The Kanji 代貸袋


This short post is in respose to a reader’s request to discuss the kanji 代.

  1. The kanji 代 “to change; instead; time; generation; substitute”

There is no writing earlier than seal style in any of the three kanji that contain 弋. What it originated from is not clear, but it was used phonetically for /tai/ or /dai/ to mean “to change.” For the kanji 代, the seal style writing comprisedイ“an act that one does” and 弋 phonetically for tai or dai to mean “change,” together changing people meant “generations; to change.” The kanji 代 also meant “the duration of time; one’s lifetime; a substitute.” The kanji 代 means “to change; instead; time; generation; substitute.”

The kun-yomi /yo/ is in 君が代 “Kimigayo; Japanese national anthem” /kimigayo/. Another kun-yomi /shiro/ is in 飲み代 “drinking money” /nomishiro/. The on-yomi /dai/ is in 初代 “the first generation; the founder” /sho’dai/, 一世一代 “once in a lifetime” /i’sse ichi’dai/ and 代理 “representation; a proxy; surrogate” /dairi/, 近代化 “modernization” /kindaika/ and 世代 “generation” /se’dai/. Another on-yomi /tai/ is in 交代”change; replacement; substitute” /kootai/.  [Composition of the kanji 代:  イ and 弋]

  1. The kanji 貸 “to lend”

For the kanji 貸 the seal style writing comprised イ“an act that a person does” on the left and 弋 on the top right, forming 代 “to change” phonetically for tai. The bottom center was 貝“a cowrie; something valuable.” Together something valuable changing hands meant “to lend something to another person (and get it back).” The kanji 貸 means “to lend.”

The kun-yomi /ka/ is in 貸す”to lend” /kasu/, 貸し出し “lending; circulation; rental” /kashidashi/, 貸家 “rented house” /shakuya/, 貸し間 “room for rent; room to let” /kashima/ and 金貸し”moneylending business” /kanekashi/. The on-yomi /tai/ is in 貸与”lending; loan” /ta’iyo/ and 賃貸 “lease; letting; renting out” /chintai/.  [Composition of the kanji 貸: 代 and 貝]

  1. The kanji 袋 “bag”

The top of the seal style writing was 代used phonetically for tai. The bottom was  巾“cloth.” Together they signified “cloth bag.” In kanji 巾was replaced by 衣“clothes.” The kanji 袋means “bag.”

The kun-yomi /hukuro/ is in 袋 “bag; sack; pouch” /hukuro/ and 袋小路 “cul-de-sac; blind alley” /hukuroko’oji/,  /-Bukuro/ is in 胃袋 “the stomach” /ibu’kuro/, 手袋 “gloves” /tebu’kuro/ and 天袋 “a built-in storage cupboard above oshiire” /tenbu’kuro/. 袋 also makes up the word 足袋”Japanese split-toe socks” /ta’bi/. [Composition of the kanji 袋: 代 and 衣]

Note: The shape 弋 is not to be confused with the kanji 伐 “to cut down; attack” (discussed in the post The Kanji 戈戒械成城誠伐閥我-戈“halberd” (1) on December 16, 2017) or the kanji 式”ceremony” (discussed in The Kanji 式試拭任妊作昨酢詐搾巨拒距規- Tool (1) on December 9, 2017).  Thank you very much for your reading. – Noriko  [October 21, 2018]

The Kanji 牛物利件牧牲半判伴畔   


I have written last week that I was going to take a break from writing for a while. I am posting a new one so soon. This post was prompted by a comment from a reader last week about the origin of the kanji 物, which involves the discussion of the bushu ushihen “ox; cow.”  First we look at kanji with a bushu ushihen– 牛物件牧牲 with revisiting 利. Then we look at the kanji with 半-半判伴畔.

  1. The kanji  牛 “bull; ox”

For the kanji 牛 in oracle bone style, in brown, bronze ware style, in green, and seal style, in red, the top was an ox head with its two horns growing upwards, and the bottom was its body. It meant “an ox; a cow.” In kanji a short-slanted stroke was added on the top left for an emphasis on the horns. The kanji 牛 means “cow; ox; cow.” [Composition of the kanji 牛: a short ノ, 二 and丨]

The kun-yomi 牛 /ushi/ means “cow; bull; ox; cattle.” The on-yomi /gyuu/ is in 乳牛 “dairy cow; dairy cattle” /nyuugyuu/, 牛乳 “milk” /gyuunyuu/, 牛肉 “beef” /gyuuniku/, 牛車 “ox-drawn carriage used by nobility in the Heian period” /gi’ssha/ and 水牛 “buffalo” /suigyuu/.

  1. The kanji 物 “stuff; thing; various; to select”

For the kanji 物 there was an old view that the right side was streamers of different colors. Oxen had different coloration and signified “various or assorted.” From various things it meant “thing; stuff.” Another view (seen in Shirakawa) seems to explain the ancient writings here better. (a) was “a plough or hoe spattering the soil,” which was phonetically /butsu/. This eventually became the shape 勿 in kanji. In (b) and (c) “an ox,” a large animal, signifying all animals, was added. (d) had “a plough with spattering soil” only. (e) comprised “an ox” and “a plough.” Cows or oxen that pulled a plough for tilling the fields had different coloration, thus it meant “various or assorted.” Choosing from various things also signified “to select; make one’s choice.” The kanji 物 means “stuff; thing; various; to select.” [Composition of the kanji 物: 牛 and 勿]

The kun-yomi 物 /mono’/ means “thing; matter; article; goods,” and is in 安物 “cheap article; inferior article” /yasumono/, 買い物 “shopping” /kaimono/, 生き物 “living creature” /iki’mono/ and 物々しい “showy; stately” /monomonoshi’i/. The on-yomi /butsu/ is in 物品 “goods; an article” /buppin/, 物理学 “physical science” /butsuri’gaku/, 物色する “look for; select” /busshoku-suru/ and 見物する “to go sight-seeing” /kenbutsu-suru/. Another on-yomi /motsu/ is in 禁物 “tabooed thing; forbidden thing” /kinmotsu/.

[The interpretation of the shape in (a), (b) and (c) as “a plough or hoe spattering the soil” is also relevant to the kanji 利. So, let us look at the kanji 利 here. It is a revision of my earlier writing a year ago.]

The kanji 利 “sharp;  useful; advantageous”

For the kanji 利 (a) comprised “a knife” or “a plough or hoe” and “a rice plant with crop.” (b), (c) and (d) comprised of “a rice plant” and “a plough or hoe spattering the soil.” A sharp pointed plough or hoe could dig up the soil effectively and be useful. It meant “useful; advantageous; sharp.” In (e) the plough or hoe became replaced by “a knife,” preserving the sense of a tool that was sharp. (On the other hand in 物 it became 勿.) In kanji it was replaced by 刂 a bushu rittoo “knife.” The kanji comprises 禾, a bushu nogihen, and刂 a bushu rittoo “knife.” The kanji 利 means “sharp;  useful; advantageous.”

  1. The kanji 件 “case; matter”

The seal style writing of the kanji 件 had イ “an act that a person does” and 牛 “an ox.” Together they signified “a person counting oxen in a herd” or “counting cases.” The kanji 件 means “case; matter.” [Composition of the kanji 件: イ  and 牛]

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /ken/ is in 事件 “incidence; case” /ji’ken/, 条件付き “conditional” /jookentsuki/, 件名 “case name” /kenmee/, 別件 “separate charge; different case” /bekken/, 用件 “business; things to be done” /yooke’n/ and 人件費 “personnel expenses” /jinke’nhi/.

  1. The kanji 牧 “to herd cattle; a place where cattle graze; pasture”

For the kanji 牧 at the top left (a) had “sheep” while (b), (c), (d) and (e) all had “ox.” (The direction of the horns differentiated the two animals.) The bottom in all was “a hand holding a stick to herd sheep or oxen” (攴攵, a bushu bokunyuu “to cause.”) Where animals grazed was “pasture.” The kanji 牧 means “to herd cattle; a place where cattle graze; pasture.” [Composition of the kanji 牧: 牛 and 攵]

The kun-yomi /maki/ is in 牧場 “pasture; meadow” /makiba’/. The on-yomi /boku/ is in 放牧 “pasturage; grazing” /hooboku/, 牧師 “pastor; minister; cleric” /bo’kushi/, 遊牧 “nomadism” /yuuboku/, 牧場 “stock farm; ranch” /bokujoo/ and 牧歌的な “pastoral; idyllic” /bokkateki-na/.

