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What is the difference between 困惑 and 糊涂 ? Supposedly both mean "confused" but still is not clear in which situation each is to be used

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困惑 - Puzzled. A person can be very smart but be puzzled by a question. 糊塗 - Confused, mistaken. It generally indicates the state of mind of a person. An elderly person is more likely to get confused or mistakes A for B.

The dominating word in 困惑 is 惑, which means bewilderment or difficulty in choice of a small number of options. The word 或 means either. 困 means in a very tight spot without room to move around. The original meaning of 困 is a small hut. The 木 (wood) in a 口 means that there is no room for the wood. When a person is in a situation that is both bewildered and yet does not have much choice, this person is in a bewilderment.

糊塗 - Both words are significant in describing the statement of mind. The radical of 糊 is 米 (rice). When rice is cooked too much that it gets burned, it is 糊, then it's a mess. The radical of 塗 is 土 (dirt/earth). The original meaning of 涂 is that it was the name of a river. When water is over dirt, there is mud. The person's mind is muddled.

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  • "When water is over dirt, there is mud. The person's mind is muddled." That's funny, because the origin of the word 'muddled' is thought to be 'mud'! "1590s, "destroy the clarity of" (a transferred sense); literal sense ("to bathe in mud")" Seems the English and the Chinese employed the same idea!!
    – Pedroski
    Apr 1 at 14:09
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困惑 = to confuse; be confused (by external elements)

糊涂 = being confused (internally)

  • You can: "被這個問題困惑" (were confused by this question)(O)

  • You can't: "被這個問題糊涂" (being internally confused by this question)(X)

  • You could: "做人糊涂" = live confusedly (O)

  • You couldn't: "做人困惑" = live a life to confuse/ to be confused (X)

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困惑 - bewildered, perplexed, confused, puzzled about something and not knowing what to do.

糊涂 - muddled; refers to the lack of clear mind, mixing and confusing things/persons.

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When a brain wants to understand something:

  • 困惑:The brain is ok. The thing is a mess.
  • 糊涂:The thing is ok. The brain is a mess.

For example,

  • I’m 困惑 so I can’t calculate my tax return.
  • I’m 糊涂 so I can’t even calculate 1+1.

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