leap forward in technology.


躍る:おどる: to jump repeatedly up and down- as in “jumping jacks.”


はずむ: to bounce, like balls.


飛び出す:とびだす: to jump out in front of you suddenly. Normally you’ll see this on road signs, “Drive slow! Children might dash out!” Unlike the related words 跳躍 and 踊る, 飛び出す emphasizes jumping FROM a place. Jumping FROM the side of the road, or FROM the shadows.


跳躍:ちょうやく: to jump horizontally, as in the Olympic long jump.







異なる: ことなる:$$$ – the only verb of the bunch. To differ.


と異なる: use と when one thing is very specifically NOT like the other thing.


に異なる :use に when you want to say that something is different according to the circumstances (like XXXによって違う)


差  :(さ): mathematical difference. Usually used in math, or the phrase 年の差が大きい!(the age difference between them is so big!)


食い違い : くいちがい: this is a BAD difference – a discrepancy or gap (i.e. a credibility gap). $$$



相違 – そうい – a more formal/newspaperish word for a difference between two or more things.


間隔:かんかく:a distance or gap ;a literal space between two things: between two close-together buildings, say, or between the train and the platform.


区別: くべつ: to MAKE a difference or make a distinction between two things.


(opposite: 混同: こんどう: to confuse one thing with a similar thing)


距離・きょり: physical distance between two things: towns on a map, for instance, or the distance between an archer and a target – a much bigger distance than the related word 間隔.





view or scene


風景・ふうけい: a landscape – a scene where nothing is moving. Landscape painting.


景色:けしき: A nice view. Unlike 風景、 けしき can apply to views of buildings and pretty urban environments, and places where things are in motion.


眺望 :  ちょうぼう: a view from a high place, a view from above. It emphasizes the viewers’ location, rather than the thing being looked at.LIT







admonish /warning

注意;ちゅうい:($$$) The most general word. “Be careful, mind your step.” “Look out for falling rocks.”


責める:せめる: to blame someone for a problem. To accuse someone of wrongdoing.


警告:けいこく; upper-to-lower-person warning, usually applies to signs like “no trespassing!”


忠告:ちゅうこく; admonishing negative advice: “Don’t open that door!” “Don’t swim naked!”


助言;じょげん; advice in general – peer to peer. If you actually are asking for advice, this is the word to use.


警戒 : けいかい:to be on high alert – police or security. Describes a tense but temporary situation.


諭す:さとす: NOT VERY USEFUL. Means to gently advise or guide someone. Not a scolding, but it has the connotation of parent-to-child.


告げる:つげる: to tell someone something heavy: You have cancer. You are pregnant.


窘める:たしなめる: rebuke  someone. Not like a warning or a command. Something you’d say to an equal: calm down! Don’t get so mad. Don’t be so mean to the kid-  he’s only 2 years old.



deny / reject


断る:ことわる:$$$: the usual way to say reject or turn down.


否定・ひてい: usually used with trials or politicians: He formally denied the allegations!


拒否・きょひ: absolute refusal. An exit line. Like if you tell a guy ‘no’ 10 times and he won’t go away, you use 拒否. ‘私がきょひした。’


拒む・こばむ: The same as 拒否, but it can be physical as well as verbal. For example, if someone refuses to shake your hand, that’s 拒む。


ボツにする・ Publishing term. Turning down a manuscript or contribution. Shooting down an idea.


却下 : きゃっか: business term. An upper person turns down a proposal made by an underling.







表  : おもて: surface. The emphasis is, “This is the FRONT surface, as opposed to the hidden side.” (opposite: 裏 うら). Usually used about 2-dimensional things (paper, walls) but can also be used with the ol’ 建前・本音.


面 :めん: ENTIRE surface of a 3-dimensional object.


面:つら: a yakuza slang for face: I can’t believe you’d dare show your face around here!


表面 : a literal surface – unlike 面 (men), 表面 is more technical – usually used by architects or craftspeople. Or, for instance, to describe a “skin” you’d put on a polygon 3d character.





Classy or sophisticated

上品 :じょうひん:  can be used of people or things. Applies to a PERSON. It means graceful or sophisticated, in a quiet or understated way. Their face, or their way of speaking. You can see their family had money, their background. When it comes to people, 上品 is usually used about women, I mean ‘ladies.’


洗練された : せんれんされた: literally ‘polished.’ Like the ‘after’ version of Eliza Doolittle – something or someone that is hi-class or sophisticated because they have been to middle school in Paris, shopping in Milan, know their way around the world – I guess ‘cosmopolitan sophisticate’ is the best English equivalent. Also applies to hi-class things that have been made in a very skillful way. Put another way, doing coke is never 上品、 but in the seventies it was very 洗練された。 Used about people and fashion.


優雅な ;ゆうがな: elegant. Like the related word 上品(じょうひん) but 優雅 can be flashy. Usually used about an elegant woman or high-class designer object.








拝む・ おがむ: literally, to pray (at a Shinto temple). Figuratively, to worship the ground someone walks on. 拝む also means “to contemplate”, like a stalker his idol of choice, his face like he’s looking at God himself


祈る : いのる:  literally, to pray (Christian style). Figuratively, to wish (for good weather, long life to your friends, to pass this fuckin’ math test). Emphasizes the ACT of prayer, rather than the contents.


祈願 : きがん: a figurative prayer or wish, made to pass a test or to not go to jail ,etc.








人生・じんせい: Life, as in someone’s entire life, or life in general:. “He lived a quiet life.” “Life is a bitch.” “Life span.”


命:いのち; life, as a particular person’s life spirit: life-or-death. Life as in a single thing that can be given, taken, lost, etc: “Your money or your life!” said the robber. The doctor’s emergency surgery saved her life.


生命: life – as in biology. Usually used about the beginning or ending of life. “The beginning of life is a miracle!” “xxx lives were lost in the fire.”