  1. The kanji 牲 “sacrifice; sacrificial animal”

For the kanji 牲 the oracle bone style writing comprised “a sheep” and “a new emerging plant” used phonetically for /see/ to mean “life.” Together they signified “live sheep that was offered to a god as a sacrificial animal.” From bronze ware style on, however “an ox” was used. An ox is a big animal, and a sacrificial ox was more valuable than a smaller animal. The kanji 牲 means “sacrifice; sacrificial animal.” [Composition of the kanji 牲: 牛 and 生]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /see/ is in 犠牲になる“to sacrifice oneself” /gisee-ni na’ru/ and 犠牲者 “victim; prey” /gise’esha/.

The next four kanji 半判伴畔 contain 半, which came from a half of an axe.

6. The kanji 半 “a half”

For the kanj 半 the top of bronze ware style and seal style writings was ハ “to divide something in half” used phonetically for /han/. The bottom was “an ox.” Together they signified an ox that was cut in half.  In kanji ハ flipped upside down forming a sort of a truncated katakana ソ. The kanji 半 means “a half.”  [Composition of the kanji 半: a truncated ソ,二 and丨]

The kun-yomi 半ば /nakaba’/ means “the middle,” and is in 月半ば “middle of the month” /tsuki nakaba’/. The on-yomi /han/ is in 過半数 “majority; more than half” /kaha’nsuu/, 上半身 “the upper body” /jooha’nshin/, 生半可な “shallow; superficial” /namahanka-na/, 半可通 “superficial knowledge; smatterer” /hanka’tsuu/, 折半する “to cut into halves; split in half” /se’ppan-suru/ and 半べそをかく “be on the verge of crying” /hanbeso-o ka’ku/.

  1. The kanji 判 “a seal; to judge; discern”

For the kanji 判 the seal style writing comprised 半 “half” used phonetically for /han/ and “a knife” adding the meaning dividing something in half. After signing a contract both parties took one half of the contract as proof. In a dispute of a contract, a judge decided which party was right. In kanji the knife became 刂, a bushu rittoo. The kanji 判means “a seal; to judge; discern.” [Composition of the kanji 判: 半 and 刂]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /han/ is in 判子 “hanko seal” /hanko/, 判決 “judicial decision; ruling” /hanketsu/, 公判 “public trial” /koohan/, 小判 “koban; Japanese gold coin of the Edo period” /ko’ban/, 判定勝ち “winning on point” /hanteegachi/, 判読する “to decipher; make out” /handoku-suru/, 談判 “negotiation; bargaining” /da’npan/ and 判事 “judge” /ha’nji/.

  1. The kanji 伴 “to accompany someone; companion”

The seal style writing of the kanji 伴 comprised “an act that a person does,” which became イ, a bushu ninben in kanji, and 半 “half” used phonetically for /han/. They signified two people, each being a half of each other’s accompaniment. The kanji 伴 means “to accompany someone; companion.” [Composition of the kanji 伴: イ and 半]

The kun-yomi 伴う /tomona’u/ means “to accompany; bring in its train.” The on-yomi /han/ is in 同伴者 “one’s companion” /dooha’nsha/, お相伴する “to join for a meal” /oshooban-suru/, 伴走する “to pace set; run alongside” /bansoo-suru/ and 伴奏 “accompaniment in music” /bansoo/.

  1. The kanji 畔 “a side; a ridge”

For the kanji 畔 the seal style writing comprised 田 “rice paddies” and 半 used phonetically for /han/ tomean “the side.” They meant the side or ridge of rice paddies, which was used for a walk path. It also meant “side.” The kanji 畔 means “a side; a ridge.” [Composition of the kanji 畔: 田 and 半]

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /han/ is in 湖畔”lakeside” /kohan/ and 河畔”riverside” /kahan/.

Now I return to my break. Thank you very much for your reading. –Noriko [June 24, 2018]

The Kanji 一二三四五六七八九十上下


Finally, this is the last post on which we explore the origin of individual kanji using ancient writing. By my rough estimate we have touched upon over 1400 kanji last four years. This last post is about the kanji for the numbers 1 through 10 – 一二三四五六七八九十, and “top of” 上 and “bottom of”下.

  1. The kanji 一 “one; single; only; first”

History of Kanji 一For the kanji 一a single bar was used to mean “one; single; only; first.” The kun-yomi /hito/ is in 一つ /hito’tsu/, 一人 “one person” /hito’ri/, 一人っ子 “only child” /hitori’kko/, 一人暮らし “living alone” /hitorigu’rashi/, 一息つく “to take a break” /hitoiki tsu’ku/. The on-yomi /ichi/ is in 一番 “first” /ichi’ban/ and “most” /ichiban/ and 一度 “once” /ichido/. Another on-yomi /itsu/ is in 均一 “uniform; even” /kin-itsu/, 統一する “to unify” /tooitsu-suru/, 同一 “the same; identical” /dooitsu/ and 一般的な “general; popular; common” /ippanteki-na/.

  1. The kanji 二 “two; double; second”

History of Kanji 二For the kanji 二, two bars placed side by side horizontally meant “two; double; second.“

The kun-yomi /huta/ is in 二つ “two” /hutatsu/, 二人 “two person” /hutari/, and /hutsu/ is in 二日 “two days; second day of the month” /hutsuka/. The word /hatsuka/ “20th day” is written as 二十日. The on-yomi /ni/ is in 二分する “to divide into two” and 二人三脚 “three-legged race” /ninin-sa’nkyaku/.

  1. The kanji 三 “three”

History of Kanji 三For the kanji 三, three bars placed horizontally meant “three; third.”

The kun-yomi /mi/ is in 三つ “three” /mittsu/ and /mi/ is in 三日月  “crescent” /mikazuki/. The on-yomi /san/ is in 三角形 “triangle” /sanka’kkee/, 再三 “repeatedly” /saisan/ and 二、三  “two or three; a few” /ni’san/.

  1. The kanji 四 “four”

History of Kanji 四For the kanji 四 four bars stacked up horizontally meant “four; all (directions).” Later on the shape 四was borrowed to mean “four.”

The kun-yomi 四 /yo’n/ means ‘four.”  /-Yo/ is in 四人 “four people” /yoni’n/, and /yotsu/ is in 四角 “intersection; four corners” /yotsukado/,  The on-yomi /shi/ is in 四角い “square” /shikakui/, 四方 “four directions; everywhere” /shiho’o/ and 四季 “four seasons” /shi’ki/.

  1. The kanji 五 “five; half”

History of Kanji 五For the kanji 五the shape in which two sticks crossing with a bar at the top and the bottom was borrowed to mean “five.” Five divides ten equally so it also meant “equal.”

The kun-yomi /itsu/ is in 五つ. The on-yomi /go/ is in 五分五分 “on even terms; evenly matched” /gobugobu/, 五感“five senses” /gokan/.

  1. The kanji 六 “six”

History of Kanji 六For the kanji 六the oracle bone style shape was the shape of a tent, but it is believed that the writing was never used for that meaning. Instead it was borrowed to mean “six.”

The kun-yomi /mu/ is in 六つ “six” /muttsu/ and 六日 “six days; sixth day of the month” /muika/. The on-yomi /roku/ is in  六月 “June” /rokugatsu/ and 四六時中 “around the clock; day and night” /shirokujichuu/, and /ro-/ is in 六法全書 “Compendium of Laws” /roppooze’nsho/.

  1. The kanji 七 “seven”

History of Kanji 七For the kanji 七, in oracle bone style, bronze ware style and seal style it was a bone being cut. But it was borrowed phonetically for /shichi/ to mean “seven.”

The kun-yomi /na’na/ means “seven,” and is in 七つ “seven; seven-years old” /nana’tsu/. The on-yomi 七/shichi‘/ is in 七分目 “three-quarter filled; not full” /shichibunme/, 七分袖 “three-quarter sleeves” /shichibu’sode/ and 七面倒臭い “extremely tiresome” /shichimendookusa’i/.

  1. The kanji 八 “eight”

History of Kanji 八For the kanji 八it was the motion of splitting something into two. Eight is the multiples of two. It means “eight.”

The kun-yomi /ya/ is in 八つ “eight; eight years old” /yattu/, 八つ当たり “random venting; of one’s anger” /yatsuatari/, 八百屋”green grocer” /yaoya/ and 八百長 “race fixing; match rigging” /yaochoo/. The eighth day /yooka/ is written as 八日. The on-yomi 八 /hachi’/ is in 八人 “eight people” /hachi’nin/ and 四苦八苦する “to suffer terribly; be in dire distress” /shikuha’kku-suru/.

