sci.lang.japan FAQ / 6. Word meanings

6.11. What words have the same kanji in China and Japan but different meanings?

Many kanji words have different meanings between Chinese and Japanese. For example, 手紙 is tegami, "letter", in Japanese, but means "toilet paper" in Chinese. Here is a table of examples:

Kanji word Japanese pronunciation Japanese meaning Chinese pronunciation Chinese meaning
怪我 kega injury guai4 wo3 blame me
勉強 benkyō study mian3 qiang2 Adjective meaning inadequate, unconvincing, strained, far fetched v. manage
不勉強 fubenkyō idleness, lack of application, lazy study habits, inactivity bu4 mian3 qiang2 It's alright. I don't force my way.
先生 sensei teacher xian1 sheng5 Mr. (Mister) - in Taiwan often contracted as 先. But also "teacher" in some dialects.
切手 kitte stamp qie1 shou3 to cut the hands
急行 kyūkō express train ji2 xing2 urgently walking
上手 jōzu adroit, proficient, expert, dextrous, dexterous, adept, practiced, deft, practised, skilled shang1 shou3 start to get familiar with, or get to know how to do, something
下手 heta awkward, inept; inexpert, untrained; inapt xia4 shou3 proceed, start to do something, commence
天井 tenjō ceiling, ceiling price, top price, maximum acceptable or required price tian1 jing3 a roof frame, atrium, small yard; courtyard or skylight
musume daughter, offspring niang2 mother
yu hot water, hot spring tang1 soup
有難う arigatō thank you you3 nan4 catastrophic, disastrous, calamitous
吃る domoru to stutter, to stammer chi1 to eat
邪魔 jama to disturb, to come's in one way, an obstacle xie2 mo2 the devil
文句 monku complaint wen2 ju4 sentence flow
丈夫 jōbu strong, robust zhang4 fu5 husband
大丈夫 daijōbu OK, alright da4 zhang4 fu5 a gentleman, an upright person, a man of honour
演出 enshutsu to direct, to produce (a play) yan3 chu1 to perform, to act (in a movie/drama/show)

Japanese also contains some "Chinese" characters which were invented in Japan. See 1.2.5. Which were created in Japan?

Acknowledgements

This was contributed to the "wiki sci.lang.japan FAQ" (see 17.3. FAQ Format). Apologies to the contributor but I have lost your name. Please bear with me as I track down the author's name. Thanks to Angel Fong for corrections.


sci.lang.japan FAQ / 6. Word meanings

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