Gratitude, obligation



感謝:かんしゃ: $$$ : general gratitude


恩・おん: gratitude. Unlike the related words 恩恵 and 義理, 恩 means that you really WANT to do something nice, to give back to the person you’re grateful to. Also, unlike  義理、恩 doesn’t imply that you owe them a specific favor. Often, 恩 is used like, “Everyone else gave up on me, told me I was a juvenile delinquent, that I’d amount to nothing. That teacher was the only one who believed in me, who kept encouraging me no matter how many times I fucked up. とても恩がある。”


恩恵:おんけい: unlike the very personal “恩”, 恩恵 is a more businesslike form of gratitude: 恩恵を受ける literally means ‘I received a favor’ but in practice, it’s used more like, ‘I owe you one!’ 恩恵 has a sort of I’ll-scratch-your-back-if-you-scratch-mine practicality.


義理・ぎり; a sort of every-day obligation: You went to my concert, so now I have to go to your concert, even though your band sucks. I want to see your band, but I can’t because my boss is making us all go drinking with him. Put another way, if someone does you a 恩恵, then you owe them some 義理。


義務 :ぎむ; an obligation to society – like voting, paying taxes, going to school, or in some cases, the army.







to support


支える: ささえる: support – usually literal: a crutch supports a heavy tree limb or an injured person.


応援・おうえん: to cheer on one’s sports team, OR to attend a political rally.


支援・しえん: support – usually used with support groups like “adult children of alcoholics” or “a heartwarming show of support for a city which has had a natural disaster”. It’s not limited to victims but it has that sort of nuance to it.


手伝う:てつだう: to help someone $$$


援助:えんじょ ; to compensate someone for a favor they have done you, to aid someone with money or material things.






Endure, persevere



我慢・がまん する: $$$  : persevere! Never give up! Endure it! Be patient!


忍耐:にんたい: patience, forbearance -basically it is a more formal version of 我慢. However, 我慢 can be used in the active sense of “keep doing what you’re doing, keep rolling that rock up the hill, don’t quit.” Whereas, 忍耐 has more a passive nuance – “Continue doing nothing, fight the urge to counter-attack or snap back.”


根気・こんき: patience. You need 根気 to be able to 我慢。 Often used like 根気がいい(she’s very patient!) or, 根気よくxxxした! (you did xxx very patiently!)


忍ぶ :しのぶ: A very old word – from feudal times – and not used anymore. It means “to endure or bear,” but is usually used only in the context of bearing shame or disgrace.OLD


The ninja connection of this kanji lies in the SECOND meaning , which is restricted to this one idiom: 人目を忍ぶ (ひとめをしのぶ), meaning, to do secretly , or to do without being seen.


堪忍する:かんにんする; not useful.







area, territory, sector.


地域 :ちいき: $$$ : a zone or area. (emphasizes a social community moreso than a geographical area) (i.e. you wouldn’t use it for the tropics or the Arctic, but you’d use it for Chinatown , the American South or Kanto/Kansai). You’ll often see this on Neighborhood Watch signs.


領域 : りょういき: a more general word for territory or domain – also used in neologisms like “domain name”.


地帯:ちたい: a geographical district or zone – emphasizes a physical location: the tropics, the steppes. ちたい is much bigger and broader than 地域.


地区:ちく: a district of a city or town where a bunch of similar businesses are located: garment district, the diamond district, etc.


分野:ぶんや; an academic field.


範囲 :はんい: the scope or range of something. Police jurisdiction. The test covers chapters three through eight. Earthquake damaged an area from San Francisco to Redwood City. The manhunt covered the entire lower half of Manhattan.






情熱:じょうねつ: passionate! Although pretty far from how we’d use that word in English: the Japanese version means “dedicated , hardworking, diligent.” Example: 彼女は熱心な学生 = She’s a passionate student.


熱心:ねっしん: passion – usually used about sports or performances: They praised the actor’s passionate performance. She’s passionate about her hobby.


恋:こい: romantic passion.






配達・はいたつ: Deliver like by truck or UPS or FEDEX. If you ask your friend to take a carrot to your mom next time he goes, that’s not 配達 because there’s no professionals involved and no money changes hands.


配る・くばる: to hand out , like fliers or tissue packets.


納める・おさめる: a very narrow word: to pay taxes or to give donations to a temple.


運ぶ・はこぶ: to transport – unlike 配達, 運ぶ is NOT related to business or money. If you help your friend move his fridge to his new place, that’s 運ぶ. If you pick up your suitcase and take it to the airport, that’s 運ぶ.


郵送: To send by mail.


納入: a formal version of 配達(はいたつ). Also used to mean “pay one’s taxes.”





Girl, woman, female

女性・じょせい: female – a biological term


女の人:おんなのひと: woman – a social term, unlike the biological term 女性.


嬢 :jou: girl. Has the implication of an eligible single daughter of a rich family. お嬢さん。 A flattering word used when picking up girls. Up to 20 years old, but if you’re 70 you can use it to a single 40-year-old woman.


乙女・おとめ: a  12-19 years old girl. Emphasis is on purity or virginity.


女の子:おんなのこ: a girl, 11-19ish, doesn’t matter if she is a virgin.


女子・じょし: PREFIX used about women from first grade through college. Used to refer to female students as a group: “女子 line up on the left side of the class, 男子 (danshi) line up on the right side.” You wouldn’t say, “She’s a 女子.”







condition or context

状況・じょうきょう: $$$; The most useful, broad word for situation or context.

Example: どういう状況でその言葉を使う? (‘In what situation do you use that word?’ is a question I have asked 1,000,000 times in the course of assembling this list! You can use 状況 about any situation, but it has the feeling of a situation in flux, where things change rapidly.


事態・じたい ; a somewhat negative and formal word for situation, usually used by police, lawyers, or reporters : ‘There’s a huge fire in Tokyo, we’ll report as the situation develops.’