  1. The kanji 九 “nine”

History of Kanji 九For the kanji 九 it was a bent elbow with fingers. One tried to thrust a hand into a hold to reach something but fell short of it. A number almost full but short of full is “nine.”

The kun-yomi 九つ /koko’notsu/ means “nine” and is in 九日 “nineth day of the mondy; nine days” /kokonoka/. The on-yomi 九  /kyuu/ is “nine” and is in 九十 “ninety” /kyu’ujuu/.  Another on-yomi /ku/ also means “nine” and is in 九月 “September” /ku’gatsu/.

  1. The kanji 十 “ten”

History of Kanji 十For the kanji 十it was just a vertical line that had a thickness changing or a small dot added, signifying a bundle of ten. In seal style, the dot became a line. It meant “ten; full.”

The kun-yomi 十/to’o/ means “ten,” and is in 十日 “ten days; tenth day” /tooka/. The on-yomi 十 /ju’u/ means ‘ten” and is in 十分な “sufficient” /juubu’n-na/. /Jitsu/ is in 十分 /ji’ppun/ “ten minutes.”

  1. The kanji 上 “top; above; to come up; superior; upper”

History of Kanji 上For the kanji 上 a spatial position above a line signified “above.” The kanji 上 means “top; above; to come up; superior; upper.”

The kun-yomi 上 /ue/ means “above; top” and is in 身の上 “one’s circumstances; one’s upbringing”  /minoue/. /Uwa/ is in 上書き “overwriting” /uwagaki/, 上着 “upper garment; coat” /uwagi/. 上がる /agaru/ means “to rise up” and 上げる /ageru/ means “to raise; give.” /Kami/ is 川上 “upper stream of a river” /kawakami/. The on-yomi /joo/ is in 上品な “stylish; elegant; refined” /joohi’n-na/, 三月上旬 “the first ten days of March” /sa’ngatsu joojun/.

  1. The kanji 下 “bottom; below; to go down; lower; inferior”

History of Kanji 下For the kanji 下a spatial position below a line signified “below.” The kanji 下means “bottom; below; to go down; lower; inferior.”

There are a number of kun-yomi and on-yomi. The kun-yomi 下/shita/ means “below.” /Shimo/ is in 川下”downstream of a river” /kawashimo/, /Moto/ is in 足下 “at one’s feet; steps” /ashimo’to/. 下げる /sage’ru/ means “to lower.” 下る/kudaru/ is in 下さる “a superior gives to me” /kudasa’ru/ and 下り電車 “down train; trains going away from the capital” /kudaride‘nsha/. The on-yomi /ka/ is in 廊下 “passage way; middle corridor” /rooka/. Another on-yomi /ge/ is in 上下 “top and bottom” /jo‘oge/ and 下車 “getting off a vehicle” /ge‘sha/.

Now that we have covered all the categories of kanji origins, it is the time to reflect on this approach to kanji learning that we have been exploring last four and a half years. I would like to take a break here for a few weeks to sit back and think about what we have learned through this rather lengthy exploration. I shall be back in a few week time, hopefully refreshed a little, with more thoughts. Thank you very much for your interest.  – Noriko [June 17, 2018]

The Kanji 均句拘旬匂勾掲葛喝渇褐謁 – (3)


On this post we are going to explore two shapes 勹 “a hook shape; (a body) bending down” in the kanji 均句拘旬匂勾, and 曷 used phonetically for /katsu/ in the kanji 掲葛喝渇褐謁.

  1. The kanji 均 “even; average”

History of Kanji 均For the kanji 均 the bronze ware style writing, in green, had “a long arm with a hand at the top wrapping around two short lines of even length.” Inside was 土 “soil.” They signified that a person was trying “to make the ground even with his hand.” In the seal style writing, in red, the soil was moved out to the left. From “leveling the ground,” the kanji 均means “even; average.” [The composition of the kanji 均: 土へん, 勹 and 冫]

The kun-yomi 均しい /hitoshi’i/ means “equivalent of; identical; exactly alike.” The on-yomi /kin/ is in 均一 “uniformity; equality” /kin-itsu/, 均等に “equally; evenly” /kintoo-ni/, 平均 “average” /heekin/, 不均衡 “imbalance; disproportion” /huki’nkoo/ and 百均ショップ “100-yen shop” /hyakkin-sho’ppu/.

  1. The kanji 句 “phrase”

History of Kanji 句For the kanji 句 in (a) in oracle bone style, in brown, inside two hooks there was 口 “mouth.” They meant “speech that was enclosed.” In (b), (c) and (d) “speaking; words” was taken out of the two interlocking hooks. The kanji 句means “phrase.”  [The composition of the kanji 句: 勹 and 口]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ku/ is in 禁句 “forbidden word; tabooed phrase” /kinku/, 慣用句 “idiom; common phrase” /kan-yo’oku/, 句読点 “punctuation mark” /kuto’oten/, 句切る “to punctuate; mark off with a comma; cut off” /kugi’ru/, 節句 “seasonal festival” /sekku/ and 一字一句 “every word and every phrase” /ichiji-i’kku/.

  1. The kanji 拘 “to seize; is particular about; adhere to”

History of Kanji 拘The seal style writing of the kanji 拘 comprised “an act that one does using a hand” and 句 “something bent; crooked” used phonetically for /koo/. They signified “to seize (by hand); bind.” It also means the way in which one is particular about a certain thing. The kanji 拘 means “to seize; is particular about; adhere to.”  [The composition of the kanji 拘:扌, 勹 and 口]

The kun-yomi 拘る /kodawa’ru/ means “to be obsessive; have a fixation; be a perfectionist” /kodawa’ru/, 拘束する”to restrict; shacke” /koosoku-suru/, 拘泥する “to worry too much about; be overpaticular about” /koodee-suru/, 拘置所 “prison; detention house” /koochisho/ and 拘留 “detention pending trial; custody” /kooryuu/.

  1. The kanji 旬 “ten days; in the season”

History of Kanji 旬For the kanji 旬 the oracle bone style writing was a coiling shape with a short line crossing at the end, perhaps signifying “a cycle with its end marked.” The bronze ware style writing had “the sun” added inside a semi-circle that was similar to 勻. During the Yin (Shang) dynasty the calendar used then had a cycle of ten days. A rounded shape suggested “a cycle of ten days.” In seal style the two short lines inside 勻 dropped. The kanji 旬 means “ten days,” which is one third of a month. In Japan it is also used to mean produce and fish that is “in the season”- the best time to eat. [The composition of the kanji 旬: 勹 and 日]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi 旬 /shun/ means “in the season.”  /-Jun/ is in 上旬 “the first ten days of a moth” /joojun/, 中旬 “the second ten days of a month” /chuujun/ and 下旬 “the last ten days of a month” /gejun/.

  1. The kanji 匂 “fragrant; scent; aroma; beautiful; to hint”

The kanji 匂 was created in Japan and there is no ancient writing. 匂う meant “to shine beautifully,” as in the classical phrase (花が) 朝日に匂う”flowers shining beautifully in the morning sun,” but it is no longer seen in ordinary writing. The kanji 匂 means “fragrant; scent; aroma; beautiful; to hint.” (The kanji 匂う /nio’u/ is generally, but not always, used for a pleasant smell while 臭い /kusa’i/ is for an unpleasant smell.)  [The composition of the kanji 匂: 勹 and ヒ]

The kun-yomi 匂う /nio’u/ means “to smell,” and in 匂わせる “to suggest; hint; insinuate” /niowase’ru/ and 匂い “smell; fragrance” /nio’i/. There is no on-yomi.

  1. The kanji 勾 “hook; to enclose”

History of Kanji 勾The bronze ware style writing looked incomprehensively complex. I cannot make out what this writing originally signified and there is no account in reference. The kanji 勾comprises 勹 “a hooked shape” or “a body bending down” and ム used phonetically for /koo/ to mean “to bend.” The kanji 勾 means “hook; to catch; hitch.”  [The composition of the kanji 勾: 勹 and ム]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /koo/ is in 勾配 “slope; incline; pitch; gradient” /koobai/, 勾引 “bench warrant” /kooin/ and 勾留 “detention; custody” /kooryuu/. (勾 is a newly added Joyo kanji, and some words overlap with the kanji 拘.)

