One of the best Japanese Kanji dictionary.

Share this page

Kanji for Love – 愛 and 恋

Kanji for Love – 愛 and 恋

There are two Kanji characters for love in Japanese – 愛, and 恋. However, the nuance is quite different. Let’s take a closer look at these characters.

Origin of the characters

旧字体(Kyūjitai) are the characters used before the of the Kanji characters, which are called 当用漢字(Tōyōkanji) and 常用漢字(Jōyōkanji), and 新字体 are the characters used after that. The standardization was carried out in 1949, after the World War II.

Summary of kanji

Meanings of the characters

Let’s see what the Kanji dictionary says.

    1. to love
    2. to treat
    3. to admire, to appreciate
    4. to hold something dear, to grudge
    5. to feel someone is a pity or poor
    6. (in Buddhism) to be greedy for love or getting things
    7. (in Christianity) The God giving people happiness, or people loving each other as brothers and sisters.
    8. adorable
    1. to love
    2. to miss
    3. romantic love

Words using 愛 and 恋

Words using 愛

  • 愛情(aijō) 愛情: love, affection
  • 慈愛(jiai) <strong>慈愛</strong>: affection, compassion, tenderness
    (affection especially for someone younger or smaller than you)
  • 博愛(hakuai) 博愛: philanthropy
  • 愛好家(aikōka) 愛好家: an enthusiast, a lover[devotee] (of music, literature, sports, etc.)
  • 愛煙家(aienka) 愛煙家: habitual smoker
    ⇔嫌煙家(ken’enka) 嫌煙家: antismoker, a person hates to get other’s passive smoke (煙 means “smoke,” and嫌 means “to hate”)
  • 愛人(aijin) 愛人: a lover, or mistress of a married person
  • 友愛(yūai) 友愛: friendship, fellowship, fraternity
  • 夫婦愛(fūfuai) 夫婦愛: the affection between married couples
  • 親子愛(oyakoai) 親子愛: the mutual affection between parent and child (parents and children)
  • 家族愛(kazokuai) 家族愛: the love and affection of a family
  • 相思相愛(sōshisōai) 相思相愛: in love with each other
  • 愛国心(aikokushin) 愛国心: patriotic sentiments
  • ご自愛ください(Gojiaikudasai) ご自愛ください:” Please take good care of yourself.”
    (A greeting that is frequently used in letters or messages when somebody does not have a good health)

Words using 恋

  • 初恋(hatsukoi) 初恋: first love
  • 恋人(koibito) 恋人: a sweetheart, a boyfriend, or a girlfriend
  • 失恋(shitsuren) 失恋: disappointed/unrequited love
  • 悲恋(hiren) 悲恋: tragic love
  • 恋文(koibumi) 恋文: a love letter
    *恋文 sounds a bit old-fashioned.ラブレター(raburetā) that came from the English  word “love letter” is more likely to be used.
  • 恋しい(koishī) 恋しい: to miss

Kanji Compound of 恋 and 愛

  • 恋愛(renai) 恋愛: romantic love

So, what is the difference between 愛 and 恋after all?

愛 is a more general term to express “love.” 恋 has a nuance that you are longing or having a deep desire for someone or something. It is sometimes related to sexuality.

「恋」is related to the concept of 「切なさ」(setsunasa) 切なさ.「切なさ」is kind of a feeling of sadness or miserable that your chest gets tight. You really want to get the thing you are「恋している」, but you know that your wish might not come true, and feel anxious or sad about that.

You can use 恋 not only for a person but for something you truly love and desire; for example,「私は京都に恋しています」(Watashi wa Kyōyto ni koishite imasu) 私は京都に恋しています means you genuinely love Kyoto and have a strong desire to go there. You feel like your heart is thumping, and your heart skips a beat when you think of it.

How should you say, “I love you” in Japanese?

  1. Romantic love
    Although the phrase “I love you” tends to be translated to「愛しています」(Aishite imasu) 愛しています, it is not used in daily conversation so often. First of all, Japanese people, especially men, don’t tell that they love their sweethearts with words. Anyway, you need to convey your love to someone to get into a relationship – then, 「好きです」(sukidesu) 好きです is more likely to be used. 「好き」means “like” or sometimes “love.”
    By the way, the declaration of love is called 「告白」(kokuhaku) 告白, the same word used for confession.
  2. Love for your children
    If parents want to show their love to children, they tend to say 「大好き!」(daisuki) 大好き! .「大」means big and is an exaggeration for「好き」, so it means “I love you so much!”

Expression of love between Japanese couples

A couple holding hands in front of the Tokyo Tower

If you walk around Japan, you will notice that almost no one is kissing or hugging each other in front of others. If you flirt in public, you are seen shameful or disgraceful. No one will probably say things like “PDA alert!” or “Get a room!” to you; however, people will give you a cold look. Some couples hold hands outside, but this is relatively accepted in Japanese society.

There are no specific words for calling your lovers or spouses like ”Honey,” “Darling,” or “Sweetheart.” People directly call their names or nicknames to their partners. If the couple has children, many of them call each other ”Father”(「お父さん」’otōsan’ お父さん  or 「パパ」’papa’) パパ, or “Mother”(「お母さん」’okāsan’ お母さん or「ママ」’mama’ ママ )

Japanese men tend not to say, “You’re pretty, you’re beautiful,” or “I love you” to their partners. It seems that they are too shy to say those words.

Maybe it is because of the Japanese culture「以心伝心」(Ishin-denshin) 以心伝心, which means direct communication from mind to mind without words. Japanese men might be thinking that those words are already conveyed without saying – however, it is very doubtful if their partners are thinking in the same way.

以心伝心, heart-to-heart communication

Share this link via

Or copy link