事情・じじょう: circumstances. A euphemism for ‘bad situation’: crushing debt, mother is a prostitute, etc, in trouble with the mob, etc.  彼女、事情がありそうね。 (She looks like she comes from Circumstances, doesn’t she?) Also differs from other ‘situation’ words because it emphasizes the circumstances behind a person’s actions. (i.e. the boss says, ‘You were late to work again, but if you explain your 事情, I might not punish you.’)


状態 :じょうたい: the state or status of something: water is the liquid state of h20, but ice is the solid state. State of shock. Pristine state. Also can mean the state of affairs : good, bad, deadlocked, deteriororating, improving.


様子: ようす: the situation. Usually used in medicine or business: The patient’s situation is grave. We’ll wait and see if the market situation improves. 様子を見ましょう! The other main way it’s used is: 様子がおかしい!  Which means, ‘Something funny is going on here!’ or ‘There’s something funny about that person.’ ‘You mean the homeless with a stuffed duck on his head?’ ‘Yes.’


調子: Can be used with a living thing or object. Always used only with いい or 悪い. Emphasizes the LONG TERM condition.


具合:ぐあい: Can be used with a living thing or object. Always used only with いい or 悪い. Emphasizes the condition IN THE SHORT TERM – the condition at that particular time of day.






injure, harm



損害・そんがい:: damage – to your body, but also to your property. Often used when you lose money on a deal. Usually implies that the damage was not intentionally caused.


傷める:いためる: the verb form of 痛い – to hurt. Emphasizes the feeling of pain rather than the physical cause.


被害 ひがい: damage (to property) or casualties (human): used about earthquakes, wars, and crimes.$$$


損なう・そこなう: usually financial harm or financial damage: 機嫌を損なう(きげんをそこなう)






愛 :あい; pure love – usually two-way.


恋愛 :れんあい: love or relationships in general – that is to say, if there’s an ad for fortune-telling that says, “Test your luck in money! Love! and health!” it’ll be using 恋愛. If there’s an article in a womens’ magazine, “How to get love in 10 steps!” it’ll be using 恋愛. But you wouldn’t tell a hot guy ” I 恋愛 you very much!” See?


恋 :こい; sexual passion.


想い:おもい: usually heard in song lyrics. Means, “The one I’m thinking of.” – can be used whether the crush is recirprocal or not. “The one I’m thinking of, I wonder what he’s doing right now?”



Buddhist monk


お坊さん : おぼうさん : $$$ : the normal, casual way to refer to a monk. KID


僧・そう: (used without honorifics) an official name for a monk


僧侶・そうりょ: (used without honorifics) an official name for a monk


坊主:ぼうず: a mischievous or hyper child. Do NOT call a real monk this!





do it fast!

早速:さっそく:$$$ :  immediately


速やか・すみやか: like 早速, but emphasizes doing something FAST or promptly, rather than STARTING immediately. Usually used in ONLY an office – give this document or procedure top priority.!


急いで: do it fast! Pretty much the same as 速やか, but you can use it in any situation.






分析:ぶんせき: : analyze

解剖 :かいぼう: dissect – can be used literally or figuratively.

解析:かいせき: very narrow, scientific definition : used with mathematics, chemistry.





Sound effects for anxiety


びくびく : the expression of veiled anxiety you have when you are stopped by the police.


ひやひや : the expression on a mom’s face when her baby falls out of a stroller.


そわそわ : social anxiety – when you’re talking to someone and they keep looking around the room and checking their watch.






mysterious / odd


妙な・みょうな: less used than 奇妙. An unusual (but not enchanted or scary or supernatural) situation.


奇妙な:きみょうな: more used than 妙な unusual and absurd – a street-person wearing a duck as a hat is 奇妙.


不思議 :ふしぎ: strange in a haunted, foggy valley full of weird sounds, Easter Island way.





Composition, organization, structure


構成・こうせい: organization (usually used about the family unit), but also can be used about things. Composition – Often used like xxxxで構成されてる。 (composed of xxx) For example: the beauty contest committee is composed of one fashion designer, two lawyers, three hairdressers, and four ex-cons.


構造・こうぞう: physical structure : house or beehive.


組成:そせい: only used in chemistry, not about people or in business.


成り立ってる:xxxからなりたってる: composed of. The USA is composed of 50 states. The mormon family is composed of one man and 12 wives.


成立:せいりつ: to be organized or set-up in such-and-such a fashion. Emphasizes not just the structure (like 成り立ってる) but also the act of founding or instituting something.





取引;とりひき; $$$ :  negotiations – only used in business, where one company is negotiating with another company.


交渉;こうしょう;when the cops are negotiating with a hostage-taker, this is the word we use. It’s not limited to hostile situations: it also is used in peace-time diplomacy, like trade negotiations or etc.


値切る:ねぎる: haggling – unlike 取引, 値切る is used in one-on-one interactions, such as bargaining with a store-owner over the price of a head of lettuce.






Ghost, monster


幽霊:ゆうれい: a ghost bent on revenge. The Ring.


妖怪:ようかい: folk monster – scary but not usually dangerous. more like the European fairy.


おばけ: a child’s word for ghost.


悪霊・あくりょう: a spirit who puts curses on people, or brings misfortune to entire towns, or possesses innocent fools. Unlike 幽霊, they don’t attack you directly, and unlike 妖怪 don’t have a physical form






お大事に :おだいじに : if your friend is a little sick (but not, say, cancer) , instead of “byebye!” you say お大事に (take care of yourself!)


さよなら Sayonara : kind of formal and only used if you’re not going to see the person for a long time.


気をつけて :きをつけて: say this if your friend is going on a trip.


いってらっしゃい  : say this if you are living in the same house as someone and they are leaving the house.