The next shape, 曷, was seen in the kanji 葛 and in the kyuji of the kanji 掲喝渇褐謁. The origin of 曷 remains mystery, but here is what has been said in reference.  History of Kanji 曷曷: The top was something coming out of a mouth, 曰 /etsu/, which meant “to say.” The bottom had a “person” (人) and a frame inside an semi enclosure 勹. The interpretations of this shape vary – (1) With “a box of prayers” on the top and “bones of a dead person” on the bottom together meant “praying so that the dead would grant a prayer’s wish” and 曷 was a voice of prayer (Shirakawa); (2) 曷 was “showing contempt and confining someone by a hand (勹)” (Kanjigen); and (3) it was used phonetically to meant “sound of scolding voice.”

Two things about the shape 曷: It was used phonetically in all kanji; 人 with “a screen” (?) in seal style remained in kyuji, but changed to ヒ, another shape to mean “person” in shinji in all kanji except 葛.

  1. The kanji 掲 “to display; hoist”

History of Kanji 掲For the kanji 掲 the seal style writing comprised 扌 “an act that one does using a hand” and 曷 used phonetically for /kee/ to mean “to hoist.” Together a hand hoising something up means “to display; put up.” The kanji 掲 means “to display; hoist.”  [The composition of the kanji 掲: 扌, 日and 匂]

The kun-yomi 掲げる /kakageru/ means “to put up; hoist; herald,” as in 主義主張を掲げる “to advocate principles and opinions” /shu’gishuchoo-o kakageru/. The on-yomi /kee/ is in 掲示する “to post; put up a notice” /keejiban/, 掲載 “to print; put in; run an article” /keesai-suru/ and 電光掲示板 “electric bulletin board” /denkoo-keejiban/.

  1. The kanji 葛 “kuzuvine; kuzuroot starch”

History of Kanji 葛The seal style writing of the kanji 葛 comprised 艸 “plants” and 曷used phonetically for /katsu/. Together they meant “kuzuvine.” The fibers in the vine were used for weaving. Its root provides good starch for cooking. The kanji 葛 means “kuzu vine; kuzu root starch.” The kanji 葛 is the only Joyo kanji that retained the kyuji shape 曷, even though the kanji with 匂 at the bottom is seen as a popular informal shape.  [The composition of the kanji 葛: 艹 and 曷]

The kun-yomi 葛 /ku’zu/ means “kuzu root starch,” and is in 葛粉 “kuzu starch” /kuzuko’/, 葛切り “slices of kuzu jelly with syrup (as sweets)” /kuzukiri/ and 葛桜 “cherry-leaf-covered kuzu filled with sweet azuki bean” /kuzuza’kura/. The on-yomi /katsu/ is in 葛藤 “an entanglement; embroilment” /kattoo/. (Both 葛 and 藤 “Japanese wisteria” /huji/ are vines.)

  1. The kanji 喝 “to shout; scold”

History of Kanji 喝For the kani 喝 the seal style writing comprised 口 “mouth; to speak” and 曷 used phonetically for /katsu/ to mean “to scold in a loud voice.” The kanji 喝 meant “to shout; scold.” [The composition of the kanji 喝: 口, 日 and 匂]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /katsu/ is in 喝采する “to applaud; cheer loudly” /kassai-suru/, 拍手喝采 “clapping and sheering; enthusiastic applause” /ha’kushu kassai/, 恐喝する “to blackmail; extort” /kyookatsu-suru/ and 喝を入れる “to give a pep talk” /ka’tsu-o iresu/.

  1. The kanji 渇 “to thirst for; dry out”

History of Kanji 渇For the kanji 渇 the bronze ware style writing had “running water” on the left, and the right side was used phonetically for /katsu/ to mean “lack of.” The seal style writing had “a mouth open” (曰) and “a person disappearing” (亡) in 勹, but what those components meant is not clear. The kanji 渇 means “to be thirst; dry out; thirsty.” [The composition of the kanji 渇:氵, 日 and 匂]

The kun-yomi 渇く/kawa’ku/ means “to crave; thirst for,” as in 喉が渇く”to become thirsty” /no’do-ga kawa’ku/.  The on-yomi /katsu/ is in 渇する “to dry up; suffer from thirst” /kassuru/, 渇望 “craving for; longing for” /katsuboo/, 枯渇する “to dry up; be drained” /kokatsu-suru/ and 渇水時 “period of drought” /kassu’iji/.

  1. The kanji 褐 “brown; humble clohtes”

History of Kanji 褐For the kanji 褐 the seal style writing comprised 衣 “clothes” and 曷 used phonetically for /katsu/ to mean “kuzu vine.” Clothes or footware made by weaving vines signified “humble simple clothes.” It also meant “brown” from the color of humble clothes dyed in dull color from vines and other plants. The kanji 褐 means “brown; (humble clothes).”  [The composition of the kanji 褐: 衤, 日 and 匂]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /katsu/ is in 褐色 “brown” /kasshoku/ and 茶褐色 “dark reddish brown” /chaka’sshoku/.

  1. The kanji 謁 “to be received in loyal audience”

History of Kanji 謁For the kanji 謁 the seal style writing comprised 言 “word; language; to say” and 曷 used phonetically for /etsu/. To say something to a ruler became the meaning “to be received in loyal audience.” [The composition of the kanji 謁: 言, 日 and 匂]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /etsu/ is in 謁見 “imperial audience” /ekken/, 拝謁する “to be received in audience by His (or Her) Majesty” /haietsu-suru/.

Thank you very much for your reading. – Noriko [June 10, 2018]

The Kanji 凶胸凸凹区殴欧枢匹医匠- (2)


As the last category of kanji origin, we are exploring kanji that originated from a shape. In this post we are going to look at 凵 “a receptacle; container” in the kanji 凶胸凸凹 and 匸 “a hiding place” in the kanji 区殴欧枢匹医匠.

  1. The kanji 凶 “misfortune; disaster; bad luck”

History of Kanji 区For the kanji 凶 one view is that in the seal style writing, in red,the bottom凵was “a container that was empty.” Having no rice in the container signified “famine.” From that it meant “disaster; famine.” Another view is that the bottom (凵) was a chest. The inside shape was a tattooing on the deceased chest to prevent an evil to come near. It meant “misfortune; bad luck.”The kanji 凶 means “misfortune; disaster; bad luck.” [The composition of the kanji: メ and 凵]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi 凶 /kyoo/ means “disaster,” and is in 凶器(“dangerous weapon; the weapon used in an assault” /kyo’oki/), 凶作 (“a very poor harvest; a crop failure” /kyoosaku/), 凶暴な (“atrocious; barbarious” /kyooboo-na/, 凶悪な (“extremely wicked; heinous” /kyooaku-na/), 吉凶 (“good or bad luck; fortune” /kikkyoo/) and 吉凶を占う (“to tell someone’s fortunre” /kikkyoo o urana’u/).

  1. The kanji 胸”chest; bosom; mind”

History of Kanji 胸For the kanji 胸 the bronze ware style writing, in green, comprised “chest” (凶) used phonetically for kyooand “flesh; part of the body” (月), together signifying “a chest.” In seal style, 凶 was placed inside the shape 勹 “something that surrounds” or “a body bending over” without 月. In kanji 月returned to the left as the bushu nikuzuki. The kanji 胸 means “chest; bosom; mind.”

The kun-yomi 胸 /mune’/ means “chest; breast; heart; lung,” and is in 胸元 “the pit of the stomach; the bosom,” 胸を張る (“to be puffed up with pride” /mune’-o haru/), 胸が塞がる (“full of deep emotion” /mune’-ga husagaru/) and 胸算用 (“expectation; anticipation” /munazanyoo/). The on-yomi /kyoo/ is in 胸囲 (“one’s chest measurement” /kyo’oi/), 度胸 (“boldness; daring” /do’kyoo/ and 胸筋を開く (“to be frank; have a hear-to-heart talk” /kyookin-o hira’ku/).

  1. The kanji 凸 “protruding; convex”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 凸. It signifies something that had protrusion in the middle. It is used in a pair with the kanji 凹. The kanji 凸 means “protruding; convex.”

There is no kun-yomi, but the word /dekoboko/ “unevenness; bumpiness” is often written as 凸凹. The on-yomi /totsu/ is in 凸レンズ (“a convex lens” /totsure’nzu/) and 両凸レンズ (“double-convex lens” /ryoototsu-re’nzu/).

  1. The kanji 凹 “hollow; conclave”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 凹. It signifies something that had a conclave in the middle. The kanji 凹 means “hollow; conclave.”

