Dictionaries Only Gives You Paraphrases

As I read many books, I often need to get on the net and search for the word I don’t know. Especially Japanese has so much more complicated words than other languages.


English is only consisted of 26 alphabets for instance. All you do is put it in order or add but all you can do is limited in these 26 alphabets.


When it comes to Japanese which is mixed with Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji… it has no limits to segmentalize to express yourself.


I’m a bit off the topic. Here you go~


Dictionary = Paraphrasing

There is something we always need to be aware of when we look up in our dictionary in any language. What we see in the dictionary are just paraphrases.


What it means is that we need to understand the meaning of the word through our bodies. The best is from our own experience.


One example of a Japanese word ⇒   惻隠(sokuin)


If you have ever studied Japanese and heard this word and look it up on the net, it says


  1. pity
  2. feel compassion or empathy 


That’s basically what it says. But people who do “understand”(not “know”) this word, they say it’s something different. It’s more like “tears for losers”.


The word originally comes from the spirit of Bushi(Samurai), more simply it was one of their mottoes. You could say that it’s the opposite spirit of American “Winners take all”. You still take care of who lost to you.


(”Samurai” used to have a much bigger power than average citizens though at the same time they were poorer than them)


I know we don’t need to “understand” every single word you found but I think it’s worth to understand it’s just paraphrasing and something slightly different from the original meaning.


Like my students who are learning English at junior high school, they don’t even understand the difference between “know” “understand” “realize” which is pretty obvious for us who speak it.


Or I think it’s more about your own language when you find a word you didn’t know. It would be interesting to ask some elderly people for a good explanation. Because in the new language you learn, you are still starting from easy words.



Thank you for reading 🙂



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