またね: the casual form of “byebye!”







息 : いき:$$$: the usual word for breathing 息できない!(’I can’t breathe!’). If you go to the doctor and she says “Iki shitekudasai!” She’s asking you to blow out.


呼吸:こきゅう: a formal or medical word for breathing.






beast, monster, asshole


野獣・やじゅう: a sexual predator, someone who is not just a rapist but also physically wild or animalistic in their lust.


畜生:ちくしょう: comes from a word for beast, but it’s used just like asshole! You asshole! Fuck!


獣 けもの: used about literal animals – not necessarily the hugest or scariest, but animals that are both violent AND unclean, like the hyena. Also used about people who behave like those animals.


猛獣:もうじゅう: a big scary animal – lion, bear. Not used about people even metaphorically.






間違え: まちがえ:


誤り: あやまり:

These are both the same. Don’t even worry about it.







幕府: ばくふ:the name of the Edo government, which happened to be feudal. 幕府 is not used about any other country’s feudal government.


封建主義 ; ほうけんしゅぎ:feudalism in general







fake vs. counterfeit


虚偽の:きょぎの: fake actions that people do: giving false testimony at a trial, rigging the data on a scientific experiment NP



偽:にせ: fake things that people make: counterfeit IDs, fake Gucci bags.





To do your best, to try your hardest


一生懸命・いっしょうけんめい:$$$: bust ass at XXX! adjective. 一生懸命頑張ってる (she’s really doing her best!)


努力:どりょく: like 一生懸命 but a noun. one’s efforts.


必死:ひっし: desperate, life-or-death, last-minute efforts.


奮闘・ふんとう: stronger than 一生懸命 or 努力. Best defined as “epic struggle.” People struggle for justice in South Africa or for women’s right to vote. A struggle to keep one’s business going when a Wal-Mart moves in across the street.





誤解:ごかい: a misunderstanding- often used about situations (a la TV sitcoms) or when you misread someone’s feelings.


勘違い・かんちがい; Like the related term 誤解 (misunderstanding), but 勘違い is a little smaller. If I’m reading and confuse one kanji with a similar looking kanji, that’s 勘違い. But if I see my fiancée with her cousin from out of town, and assume she’s having an affair and punch the guy, that’s 誤解.





The general public

大衆・たいしゅう: The political word. : “This politician appeals to the general public.” “Public sentiment is against the tax hike.”


公衆 ;こうしゅう: prefix. Used in public toilet, public library, public park, public pay-phone, etc.


民俗 : みんぞく: Folk, as in folk music, folk customs, folksy arts and crafts.


民族:みんぞく : ethnic group. For example, Serbians – the people – are 民族, but Serbian wedding dances are 民俗。


庶民:しょみん:the common people, Joe lunchpail. Everyday, unpretentious.






Ok, fine


了解・りょうかい: OK, I get it! (originally used by the military, like “roger!”, it’s now used by young people who send short emails)


順調・じゅんちょう; Going as expected, no problems. Satisfactory! Usually used like this : “Hi! How’s business these days?” “Oh, 順調、 I can’t complain!”


平気;へいき: young person’s word, particularly young females use this. OK, fine with me. Is it ok with you? 平気?





Many kinds, diverse

様々な:さまさまな: very close to 色々 but 様々 more means like “all kinds”.


色々な: いろいろな: – very close to さまざま, but 色々 more means like “many kinds.”


諸々の:もろもろの・ Unlike the related terms 色んな and 様々な, 諸々 implies all DIFFERENT kinds of things from different categories: all the various costs of doing business (insurance and bribery and electrical bills, etc.) , the various things that could go wrong with your plan, the various amenities of your penthouse suite.


各々の:おのおのの・ each thing in its own way. 各々考え方が違います。 (everyone thinks in their own way/ everyone has their own opinion).


多様な:たような: diverse (diversity: 多様性)





Apply for


申請:しんせい;: apply for – only used for government or bureaucratic things.


申し込む:もうしこむ:$$$: a broader meaning than 申請. You can use 申し込む for proposing marriage or when applying for tickets to be in the audience for a TV show.







Establish or found

設ける: もうける: to establish (a committee to look into the matter) , provide (money) , or throw ( a party for a valuable customer) . More broad and casual than the related term 設定(せってい)


設定する:せっていする: to establish a regulation or rule


設立する:せつりつする: to found an institution









衰え:おとろえ: a decline in life-energy (used only about living things). Usually brought about by sickness, aging, or stress.


衰退:すいたい: decline of the economy, decline and fall of the Roman empire, decline of Western Civilization Part 2.






人気がある :にんきがある ; popular (used of pop stars but also things: trendy products and such)


もてる・ popular with the opposite sex.


ちやほや : a negative word – someone who is spoiled because they get more attention and praise than they deserve: a first-born son, or a too-pretty girl.





Transfer or shift

転勤:てんきん: In business, a transfer to another office.


移す :うつす: broad meaning! A shift – as in, climate change, moving to a new house, transmitting a cold, yawns that are ‘catching’, fire spreading to the next building, or move a conversation on to the next subject. These are all 移す!





primary sources

資料 しりょう: usually not physical. source material for a novel or a report.


材料 -ざいりょう: usually seen on the “ingredients” label on food packaging. But also used about source material for a report: field notes, raw data. The implication is that, unlike 素材, the source material is not totally raw, it’s partially assembled -for instance, if you get silk, that’s 素材, but when the silk is woven into a fabric, that is 材料, and then the fabric is an ingredient of a handbag.


素材 :そざい: raw material – like the related term 材料 but , 素材 emphasizes RAW – iron, brick, mud. Usually used with architecture or industry.




Japanese style

和式・わしき: Japanese -style (used about toilets, houses, and customs)


和風 :わふう: Japanese-style (used about food, clothing, and sometimes houses)





storage , warehouse


収納 :しゅうのう: $$$:  storage – like 倉庫 but in the same building: the broom closet at your fast food restaurant is 収納 , but the shack in your backyard is 倉庫.