The kun-yomi 凹む /hekomu/ means “to give; collapse; be beaten; become disheartened.” The on-yomi /oo/ is in 凹凸 (“unevenness; irregularity” /oototsu/), 凹面(“concave side; hollow side” /oomen/), 凹レンズ (“a concave lens” /oore’nzu/) and 凹凸レンズ (“a concavo-convex lens” /outotsu-re’nzu/).

Related to this shape is the origin of the kanji 脳悩思細 that pertained “brains.” They were discussed twice on the earlier posts (February 21, 2015 and July 25, 2015.) Thrice would be a little overdone, so we are not going to look at them here. In the earlier posts you can see that the ancient writings all had the shape 囟. The brain was represented by メshape inside the skull. The shape 囟has also been interpreted as a baby’s fontanel, a soft spot between the bones on a new baby’s head signifying “brain.”

The next group is 匸 “a hiding place.”

  1. The kanji 区 “to separate; divide; section; ward”

History of Kanji 区For the kanji 区 the oracle bone style writing, in light brown, had “three boxes (口) stashed away behind a screen.” A screen separated them from others or make smaller sections. It meant “to separate; divide; section.” In bronze ware style the boxes were linked together. In seal style and kyuji (區) three boxes remained, but in shinji they were replaced by a simplifying shape. In Japan in a larger city this is used in an address as  /ku/ “ward.” The kanji 区means “to separate; divide; section; ward.” [The composition of the kanji:  凵 and メ]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ku/ is in 区画 (“subdivision; panel” /kukaku/), 区分 (“division” /ku’bun/), 区域 (“area; segment; zone” /ku’iki/), 学区(“school district” /ga’kku/) and 港区 (“Minato-ward” in Tokyo /minato’-ku/).

  1. The kanji 枢 “pivot; center; essence; coffin”

History of Kanji 枢For the kanji 枢 the seal style writing comprised 木 “tree; wood” and 區, which meant “something concealed.” A pivot to a wooden door” is not visible and yet it is  important for the use of a door and it signified “essence; very important.” The kyuji 樞 reflected seal style, which was simplified to 枢 in the shinji. The kanji 枢 meant “pivot; center; essence.” A wooden box to cover the deceased is “coffin.” [The composition of the kanji: 木 and 区]

The kun-yomi枢/hitsugi/ means “coffin.” The on-yomi /suu/ is in 枢機 (“most important affair” /su’uki/), 中枢 (“center; centrum” /chuusuu/) and 運動中枢 (“motor center” /undo-chu’usuu/).

  1. The kanji 殴 “to strike; assault; beat”

History of Kanji 殴For the kanji 殴 the left side of the bronze ware style writing was used phonetically for /oo/, and the right side was “a hand holding a stick,” which would have become 攴 “to act; cause.” They meant “to hit.” In seal style a stick was replaced by weapon, forming 殳, a bushu hokozukuri“to strike.” The kyuji 毆 was replaced by the shinji 殴. The kanji 殴 means “to strike; assault; beat.” [The composition of the kanji:  匸,メ and 殳]

The kun-yomi 殴る /nagu’ru/ means “to strike,” and is in 殴り書き (“scribble; scrabble” /nagurigaki/), 殴り合い (“fisticuffs” /naguriai/) and 殴り込む (“to raid; laugh an attack” /naguriko’mu/). The on-yomi /oo/ is in 殴打 (“strike; blow” /o’oda/).

  1. The kaji 欧 “Europe; European”

History of Kanji 欧For the kanji 欧in seal style 區was used phonetically for /oo/ to mean “to groan; howl,” and the right side was “a person singing with his mouth open large.” Together they originally meant “to groan; howl.” It was used only phonetically to mean “Europe.” The kyuji 歐 reflected the seal style writing. The kanji 欧means “Europe; European.” [The composition of the kanji:  匸, メ and 欠]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /oo/ is in 欧州 (“Europe” /o’oshuu/), 北欧(“Scandinavian countries” /hokuhoo) and 欧米 (“the west; Europe and America” /oobee/).

  1. The kanji 匹 “a counter of animals”

History of Kanji 匹For the kanji 匹the origin is not clear. (a)(b) and (c) in bronze ware style all had the shape 厂 with a couple of curved lines underneath. Different accounts include “two pieces of cloth hanging down,” giving the meaning “to match,” and “horses bellies lining up.” The kanji 匹 is a counter of animal.[The composition of the kanji:  一, 儿 and an angle]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /hiki/ was used as a counter of animal as in 二匹(/nihiki/ “two small animals”).  /Hit-/ is in 匹敵する”equal; comparable” /hitteki-suru/,  匹夫の勇”rash courage; foolhardiness” /hippu-no-yuu/.

  1. The kanji 医 “medical”

History of Kanji 医For the kanji 医, the two seal style writings, (b) and (c), were originally not related. (b) had its oracle bone style precursor (a), which had an arrow in a box that signified “to hide an arrow.” The other seal style writing (c) was more complex: It had 医 “a box of arrow,” 殳 “a hand holding a weapon or tool” together signifying “an injury caused by an arrow in battle.”  The bottom 酉 was “a spirit jar” that signified “medicinal spirit.” Altogether “treating an injured person with medical spirit” meant “medicine.” The kyujitai (d) 醫 reflected (c). The shinjitai has retained “an arrow hidden in a box” only. The kanji 医 meant “medicine.” [The composition of the kanji:  凵 and 矢]  (from the post on February 26, 2017)

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi 医 meant “medicine; medical,” and is in 医者 (“medical doctor” /isha/), 医学 (“medical science” /i’gaku/), 内科医 (“doctor of internal medicine; physician” /naika’i/) and 医療費 (“fee for medical treatment; doctor’s bill” /iryo’ohi).

  1. The kanji 匠 “design; craftsman; master”

History of Kanji 匠For the kanji 匠, 斤  “an axe” was inside a box or container 匚. Together they meant “to make a craft work using an axe” or a person who made craft work using an axe. It also included someone who excelled in his art. [The composition of the kanji: 斤 and 凵] (from the post on November 27, 2016)

The kun-yomi /takumi/ means “artisan; master craftsman.” The on-yomi /shoso/ is in 意匠 (“design; idea” /i’shoo/), 巨匠 (“great master” /kyoshoo/) and 師匠 (“teacher; master” in traditional art /shi’shoo/).

We shall continue with our exploration on kanji that originated from a shape next time. Thank you very much for your reading. – Noriko [June 2, 2018]

The Kanji 参杉診珍惨乙乱札孔乳- Shapes (1)


For the last category of kanji origin in our exploration, we are going to look at components that originated from a shape. In this post, we are going to see 彡 which signified “pretty shape; needle shapeslining up neatly” in the kanji 参杉診珍惨. The second shape is 乚, which signified “an act of flattening or straightening”– the kanji 乙乱札孔乳.

  1. The kanji 参 “to mingle; come; come/go in humble style”

History of Kanji 参For the kanji 参 in bronze ware style, in green, (a) was “a kneeling woman with three shining hair-accessories while (b) had three lines which signified “bright reflections of light mingled each other” added. The mingling shines gave the meaning “to mingle; come.” The top of (c) in seal style, in red, had “three bright things” (日), and 彡 used phonetically for /san/. (d) in the kyuji 參, in blue,the three 日 became three ム shapes, which was further reduced to one ム in shinji. In Japan it is used for a humble style verb in 参 “to come; go,” and for a visit to a shrine, temple or cemetery. The kanji 参 means “to mingle; come; come/go in humble style.” [The composition of the kanji 参: ム, 一, 𠆢 and 彡]

The kun-yomi /ma’iru/ means “to come (in a humble style); pay a visit”and is in 墓参り(“visit to a grave” /hakama’iri/). The on-yomi /san/ was in 参加する (“to participate in” /sanka-suru/), 参考書 (“reference book” /sankoosho/), 参詣 (“a visit to a temple; worship” /sankee/), 参列する (“to attend a ceremony” /sanretsu-suru/) and 持参する (“to bring something with oneself; bear; carry” /jisan-suru/). /-Zan/ is in 新参者 (“a newcomer; novice” /shinzanmono/) and 人参 (“carrot” /ninjin/).

  1. The kanji 杉 “cedar”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 杉. The kanji 杉 comprises 木 “tree; wood” and 彡used phonetically for /san/ to mean “needle-likethin shapes lining up neatly.” The needle leaves of a cedar tree neatly lined up and were beautiful. The kanji 杉 means “cedar.” [The composition of the kanji 杉: 木 and 彡]

The kun-yomi 杉 /sugi/ means “cedar” and is in 秋田杉 (“Akita cedar” /akita’sugi/) and 杉綾(“herringbone pattern” /sugiaya/). There is no on-yomi in Joyo kanji.

