December 24, 2020

What is the difference between 坂 and 阪?

Do you know the DIFFERENCE?


Both mean HILL or SLOPE and both have the same readings.

Meaning: slope; incline; hill
Kun: さか
On: ハン

However, only this one is used for a literal "hill" today:


  • 土 (dirt) 
  • 反 (return; go back)

To return 反 to dirt 土 may imply death. While 坂 today doesn't have that connotation (it just means "hill"), that might explain why...

This one is only used in names such as 大阪 Osaka


  • 阝 (mound; dam) 
  • 反 (return; go back)

While it is used with people's names like 阪本 sakamoto, this character alone usually represents 大阪 Osaka.

Here are a few Osaka-related words:

  • 大阪府(おおさかふ) Osaka prefecture
  • 阪神(はんしん) Osaka-Kobe
  • 京阪(けいはん) Kyoto-Osaka
  • 在阪(ざいはん) being in Osaka
  • 帰阪(きはん) returning to Osaka

And, finally, a proverb:


To build Osaka castle by talking.

(talk is cheap; easier said than done)

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