蔵 : くら: an obsolete word for place to store food on farm – a silo or barn.


倉庫:そうこ: means “warehouse,” but also “storage” (as in the English phrase, “It’s in storage.”) 倉庫 is either a stand-alone building – a warehouse or shack in back.







外・$$$ : outside in general.


屋外: おくがい: outside AS OPPOSED TO INSIDE: “Please smoke outside the building.” “Please do that outside, not here.”






To look or stare

チラ見する : to shyly glance at and then quickly look away. Usually over and over.


じっと見る: Standing close and giving a long, unmoving stare. Not always hostile. If you see something 面白い or you’re hypnotized by the TV , you’re じっと見る, But if you’re scrutinizing your friend’s face to see if they are lying, that’s also じっと見る.


にらむ・: the stare you use to provoke someone. “You lookin’ at me?”


見つめる・ like にらむ, みつめる is also a kind of rude, open stare, but 見つめる is more fascinated and curious than openly hostile.


眺める : to gaze quietly at something for a long time while lost in thought.







猥褻:わいせつ :  : gross, obscene. Always bad. A morbidly obese exhibitionist with genital warts.NP



卑猥:ひわい: Nasty, dirty, obscene. Not always used in a bad way. Usually used by older men.


エロイなぁ~: a casual, conversational word for nasty or obscene








子供:こども: $$$ : The usual word for child.


童:わらべ: an archaic, literary/poetic word for child. Usually seen on CDs for children’s’ songs: 童のうた。


児童:じどう; A  somewhat bureaucratic word for children. Usually seen on signs at the library: “Children’s’ room” or at city hall: “Department of Children’s’ welfare” or “child services.”




小児科: pediatrics




赤ちゃん (あかちゃん)

赤ん坊 (あかんぼう): these are completely interchangeable.







基準:きじゅん:$$$ criterion – the basis for judging a sex partner, potential job applicant, which songs to buy, etc.


規準:きじゅん : more specific than 基準. 規準 is a CRITERIA in the sense of a STANDARD OF MEASUREMENT . Japan’s standard of temperature is Celsius, whereas America’s standard of measuring temperature is Fahrenheit.









お茶目・ おちゃめ: a class clown – someone who does pranks, impersonates people, is mischievous. Can be used of kids and adults. Does not have a bad connotation.


やんちゃ : often translated as ‘mischievous’ but is more like ‘unpredictable.’ A funny person that can turn violent or take a joke too far. Can be used of kids and adults, and has a little bad meaning to it.





Beach, shore

浜 辺 : はまべ: a somewhat literary word for the beach


浜:はま: a very casual word for the beach, usually used by people who live on beach-towns.


海岸:かいがん: the coast OR the beach! Unlike 浜辺 or  浜, 海岸 has a scientific, geographical meaning: the coastline, (regardless of if there’s sand or not). You’ll see 海岸 on maps. The usage of 海岸 is odd, even for Japanese. Where Americans will just say, “Let’s go to the beach!”, Japanese might suggest to their pals, “海へ行こう!”(let’s go to the ocean!) but ONLY ONCE THEY WERE ALREADY THERE, then they might specifically suggest going to the 海岸 – as opposed to other things to do by the sea. Weird! $$$



岸:きし: the shore. Unlike 海岸 or 浜, you can use 岸 for the shore of rivers or lakes, as well as the ocean.







単語:たんご: a single-kanji word, such as  犬, or a hiragana word like イヤ. But compound words or long-ass words are not 単語.


言葉:ことば: ANY word – including compound words, or onomatopoeia. Also 言葉 can mean “way of speaking.” There are expressions like “watch what you say!” that use 言葉 this way: 言葉使い が丁寧 (her way of speaking is very polite!) or 言葉大切につかいましょう (let’s be careful how we speak!)





あげる – raise up

上 -$$$ : to literally raise (your hands, and wave them from side to side; the roof)

挙: To metaphorically bring up something (an objection, a point) to give an example of , to cite or mention something.

揚 : hoist a flag/ deep fat fry


が あらわれるー to appear or manifest

が現れる: $$$ : to appear – symptoms, your soul-mate, attackers, rappers that bite my style crop up all over the place since I blew up.PPP TTT

が表れる:  not used. TTT


を.あらわす to indicate
を表す-: to indicate something intentionally, but through symbols rather than words (He expressed his displeasure by flinging feces at the prison correction officer) (the shadow of the sundial indicates the time)

を現わす ー a person or thing shows up on the scene. (due to sudden fame or maybe they came out of hiding; the moon comes out over the horizon). Second meaning: something becomes clear.


あ*る: to exist (almost always hiragana, but anyway) $$$


有-  – exist
在 – this is never used.


あたい: value

価: $$$ – value – but not an actual dollar amount (that’d be 値段(ねだん)) . 価 is value as in, (‘The value of the antique goes up with time’ or ‘I’ll estimate the value, using my jeweler’s loupe and tweezers.’)

値: value in a math or science sense. Numerical value.


あつい - hot

暑 – 50% – hot weather, a place with a hot climate

熱 – 50% – a hot thing. Also can be used figuratively for hot emotions or passions.


あたたかいー warm

暖 -50% – warm place or weather – use this one when you come in from the cold.

温 – 50% – warm thing (puppy, or puddle under your bed )


あう- to meet

会う -$$$ – a big meeting

遭 -chance meeting、 usually with sudden and random disasters, such as a car accident, a mugging, etc.ZZZ




合わせる -$$$ – to unify. To bring different things together and make them fit. Like a band tuning up is called 音合わせ (making the notes fit).
会わせる − to make two people meet each other. Not used.