  1. The kanji 診 “medical diagnose; examine”

History of Kanji 診The seal style writing of the kanji 診 had 言 “word; language” on the left. The right side had “a person” with 彡 “rash” used phonetically for /shin/ to mean “to check thoroughly.” The kanji 診 means “medical diagnose; examine.” [The composition of the kanji:言, 𠆢 and 彡]

The kun-yomi 診る /mi’ru/ means “to examine medically.” The on-yomi /shin/ is in 診察(“medical examination” /shinsatsu/), 往診 (“visit to a patient; house call” /ooshin/), 診療所 (“clinic” /shinryoojo/) and 検診 (“health screening” /kenshin/).

  1. The kanji 珍 “rare; uncommon”

History of Kanji 珍The seal style writing of the kanji 珍 comprised 王 “jewel” and “a person encircling something beautiful (彡)” used phonetically for /chin/. Together they meant “beautiful things such as jewels not being common.” The kanji 珍measn “rare; uncommon.”  [The composition of the kanji : 王, 𠆢 and 彡]

The kun-yomi 珍しい /mezurashi’i/ means “rare; uncommon” and is in 物珍しい (“curious; novel” /monomezurashi’i/). The on-yomi /chin/ is in 珍品 (“rarity; curiosity” /chinpin/), 珍味 (“a delicacy” /chi’nmi/) and 珍事件 (“rare event; funny case” /chinji’ken/).

  1. The kanji 惨 “to feel miserable; cruel”

History of Kanji 惨For the kanji 惨 the seal style writing had “a heart,” which became a bushu risshinbenin (忄) in the kyuji 慘. On the right side the shine 參 was used phonetically for /san/ to mean “to be impressed in one’s heart deeply.” Together they meant “one experiencing a deeply-felt emotion such as misery and cruelty.” The kanji 惨 means “to feel miserable; cruel.” [The composition of the kanji : 忄and 参]

The kun-yomi 惨めな /mi’jime-na/ means “miserable.” The on-yomi /san/ is in 悲惨な (“cruel” /hisan-na/), 惨事 (“terrible disaster; tragedy” /sa’nji/), 陰惨な (“grisly; gloomy” /insan-na/) and 凄惨な (“ghastly; gruesome” /seisan-na/).

There are several more kanji that contain the shape 彡, including 影形彩修彰彫.

The second shape 乚 means “an act of flattening or straightening,” and appears in the kanji 乱札孔乳礼 on this post. (For the kanji 礼, we discussed a year ago in connection with a bushu shimesuhen).

  1. The kanji 乙 “second; not the first”

History of Kanji 乙For the kanji 乙 the writings in three anceint style were a bent shape on both ends. The shape was borrowed to mean “second; not the first” in combination of the kanji 甲 /ko’o/, which means “the first; good” and 丙 /he’e/ “third-rate: not good; poor.”  [The composition of the kanji: a single stroke of 乙]

The kun-yomi /oto/ is in 乙女 (“maiden” /oto’me//), a phonetical substitute. The on-yomi 乙  /otsu/ is in 甲乙を付ける (“to mark grades” /ko’ootsu-o tsuke’ru/) and 甲乙付け難い (“there is little difference between the two” /ko’ootsu tsukegata’i/).

  1. The kanji 乱 “to be out of order; rebellion; battle”

History of Kanji 乱For the kanji 乱 (a) and (b) in bronze ware style may be better explained by the left side of (c) in seal style. It was a hand at the top and another hand at the bottom was straightening tangles threads on a spool in the middle. The right side was a bent shape that signified “to straighten.” Together they meant “hands trying to untangle threads to make them into a good order.” The kyuji 亂, (d), was replaced by drastically simpler 舌 in the shinji 乱. The kanji 乱 means “to be out of order; rebellion; battle.”  [The composition of the kanji: 千, 口 and 乚]

The kun-yomi 乱れる /midare’ru/ means “to be out of order,” and is in 入り乱れる (“to be mixed and confused” /irimidare’u/) and 取り乱す (“to go to pieces; become upset” /torimida’su/). The on-yomi /ran/ is in 乱 (“battle” /ran/), 混乱 (“chaos; confusion” /ko’nran/), 乱雑な (“random” /ranzatsu-na/), 散乱する (“to be scattered about” /sanran-suru/), 内乱 (“civil war” /nairan/), 乱世 (“troubled time” /ra’nse/) and 一心不乱 (“absorbed; engrossed” /isshi’nhuran/).

  1. The kanji 札 “a tag; name place; paper money”

History of Kanji 札The seal style writing of the kanji 札 comprised 木 “wood” and 乚 “a bent shape that signified an act of flattening or straightening.” The writing meant “a thin flat piece of wood” such as a tag, a posted announcement and also paper money. The kanji 札means “a tag; name place; bank note.” [The composition of the kanji 札: 木 and 乚]

The kun-yomi 札 /huda/ means “tag; name place” and is in 荷札 (“luggage tag” /nihuda/) and 切り札 (“a trump card” /kiri’huda/), The on-yomi /satsu/ is in お札 (“bill; note” /osatsu/), 札束 (“wad of bills” /satsuta’ba/), 改札口 (“wicket” /kaisatsu’guchi/), 一万円札 (“ten thousand yen note” /ichimanen’satsu/) and 入札制 (“bidding system” /nyuusatsusee/).

  1. 孔 “a hole; cavity”

History of Kanji 孔For the kanji 孔 (a) and (b) had “a child” on the left side. What the right side attached to the child’s head signified is clear, but many scholars view that it signified some sort of a hole. The kanji 孔 means “a hole; cavity.” [The composition of the kanji 孔: 子 and 乚]

The kun-yomi 孔 /ana’/ means “opening; perforation; hole.” The on-yomi /koo/ is in 換気孔(“ventilation hole” /kankikoo/), 鼻孔 (”nostril” /bikoo/) and 孔子 (“Confucius” /kooshi/).

  1. 乳 “milk; milking; breast”

History of Kanji 乳For the kanji 乳 in oracle bone style a woman on her knees was nursing or holding a child in her arms. It meant “to nurse; breast; milk.” In seal style it had “a hand from above” and “a child” on the left. For the right side (乚) there are different interpretations, including “a hand to care for a baby,” “a swallow,” which was believed to bring a baby, like a stork in Western folk tales, and “supporting an infant.” The kanji 乳 means “milk; milking; breast.” [The composition of the kanji 乳: 孚 and 乚]

The kun-yomi /chi’chi/ 乳 means “milk; breast,” and is in 乳飲み子 (“infant” /chinomi’go/). The on-yomi /nyuu/ is in 牛乳 (“cow’s milk“ /gyuunyuu/), 母乳 (“mother’s milk” /bonyuu/), 乳歯 (“baby tooth” /nyu’ushi/ and 豆乳 (“soy bean milk” /toonyuu/).

I expect that we shall have three more posts before we wrap up our long exploration.  Thank you very much for your interest.  – Noriko [May 27, 2018]

The Kanji 費払仏沸者着諸緒著暑煮 -(6)


We have been exploring kanji that originated from a shape that something was tied up or a bundle of things. This is the sixth and last post in this group. The shapes we are going to look at on this post are: 弗 “to disperse” from a bunch of bent twigs that were bundled together by a rope but would not stay together – the kanji 費払仏沸; and 者 phonetically used for /sha/ from “a bundle of wooden sticks gathered in a stove being burned” –  the kanji 者着諸緒著暑煮.

History of Kanji 弗For the shape 弗 the history shown on the right in three different styles of ancient writing all had two bent lines and a rope around them. They signified that bent or crooked sticks were roped together in order to straighten, but the force of curling back was stronger and they would not stay straight and came apart. It meant “disperse” and it is used phonetically for /hutsu/ in kanji.

  1. The kanji 費 “to spend (money or time); cost; waste”

History of Kanji 費Forthe kanji 費 the bronze ware style writing, in green, comprised 弗 “to disperse” used phonetically for /hi/, 刂 “a knife” and 貝 “cowrie; money,” together signifying “to spend money.” In seal style, in red, the knife was dropped. It is also used for time, such as “spending time; wasting time.” Together they meant “cost; to spend money; require (time).” [Relating to this kanji, the top 弗 looks similar to the dollar sign $. So by itself it is customarily used to mean “dollar” in Japanese. [The composition of the kanji 費: 弗 and 貝]

The kun-yomi 費やす /tsuiya’su/ means “to spend (money; time),” as in 時間を費やす(“to spend time” /jikan-o tsuiya’su/). The on-yomi /hi/ is in費用 (“expenses” /hiyoo/), 私費 (“private expense” /shi’hi/), 浪費 (“waste” /roohi/). /-Pi/ is in 実費 (“actual expense; costs” /jippi/).

