Translating the word selfless into Japanese.

Do you have a translation question?
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LordOfTheFlies
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Joined: Sun 05.07.2006 9:43 am
Native language: Swedish

Translating the word selfless into Japanese.

Post by LordOfTheFlies » Sat 09.28.2013 1:50 pm

A few days ago I stumbled upon a problem. I wanted to say the word "selfless" in Japanese and I set out to find a good translation using various dictionaries. I found a couple of words/expressions that seem to have the meaning selfless, but I don't know how commonly used they are or if they have any subtle nuancess that you need to think of. The words were: 無我, 無私 and 私心のない. I was advised to use 無我 by a Japanese native speaker but he said that it was a bit iffy how I used it. The following sentence is a bit different than the sentence I wrote but it has the same construction.

Let's say you wanted to say "He's a very selfless great person who volunteers frequently at charity organizations."

Would 「彼はボランティア活動によく参加しているとても無我で立派な人です。」 sound natural?

I'd love some input. Thanks!

NileCat
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Joined: Sat 08.01.2009 2:11 pm
Native language: Japanese
Location: Tokyo

Re: Translating the word selfless into Japanese.

Post by NileCat » Sat 09.28.2013 11:57 pm

No, it doesn’t, I'm afraid.
無我 is usually used in set phrases like 無我の境地. And it is a noun, never used as da-adjective. Also, when the word is used independently, it kind of implies some association with Buddhism as a translation of ‘anatta’ or ‘anatman’, IMHO.
In that sense, 無私 seems more valid for the English nuance here. But the word 無私 would also sounds too stiff and people wouldn’t get the meaning if it is used in ordinary conversation in many cases. 四字熟語 might work here if you really need one-word-translation, which is 無私無欲. You can use it as if it were a da- adjective, like 無私無欲な人だ.
And 私心のない人 would also work here although it might sound kind of literary language.

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Ongakuka
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Re: Translating the word selfless into Japanese.

Post by Ongakuka » Sun 09.29.2013 1:25 am

Or 兼愛無私
なぜなら、おまえは・・・・・・人形だ

LordOfTheFlies
Posts: 455
Joined: Sun 05.07.2006 9:43 am
Native language: Swedish

Re: Translating the word selfless into Japanese.

Post by LordOfTheFlies » Sun 09.29.2013 9:46 am

Thanks I'll remember it. Japanese is really difficult when it comes to subtle nuances of words.

やっぱり言語は習うものじゃなくて、慣れるものですね。

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