What’s the difference between “びょういんbyooin” and “びよういんbiyooin”?

”びょういん (byooin)” and “びよういん (biyooin)” are very confusing words even for native speakers of Japanese. Not to mention for Japanese learners.

When written in kanji, it becomes clear that they are completely different words, but if you only listen to the sounds, you may be confused as to which is which.

This article explains the differences between びょういんbyooin” and “びよういんbiyooin”.

“びょういんbyooin” and “びよういんbiyooin” are confusing even for Japanese people

“びょういん (byooin)” is a hospital and “びよういん (biyooin)” is a beauty salon or hair salon, but they are very confusing even for Japanese people.

This is what really happened to my family.

One day my mother had to go to the “びょういん (byooin)”, which is the hospital, and then to the “びよういん (biyooin)”, hairdresser. My mother took a taxi to the hospital in the morning and after she got to the hospital, she received a phone call from my dad.

My father offered to give her a lift home, but my mother told him that she wanted him to pick her up at the “びよういん” (hairdresser’s) because she was going from the hospital to the hairdresser’s.

My mother then went to the hairdresser, finished her haircut and waited for my father to come and pick her up, but after waiting and waiting, my dad never arrived.

Finally, she called him and asked him. “Where are you now?”
My father replied: “At home. I went to the hospital, and I was told you left in a taxi.”

“I told you to pick me up at the びよういん (hairdresser’s), not the びょういん (hospital)!”
My poor mother was so upset that she ended up taking a taxi home.

What’s the difference between “びょういんbyooin” and “びよういんbiyooin”?

病院 びょういん (byooin)

“びょういん (byooin)”, which is written “病院” in Kanji, is a hospital or clinic that refers to a facility for doctors to treat patients.

美容院 びよういん (biyooin)

“びよういん (biyooin)”, on the other hand, is written “美容院” in Kanji and means a beauty salon or hair salon where you can have a haircut by hairdressers or get your hair coloured, perms, you can also ask them to put make-up on professionally.

びょういんで けんさ してもらった。
Byooin de kensa shite moratta.
I was examined at the hospital.

びよういんで かみを きってもらった。
Biyooin de kami wo kitte moratta.
I had my hair cut at the beauty salon.

いしゃや かんごしは びょういんで はたらきます。
Isha ya kangoshi wa byooin de hatarakimasu.
Doctors and nurses work in hospitals.

びようしは びよういんで はたらきます。
Biyooshi wa biyooin de hatarakimasu.
Hairdressers work in beauty salons.

“びょういんbyooin” vs “びよういんbiyooin”

  • “びょういん (byooin)”=病院、a hospital or clinic
  • “びよういん (biyooin)”=美容院、a beauty salon or hair salon
“びょういん (byooin)”=病院、a hospital or clinic
“びよういん (biyooin)”=美容院、a beauty salon or hair salon

Do not worry if you are not confident in distinguishing between two words. In most cases, you should be able to judge the context.

Furthermore, as even Japanese people can be confused with those words, there is no need to be nervous.