Both 目 and 眼 are pronounced め and both mean "eye".
In many cases, they are interchangeable, but there are a few differences.
What's the difference between 目 and 眼?
Let's start with the conclusion and then give examples.
- 「目」 is by far the most commonly used kanji for "eye"
- In most cases, either can be used depending on the author's preference.
- 「目」 is often used when describing the form or movement of the eye: 目をつぶる (to shut one's eyes) or general function 目で見る (to see with one's eyes)
- 「眼」while meaning the same thing (eye), it is mostly used in medical, literary, or formal purposes.
- Both are pronounced the same as standalone kanji: 「め」
- However, the on reading is different. 目 is 「もく」 or 「ぼく」 and 眼 is 「がん」
- "Eyeball" can be written as 目玉 or 眼球
Examples using 目
to see with one's eye
to blink one’s eyes
to close one's eyes
More idiomatic or figurative usages
eye of a typhoon
corn (on one’s foot; literally, “eye of a fish”)
to go through a bitter experience; to feel pain
seeing things in a favorable light; biased view; favoritism
to stand out; be conspicuous
spotlight; public eye; public opinion; in the eyes of society
to witness; see with one's own eyes
to catch one's eye
Using non-め pronunciation
table of contents
obvious; clear at a glance
Examples using 眼
Using め pronunciation
eye drops; eye medicine
means "ophthalmology" or "eye department," and 眼鏡 means "glasses."
intraocular pressure; eye pressure [the fluid pressure inside the eye to maintain the eye’s shape]
fundus; back of the eye
sharp eye; keen eyes [describes someone who has a perceptive or discerning gaze, often indicating an ability to notice details or read people's emotions; can also be pronounced 眼【まなこ】]
Quick and dirty tip: if you are talking about your eyes generally (or with most idioms using the eye), use 目.
If it is a technical term or a medical reference, use 眼.