Saitei (最低) vs. Saiaku (最悪): Which Should be Used?
Sometimes interchangeably used, Saitei (最低) and Saiaku (最悪) are both Japanese phrases that describe stuff that is not good and is low-degree.
The pair may remind some readers of my post about Saikou (最高) vs. Saikyou (最強), but strictly, the antonyms of 最低 and 最悪 are 最高 and 最善 (Saizen) or 最良 (Sairyou).
Saitei (最低) vs. Saiaku (最悪)
As the literal meaning of Saikou (最高) is the highest, that of Saitei (最低) is the lowest. And we usually use the word like this.
- 新潟市は今朝今年の最低気温を記録した: The city of Niigata recorded this morning the lowest temperature of this year.
But we often use the phrase the same way as Saiaku (最悪), whose literal meaning is the worst. If I give a usage example,
- 女性を殴る男は最低だ: Men who hit women are the worst or disgusting.
And you can rephrase this sentence like this.
- 女性を殴る男は最悪だ or 女性を殴る男は最低最悪だ: Men who hit women are the worst/disgusting or the worst of the worst.
最低最悪 (Saitei-Saiaku) is the emphasized form of 最低 or 最悪, meaning the worst of the worst.
Meanwhile, in the cases below, you can’t replace 最悪 with 最低.
- 私達は最悪の事態に備えなければならない: We need to prepare for the worst.
- この事件は今年これまでで最悪の悲劇だ: This incident is the worst tragedy so far this year.
In conclusion, according to Goo’s Japanese Dictionary, Saiaku (最悪) describes terrible things based on objective facts.
Saitei (最低) describes things that are not good and are low-degree from subjective judgment. The term also describes things that are literally the lowest.