併わせる – a formal word for unite. You don’t need this, either.NP




謝 -$$$ – – apologize

誤 – to make a mistake (noun form 誤り). Basically this is a more formal version of 間違える! Used by older folks instead of 間違える, but you can use it if you’re talking about a miscalculation or if you took the wrong course of action/ a failed policy.


える – obtain

得る -$$$ -obtain (the right to do something, sensitive information, a patron, a prize or promotion )

獲る-20% – obtain an animal you hunted. IT MEANS HUNT, DUMMY. (also used when crops are harvested)


ふね: boat.

船 -$$$− ship

舟 - the dictionary is wrong. This is almost never used by itself, only as a jukugo.


ふやすー to increase

増 -$$$ – increase

殖 -multiply – Never use this.NP



.はじめる – begin

始 – begin – $$$:I begin to do something.

初めて – to do something for the first time ever.



始まる - this is the only kanji!


はかる : scheme or plot

図る:$$$ – to scheme or plan (can be something relatively benign like ‘Plan to raise interest rates’ but is usually like ‘Plan to stab your co-worker in the back and take his job.’)

謀る : to plot a murder!Only used about Murder most faoouuullll!!! Almost never used.ZZZ



はかる – measure

計る – 50%  – temperature, height, depth. If you’re measuring a chair or your mom’s stretch marks, use this one.

測る -measure, but usually used in a medical or scientific context. (blood pressure, air pressure). Also used for area, distance, sound decibels, angle, capacity.

量る — used mostly about weight, but also quantity or volume.


はなー flower

花 -$$$ – flower
華 – never used as ‘hana.’ (although, as 華々しい、(hanabanashii) or 華やかな (hanayakana), it means gorgeous or flamboyant).NP



はやい - fast  -psyche! turns out these are not even the same nuance.

速 − – fast speed

早 – 10% of the time means fast, but usually it means ‘early’


ひとり – one person

一人: $$$: one person.

独り: Alone. Unlike 一人、 独り has a sort of lonely value judgment on it. Like, ‘He lives by himself’ or ‘She had to do the whole thing herself (since no one would help her).’


ほめる -compliment

褒めるー$$$  :compliment

誉める : – means the same as 褒める ,except that no one uses it.ZZZ




かえりみる: to look back on, to regret.

省みる: pretty much only used in the sense of soul-searching or thinking about past misdeeds.

顧みる: can be used literally OR figuratively, both with a good meaning (nostalgia, reminisince) and bad (guilty, reflecting on past misdeeds)

Also, to consider the consequences of something you’re about to do (in which case, it’s used in the negative:he acted without thinking!).


をかえる – exchange

を替える – – switch from one thing to another thing – usually of a different type: (switch channels / modes / clothes / sides)

を換える –  exchange (yen for euros) change (diapers / a broken heel on your pumps). Unlike the other かえる (替える)、 換える means you are exchanging something for a similar or identical thing.

代 – not used


かわる – to switch

が代わる – $$$ – take turns, or one person succeeds another. A robot replaces a human, (who is made into Soylent Green).

が替わる – something automatically switches (modes/channels/places)

が換わる – not used?


かける – hang

掛ける : $$$ to hang something on a hook.

懸ける : to gamble or stake something. One’s life, one’s heart, one’s money, etc.




影ー literal shadow

陰 – shady – both literally , and more likely, metaphorically. If someone is operating shady deals from the shadows, you use this kanji. Also used for the hidden organs – medical terms for naughty bits.



かく – write

書くー$$$ – write some text

描 – depict – either by drawing a picture (usual) , or by making a story/movie that paints a mental picture for the viewer.

かた (they even have the same ON as well!)(KEI)

型 -50% – 2 meanings: model and type. Model, as in clay/plaster mold, or cookie-cutter stamp, or (figuratively) as in a social convention or conformity. (‘This book is too cliché, it just follows all the rules of the style!’). Type as in blood type, or “new type” (i.e. this year’s model of crime-fighting robot).

形 -50% – form. Literally the shape of something (regardless of if that thing is unique or very conventional).


.かたい – hard

固 – $$$ – hard like firm, unyielding, you tap it and it goes TON TON. Also, hard like a stiff, formal, tight-ass person.

硬 – almost the same as 固 – but the nuance is, hard like hard to break.

堅 – FIGURATIVE : hard as in a steadfast, Sam Gamgee-ass pal.


かたよる – lean

偏る $$$ — be biased, place too much weight on something. Literally: to slant.

片寄る ー lean to one side, be partial to one side. Don’t use this one


かわく – dry

乾 – dried (said about things that are normally dry – such as paint, clay, dirt, sponge, beef jerky, etc.)
渇 – dry (said of things that are normally wet (80% of the time 渇く is used in the context of “I’m thirsty!’)


かわ – skin

皮 – $$$ – skin, (human or animal, but not to be confused with fur!). Also refers to the skin of an apple, or even the crust of bread!

革 – leather.


かわー river

川ー $$$ – river

河 – this is only used in proper names of people, or proper names of rivers.


きくー listen

聴 – deliberately listen to for minutes at a time (a preacher’s sermon, a college lecture, a shitty techno song)

聞くー to passively hear a sound (whether intentionally or not). Also, to ask someone a question, ( “Where’s the vd clinic?” “Ask your moms “(お母さんに聴け)”)


きく:to be effective

効く : $$$- (usually of medicine) to be effective.

利く:to use (usually a body part) – 口を利く: have a smart mouth. 良く利く鼻: have a great nose, have wonderful smelling-ability. 目が利く: to have a discerning eye (for art/ antiques / etc.)


きる – cut

切 -$$$ – cut

斬 – cut, but only with a samurai sword! LIT


伐る − cut, but only used to mean ‘cut down a tree.’LIT



を きわめる: master

を究める: to achieve mastery of something, to penetrate the mystery of something.