  1. The kanji払“to pay money; pay attention; brush off”

History of Kanji 払For the kanji 払t he seal style writing  had “a hand; an act that one does using a hand” and 弗 “to come apart” used phonetically for /hutsu/. Together “a hand pushing something away” meant “to brush off.” It also meant “to pay money or attention.” The right side of the kyuji 拂, in blue, was simplified with ム, a segment often used for simplification in other kanji as well. The kanji 払 means “to pay money; pay attention; brush off.”  [The composition of the kanji 払: 扌and ム]

The kun-yomi 払う /hara’u/ is used in お金を払う (“to pay money” /okane-o har’u/), 埃を払う (“brush off dust” /hokori-o hara’u/) and 注意を払う( “to pay attention” /chu’ui-o hara’u/), 支払い (“payment”/shiharai/) and 月払い (“monthly payment” /tsukiba’rai/). The on-yomi /hutsu/ is in 払拭する (“to wipe off” /husshoku-suru/)/.

  1. The kanji 仏 “Buddha; Buddhism; France”

History of Kanji 仏For the kanji 仏 the left side of the seal style writing was “a person; an act one does” and the right side (弗) was used phonetically for hutsu. When the Buddhism came to China from India, the Sanskrit word Buddha was written phonetically as 佛陀 Budda. The right side of the kyuji 佛 was replaced byム. Phonetically it is also used for 仏蘭西 “France” for having the first syllable /hu/. The kanji 仏 means “Buddha; Buddhism; France.” [The composition of the kanji 仏: イ and ム]

The kun-yomi 仏 /hotoke/ and 仏様 /hotoke-sa’ma/ mean “buddha.” The on-yomi /hutsu/ is 旧仏領 (old French colony” /kyu’u hutsuryoo/.) /-Butsu/ is in 大仏 (“big Buddha statue” /daibutsu/).

  1. The kanji 沸“to boil water; gush”

History of Kanji 沸The seal style writing of the kanji 沸 comprised “water” and 弗 used phonetically for hutsuto mean “to boil.” (/Hutsu/ was the onomatopoeia of water boiling.) Together they meant water gushing out in a spring. Boiling water looks similar to a spring. It was used to mean “to boil.” The kanji 沸 means “to boil water; bubble up.” [The composition of the kanji 沸: 氵and 弗]

The kun-yomi /waku/  and its transitive counterpart /wakasu/ means “to boil.” The on-yomi /hutsu/ is in 沸騰する (“to boil” /huttoo-suru/), 沸点 (“boiling point” /hutten/), 煮沸消毒 (“boiling sterilization” /shahutsu-sho’odoku/).

For the kanji 者 the history is shown in 5 the kanji 者 as used by itself. As a component it appears in the kanji 諸煮暑緒著着.

  1. The kanji 者“person”

History of Kanji 者For the kanji 者 in (a), (b) and (c) twigs in a container or stove were being burned with sparkles of fire. From early times it was borrowed to mean “this; person.” The kyuji 者 (d) kept a dot in the middle as the remnant of sparkles of fire, but it was deleted in shinji. The kanji 者means “person.”  (In modern use “this” as a demonstrative word is not used.” [The composition of the kanji 者: 耂 and 曰]

The kun-yomi 者 /mono’/ means “person,” and is in 悪者 (“bad guy; villain” /warumono/), 回し者 (“spy” /mawashimono/). The on-yomi /sha/ is in 医者 (“medical doctor” /isha/), 記者 (“reporter; journalist” /ki’sha/), 希望者 (“applicant” /kibo’osha/), 加入者 (“new member” /kanyu’usha/).

  1. The kanji 着”to attach; to put clothes on; wear; arrive (at a place)”

History of Kanji 着There is no ancient writing for the kanji 着. (a) was an inscription on a stone stele and (b) was the Correct style writing 著.  The kanji 着 was a variant of 著. In Japanese the two kanji have different use: 著 means “to author; stand out” whereas 着means “to attach; to put clothes on; wear; arrive (at a place).” [The composition of the kanji 着: 羊 without the vertical line going through, ノand 目]

The kun-yomi 着る /kiru/ means “to wear,” and is in 着物 (“kimono; traditional Japanese attire” /kimono/). Another kun-yomi着く /tsu’ku/ means “to arrive.” The on-yomi /chaku/ is in一着 (“one piece of clothes” /icchaku/), 着服 (“embezzlement” /chakuhuku-suru/), 到着時間 (“arrival time” /toochaku-ji’kan/), 着手する (“to start up” /cha’kushu-suru/) and 接着剤 (“glue; adhesive” /secchakuzai/).

  1. The kanji 諸“various; many; all”

History of Kanji 諸For the kanji 諸the bronze ware style writing was the same as 者. It was used phonetically for /sho/ to mean “many.” In 2 言 “word; language” was added. Together they meant “many words,” and also meant “many; various; all” in general. The kanji 諸 means “various; many; all.” [The composition of the kanji 諸: 言 and 者]

The kun-yomi /moro/ is in 諸々の (“various; many all” /moromoro-no/). The on-yomi /sho/ is in 諸事情 (“various reasons” /shoji’joo/), 諸君 (“Gentlemen!” /sho’kun/), 学生諸君 (“All our students” /gakusee-sho’kun/) and 読者諸氏 (“All readers” /dokushasho’shi/).

  1. The kanji 緒 “beginning; rope; string; together”

History of Kanji 緒For the kanji 緒 the seal style writing comprised 糸 “a skein of threads” and 者 used phonetically for /sho/ to mean “beginning,” as in 初. Together they signified “the beginning of a long continuous thing, such as a string or rope.” A rope put things together and signified “together.” The kyuji 緖, 2, lost the dot in the middle in shinji. The kanji 緒 means “beginning; rope; string.” [The composition of the kanji 緒: 糸 and 者]

The kun-yomi 緒 /o/ means “string,” as in 兜の緒 (“strings on kabuto armor” /kabuto-no-o’/) and 鼻緒 (“a strap on geta or zoori footwear” /hanao/). The on-yomi /sho/ is in 一緒 (“together” /issho/), 内緒 (“secrecy; privacy” /naisho/, 由緒 (“history; origin” /yu’isho/). Another on-yomi /cho/ is in 情緒 (“emotion; atmosphere” /jo’ocho/).

  1. The kanji 著“to write a book; conspicuous; to stand out”

History of Kanji 着For the kanji 著 the seal style writing comprised 竹“bamboo” and 者 used phonetically for /sho; cho/. Bamboo stalks were versatile, and among them was the material for making a writing brush. It meant “to write a book.” In kyuji 著, 2, however, the bamboo top was replaced by 艹, a bushu kusakanmuri “plants.” It was also used to mean “to make meaning clear; to standout; conspicuous.” The kanji 著 means “to write a book; conspicuous; to stand out.” [The composition of the kanji 著: 艹 and 者]

The kun-yomi 著す /arawa’su/ means “to write a book.” Another kun-yomi 著しい /ichijirushi’i/ means “to stand out.” The on-yomi /cho/ is in 著者 (“author” /cho’sha/), 名著 (“famous book” /me’echo/) and 顕著な (“remarkable” /ke’ncho-na/).

  1. The kanji 暑“(to feel) hot in atmospheric temperature”

History of Kanji 暑For the kanji 暑 in seal style “the sun” (日) was added to 者 “a bundle of wood sticks gathered in a stove to burn”used phonetically for /sho/. “The sun” and “burning fire” together made the kyuji 暑, 2, that meant “hot in atmospheric temperature.” The kanji 暑 means “(to feel) hot in atmospheric temperature.”  [The composition of the kanji 暑: 日and 者]

The kun-yomi /atsu‘i/ means “hot,” and is in 蒸し暑い (“hot and humid” /mushiatsu’i/). The on-yomi /sho/ is in 暑気当たり (“heatstroke” /shokia’tari/), 暑中見舞い (“summer greeting card” /shochuumi’mai/) and 残暑 (“lingering summer heat” /za’nsho/).

