Same words with completely different meanings

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Japanese is a somewhat complex language, and at the same time simple and easy. One thing that for us who speak Portuguese may seem strange, are the many similar words that exist in the Japanese language. In Portuguese there are similar occasions, such as shirt sleeve or fruit sleeve. But in Japanese it really happens over and over again, in thousands of words, that's one of the main reasons kanji exists. In this article, we are going to see some of these words, but we will only see the ones with different kanji and that have the same meaning, not to mention that they have the same words with different meanings.

I'll just quote pronunciations that have more than 3 different meanings, and I'm not really quoting the most known ones, because it's not easy to select, I'm just giving some examples.

Romaji Word 1 Word 2 Word 3
Ame 雨 – Rain 飴 – Bullet 編め – Knit, braid
Jinshin 人心 – People's hearts and feelings 人身 – Human body 仁心 – Benevolence
 Jisho  地所 – Earth, terrain, soil  辞書 – Dictionary  自署 – signature
 Kika  帰化 – Naturalization  気化 – Vaporization  奇禍 – Accident, disaster
 muchi  無知 – ignorance, stupidity 鞭 – whip, rod 無恥 – impudence
 ok 億 – one hundred million, astronomical number 奥 – interior, background 2 – noble’s wife, lady 屋 – roof, roof of the house
Kami 髪 – Hair 神 – God 紙 – Paper

Seika is one of the pronunciations that has many different meanings, using different kanji.

  • 正価 – Fixed Price
  • 成果 - Result, fruit of work
  • 製菓 – Confectionery, candy making
  • 青果 – Fruits and vegetables
  • 生家 – Place of birth
  • 聖歌 – liturgical chant, chant
  • 盛夏 – Midsummer, midsummer
  • 声価 – Reputation

Of course I cite just a few examples. If you take a Japanese dictionary on almost every page you will find one or two words with the same pronunciation, but with totally different kanji and meanings. The purpose of this article is just to show you how challenging it can be to learn and understand Japanese.

I couldn't separate the most used words, I took it randomly from a dictionary. It really may seem difficult or strange, but at the same time I practice. Thanks to the context of the conversation, it is unlikely that we end up confusing a word, especially when reading, kanji help a lot. Just living with language makes you think this is something extremely normal.

It also reminds us why Japanese names are the same, and have so many different meanings. We can't forget that some of these words can be pronounced in different ways, so it's good to learn kanji.

Is that you? What words do you end up confusing for being equal? Comment here, help increase our word list.

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