を極める: extremely (good OR bad). Usually used like: xxx極める; extremely good at XXX. Or, the tyrant was extremely cruel….


が きわまる: extremes

が極まる:$$$: extremely bad : bloody, utterly (fucked), downright (sadistic), deadly (dull), outright (scandalous). It’s a verb, but it’s used as an adjective. : BAD ADJECTIVE + 極める(intensifier)+ SUBJECT (NOUN)。

が窮まる:To be caught in a dilemma, to have your back to the wall, to the point where there seems to be no hope. Almost never used、except in the phrase 感がきわまる: to be about to flip out from the stress.

きよい – pure
清い $$$ – pure, clean
浄い literary word for purity – also used as in ‘spiritual purification.’


くら – warehouse

倉 -$$$ – warehouse (never used by itself, but used in the word 倉庫(そうこ) meaning, a modern warehouse.

蔵 -:an obsolete word for place to store food on an old-school farm – a silo or barn.



こえる – go over

超 – $$$ – to exceed or go over a certain numerical limit (the cook heated the oven to over 100 degrees, the dude passed 100 years old, the man bet over 40,000 dollars, etc.)

越 – go beyond (a physical thing); to pass or cross



まるい- circular

丸 – $$$ – circular or round

円 – don’t use this one except for money.


まぜる- mix

交 – $$$ – general word for mixing. Also used figuratively, as in joining or associating with a group.

混 – this is used for technical stuff- science or cooking.


まわり: around

周り- $$$ :all around the circumference or perimeter of someone or something.

回り: one rotation, or one round trip


みる – see

見る :$$$: to passively see something

観る : to watch something, deliberately and for a long time; In other words, to be a spectator at something (only used in the phrase 観にいく)(and you only used 観に行く about concerts, Broadway plays, and art exhibitions). Basically this is 聴く for your eyes.


もえる – burn

燃える -$$$ :- to burn up, intentionally

萌える  : -this is the ‘otaku’ one. Slang meaning, to burn with passion with someone. (adjective form is, ‘ 萌え!’  meaning ‘cute enough to make me burn` . .. supposedly the nuance is, the speaker is made to burn, and doesn’t really want to, but is swept away by rapture. Why this is an important distinction for otaku I have no fucking idea.)


もと – former

元: original (lineup of a band) former or ex (boyfriend or wife).

基 : foundation or basis (the manga is based on the anime which was based on the videogame which was based on a true story)


なおす – cure

直す – fix / reform / correct a problem ( a broken chair, an inefficient beaurauuuucrarcy, a poorly spelled word). Doesn’t mean the thing is totally fucked up. Sometimes 直す just means do some minor alterations or revisions to make some shit perfect. Also means redo, as in かけ直して (phone me back).

治す: cure a disease or health problem.


におい – smell

匂い :$$$ – odor. Sometimes bad, sometimes, good. Usually not so good. (good smells are 香り、(かおり))

臭い : stinky. (this is almost never used as におい, and 99% of the time only used as くさい!)


が のびるー get longer

伸 – $$$ – something automatically lengthens or grows – like hair or grass. Something extends further- a forest that extends all the way to the ocean, or days of summer that get longer.

延 – prolong : almost never used


を のばす – to stretch or extend intentionally

を延ばす – $$$ to lengthen or extend (the life of a sick person)(the deadline) (your stay in a hotel) also, to procrastinate. More used with time.

を伸ばす – more used with things: stretch your back, extend a collapsible umbrella/telescope/ admantium claw.
のぼる - go up

を・に 上 – 60% – Sometimes literal (climb a ladder, go up hill , but usually figurative: To rise to stardom, a cost that runs as high as a billion annually, etc.)
登 ー climb  25%  – only used with mountains, cliffs, ladders, etc.

昇 – 15% – ascend. (Planets, moons. People that go to heaven). Also people who take an elevator. Unlike 登る, 昇る implies that there is no effort on the part of the ascending person or thing.


のむ – drink

飲 – $$$ – – drink

呑 – – drink in one gulp, (emphasis on swallowing) (use this about medicine, chugging booze, or dudes reaching a desert oasis). Also, figuratively, to accept an onerous demand.



おちる – fall

落ちる: $$$ – to fall (fall off your chair, a plate falls and breaks)

墜ちる: fall to one’s death. NP 飛行機が: fall into moral ruin (become a junkie, get all caught up in a cult or gambling debts, etc.) LIT



おかす – perpetrate

犯 – commit a violent crime or rape

侵 −violate something, usually civil rights, copyright, right to privacy, right to free speech, etc. Also used in slander or defamation, for instance if I said the pope only had one nut.


おくる – send

送 – $$$ – send (letter) or transmit (radio or tv program)
贈 – give a present, or present someone with something rad (a scholarship, a knighthood). This is actually more similar to あげます, but I think it’s a little more formal.

おさえる – restrain
抑える - Mentally refrain or restrain (an impulse). Also used about the Man oppressing or holding down The People in general.
押さえる – physically hold or restrain.

を おさめる − to get/ to pay

を 収める-$$$ – to get, obtain (a good grade, success, a victory)

を 納 – to pay taxes/school fees/bribes? ; or to place something in the place it’s supposed to be: swords in scabbards, mummies in tombs.


が おさまる – assume a post

納まるー this has the incredibly specific meaning of “To assume one’s post as the president of country, university or board of directors.” WTF do they even need a word for that?

収まるー this one is also pretty useless: to calm down, to settle. To finish off.




さびしい – lonely

寂しい:  – lonely

淋しい: a less-used, more literary form of ‘lonely’


さがすー search for

探 -$$$ – search for something you want in the future (a good restaurant, a store with bargains, sanity).

捜 – search for something you lost (car keys, sanity); or cops searching for a criminal. NP


.さげる – lower
下げる $$$ – to lower
提げる dictionaries say this means ‘lower’ but really it’s only used if you’re hanging a sign around your neck! Seriously. Fuck this word.

さく – tear up
裂く tear up paper
割く – allocate resources or time (why the dictionary puts both of these words in the same entry is beyond me!)

.さす – point

指 -$$$ – literally point at. Figuratively, point to (i.e. these economic indicators point to a recession) Also means aim for (the title belt).

差 -A bunch of random meanings: Wear a sword. Light points to something. Set people against each other. WTF this kanji makes no sense.

刺 –  poke. Like a mosquito stings you. Also, to stab with a knife.
挿す – insert.


がしまる - something shuts or closes

が絞まる – something gets tightened or fastened.

が閉まる − (the Man) cracks down on something, tightens controls on something.


をしめる – to close

閉める: $$$- to close (a door, a window)

締める : to tighten (a knob, guitar strings, a seat-belt)

絞める :to strangle (a throat)


すぐれる – to excel
優れる – 50% –   outstanding, above the rest in general.
勝れる – 50% – to be better than another leading brand (in particular used when comparing two or more things)

する – rub

擦る:$$$ -  to rub or chafe.

磨る:  not used.


すすめる – recommend

勧める :$$$ – to recommend

奨める : but never used.



たえるー tolerate

耐 – $$$ – withstand something physical – Fire resistant, or water-resistant. People, too: if you try to be a coal-miner and you can’t take the physical labor then you 耐えらない。
堪 −tolerate, in a moral sense. Can’t tolerate racism or “that kind of conduct.” To endure disgrace.


たま; ball

玉:$$$- (broad meaning) any ball – a fire-ball, ball bearing, a mathematical sphere, a glass bead. Also it has the nuance of gem, or jewel.

球・: (narrow meaning) ball used in sports


たまご – egg

玉子 : – is more common.

卵 : a more specialized, farmer/agricultural word. Also has the nuance of “someone in the arts who has not formally debuted yet” (i.e. a really great painter who is about to have her first art opening) $$$


たのしい: enjoy
楽しい – $$$ -to enjoy or look forward to something
愉しい – – The meaning is exactly the same but advanced or literary, i.e. pretentious. LIT



たたかう – fight

戦 – $$$ – fight physically – either with fists or armies. (sometimes used figuratively – fight crime!) But in any case, 戦う usually refers to an ongoing struggle rather than a single barroom punch-up.
闘 – fight – (only used figuratively) – struggle against temptation, war on poverty etc., the war on drugs, struggle against prejudice, etc.


たつ;  to sever something.

絶つ: more usually figurative. figuratively, to cut off all relations with (your ex) , or to totally quit doing (alcohol).

断つ: more literal – to sever a thing, to divide something in two.



止まる: $$$ – stop.

留まる : not used 目に留まる.


とるー take

取 – $$$- take (pick up in your hand (ball, key, card). Also means to get (good marks on a test, a prize, etc,) also, to take a picture!

撮 – to take a picture (only used in the context of 撮影 (さつえい, meaning professional-style photo shoots)

採る − gather (mushrooms, cherries, honey (if you are a bee)). Also, sometimes, it means to adopt a certain policy or take a certain measure.

執る – to assume command of something, to take control of something, to spearhead some shit, and – randomly – to take up your pen and write some shit (which presumably the shit is a manifesto or expose or will start shit). ZZZ


つかう – use

使 – $$$ -use

遣 ーthis is very specific. It means “to dispatch an envoy”. Or, to be careful or give consideration to. Usually only used with the phrase 気を遣う、 but even then it’s usually hiragana so who cares. Good luck ever using that.


つくる – make

作 -$$$ – usually handmade.

造 – made by a factory. Mass-produced (although one-of-a-kind things like a giant rocket ship are also 造る)


つとめる – work at something

努 $$$−make an effort (at improving your French, at quitting smoking, to be nice to your friend’s douche boyfriend, etc.) , more like 頑張る than the other つとめるs.

務 – perform a specific task or role which you have been assigned ( but not necc. at a job)


勤 – work (used only about a job, and not in reference to a particular project at that job) (emphasis is on the physical work rather than the role).

つつしむ – refrain
慎む $$$ – to repress or refrain from doing something.
謹む – a very literary, formal, old-people word for refrain. Nowadays the only time you’re likely to see it is 謹んでxxx (a formal, written phrase meaning, “Please accept my sentiments”)


うむ – to give birth

生む – $$$ – to be born or produced. Usually figurative, as in, “These conditions breed terrorists,” or “He gave birth to the film industry,” or “Produce profits.”

産む – give birth (human or animal) .This is more of a medical or agricultural word.


うれい – sorrowful
憂い - $$$ – sorrowful.
愁い – sorrowful – but more subtle than the OTHER うれい (憂い)。 Regular urei is like a homeless guy that is obviously suffering and you can see why. 愁い is like a elegant woman in a kimono going to a temple and carrying with her a subtle poetic aura of sadness. Older Japanese guys go for this.

うつ – pound (actually these don’t mean the same thing at all!)

打つ – $$$ – pound with bat or fist.

撃 – fire a gun

討つ – an archaic term for a revenge-attack- the literal meaning is “get some motherfucking payback on”. Almost never used



やさしい – nice

優しい: 50% – kindhearted

易しい: 50% – easy to do




やわらかいー soft

軟 – $$$ – soft

柔 -soft but EMPHASIS IS ON FLEXIBILE. Like it bends like a novelty straw, or if you tap it with your finger, the finger leaves a little dent (dead body).

ゆたか- abundant

豊か - $$$ – abundant
裕 ー this is never used.


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1 Comment so far

  1. ジェーコブ June 11th, 2015 12:00 pm

    Hey, would you mind if I used this dictionary to create a course on memrise? It’s a language learning site and I believe that nothing like this has been created to this point. I’d appreciate if you could give me a permission of some sort :)

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