  1. The kanji 煮“to cook over a fire; simmer; boil”

History of Kanji 者The history of the kanji 煮 intertwined with another kanji 庶. In (a) and (b) it had “a kitchen stove with a pot,” and was /sha/ phonetically. It would become the kanji 庶. It meant “to cook over a fire.” On the other hand the seal style writing (c) comprised “a stove with burning sticks” containing 者 at the top and “a storage tripod pot” at the bottom. Another seal style (d) would become 遮. The kyuji 煮 (e) comprised 者, with a dot, and 灬, a bushu rekka/renga “fire.” The kanji 煮 means “to cook over a fire; simmer; boil.” [The composition of the kanji 煮: 者 and 灬]

The kun-yomi 煮 /niru/ means “to boil; simmer; seethe,” and is in 煮物 (“simmered food; cooked food” /nimono/), 生煮え (“undercooked; raw” /namanie/), 味噌煮(“simmered in misopaste” /misoni/). The on-yomi /sha/ is in 煮沸する (“to boil” /shahutsu-suru/).

We end our exploration on a group of tied objects here. I believe I have a few more posts to write before we end our exploration. Thank you very much for your reading.  -Noriko [May 19, 2018]

The Kanji 束速整頼瀬疎勅必密秘蜜泌-(5)


On this post we are going to explore two shapes that originated from a bundle of stuff. The first shape is 束, which was “a bundle of firewood tied around,” and the six Jojo kanji that contain are 束速整頼瀬疎勅. The second shape is 必, which was”something bound so tightly that it would not  allow any move” — the shape 必in the five kanji 必密秘蜜泌. Let us begin with 束.

  1. The kanji 束 “a bundle; to bind; a brief time”

History of Kanji 束For the kanji 束in (a) in oracle bone style, in brown, (b) and (c) in bronze ware style, in green, and (d) in seal style, in red, it was “a bundle of firewood tied around.” It meant “a bundle” or “things that were bound together.” In Japanese it also applies on time and means “a brief time.” The kanji 束 means “a bundle; to bind; a brief time.”  [The composition of the kanji 束: 一, 口、丨 and two strokes like 八]

The kun-yomi 束 /ta’ba/ means “bundle,” and is in 花束 (“bouquet of flowers” /hana’taba/) and 束ねる (“to bundle” /tabane’ru/). The on-yomi /soku/ is in 束縛する (“to restrain” /sokubaku-suru/), 結束する (“to band together; become united” /kessoku-suru/), and /-zoku/ is in 装束 (“costume; attire” /shoozoku/).

  1. The kanji 速 “fast; swift”

History of Kanji 速For the kanji 速 the bronze ware style writing had “stuff tied with a rope in the middle and at both ends” (after the last four posts we are now familiar with this shape as 東, aren’t we?) used phonetically for sokuto mean “quick; to rush.” The bottom had “a crossroad” and “a footprint,” which became 辵 in seal style, and further to 辶, a bushu shinnyoo “to go forward” in kanji. In seal style the tied stuff with strings around it was 束. Together they meant “fast.” The history of the kanji 速 having 東 and 束 suggests that it was likely that they were variations of things tied around. The kanji 速 means “fast; swift.” [The composition of the kanji 速: 束 and 辶]

The kun-yomi 速い /haya’i/ means “fast.” The on-yomi /soku/ is in 速度 (“speed” /so’kudo/), 秒速 (“speed per second” /byoosoku/), 迅速に (“swiftly” /jinsoku-ni/), 速達(“express mail” /sokutatsu/) and 快速電車 (“limited express train” /kaisoku-de’nsha/).

  1. The kanji 整 “to put in good order”

History of Kanji 整For the kanji 整 the left side of the bronze ware style writing had 束 “a bundle” and 正 “correct; just.” The right side had “a hand with a tool,” signifying “to cause something.” Together they signified “sorting things in bundles in good order.” In the seal style writing a hand holding a tool (攴) was shortened and became 敕 in the kanji. The kanji 整 means “to put in good order.”  [The composition of the kanji 整: 束, 攵 and 正]

The kun-yomi 整える /totonoe’ru/ means “to put in good order.” The on-yomi /see/ is in 整理する (“to put in good order” /se’eri-suru/), 調整 (“adjustment” /choosee/), 整然とした (“orderly” /seezentoshita/) and 交通整理 (“traffic control” /kootsuu-se’eri/).

  1. The kanji 頼 “dependable; to rely; request”

History of Kanji 頼For the kanji 頼 the seal style writing comprised 束“a bundle” and 刀“a knife” and 貝 “a cowry; money” used phonetically for /rai; ra/ to mean “profit.” Together “a part of a bundle of valuable things was carved out with a knife” gave the meaning “extra profit.” Having extra fortune make one that others might “rely on.” The kyuji 賴, in blue, reflected the seal style writing. In the shinji 頼 the simplification of the right side resulted in an unrelated component 頁. The kanji 頼 means “dependable; to rely; request.”   [The composition of the kanji 頼: 束and 頁]

The kun-yomi 頼む /tano’mu/ means “to request,” and /-dano/ is in 神頼み (/kamida’nomi/ “to turn to God for help”) and 頼りになる (“dependable” /ta’yori-ni-naru/). The on-yomi /rai/ is in 依頼する (“to request” /irai-suru/) and 信頼 (“trust” /shinrai/).

  1. The kanji 瀬 “rapids; one’s narrow ground”

History of Kanji 瀬For the kanji 瀬 the seal style writing comprised “water” and 賴 used phonetically for rai. It was considered to be the sound of rapids in a river. Together they meant “rapids.” Rapids were in the shallows where banks made the water flow narrow. It also meant “one’s predicament; one’s narrow ground.” As in the case of 頼, the simplification of the right side brought in 頁. The kanji 瀬 means “rapids; one’s narrow ground.” [The composition of the kanji 瀬: 氵,束and頁]

The kun-yomi /se/ is in 立つ瀬がない (“to be in a bind; in a tight corner” /ta’tsuse-ga-nai/), 瀬戸際 (“critical moment” /setogiwa/) and 瀬戸物 (“crockery; dishware” from pottery made in Seto /setomono/).

  1. The kanji 疎 “coarse; not close”

History of Kanji 疎For the kanji 疎 the seal style writing (䟽) comprised “a leg” and “a fine-toothed comb,” as in 梳 “to comb; to untangle by separating hair.” In 疏, 2 in kyuji, the left side 疋 “leg” was used phonetically for sho. Together they meant “to go through between gaps” and meant “coarse; not close.” Not being close also gave the meaning “distant; to alienate“In kanji the right side was replaced by 束 “a bundle.” The kanji 疎 means “coarse; not close; distant; to alienate.”[The composition of the kanji 疎: a variation of 正 and 束]

The kun-yomi 疎い /uto’i/ means “unacquainted with; distant.” The on-yomi /so/ is in 疎外感 (“feeling of being estranged” /sogai’kan/) and 意思の疎通 (“communication of one’s t’oughts; mutual understanding” /i’shi-no-sotsuu/).

  1. The kanji 勅 “imperial edict”

History of Kanji 勅For the kanji 勅 the seal style writing had “a bundle” (束) and “a plough” (力) or “a hand.” Together they originally meant “to bundle things in good order.” The kyuji 敕 came to be used to mean “imperial edict.” Its informal kanji 勅 became the shinji. The kanji 勅 means “imperial edict.” [The composition of the kanji 勅: 束 and 力]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /choku/ is in 勅語 (“an imperial eidict; a speech from the Throne” /cho’kugo/).

  1. The kanji 辣 “cruel; blistering; caustic”

There is no ancient writing and the kanji 辣 was created much later. It comprised 辛 “pungent; hard; tough” and 束used phonetically for /ratsu/. (束 was an abbreviated form of the kanji 剌 /ratsu/ “to sting.”) 辛 and 束 together gave the meaning “spicy; cruel. The kanji 辣 means “cruel; blistering; caustic.”[The composition of the kanji 辣: 辛 and 束]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ra/ is in悪辣な(“villainous” ‘akuratsu-na/) and 辛辣な(“biting” /shinratsu-na/).

The next shape 必appear in the five Joyo kanji- 必密秘蜜泌.

  1. The kanji 必 “without fail; inevitable; (with negative) not necessarily”

FHistory of Kanji 必or the kanji 必 in (a) and (b) in bronze ware style and (c) in seal style it was “a tool for straightening an arrow by tightening flush.” Something being tightly bound did not allow any move. From that it meant “without fail.” Having no other option also meant “inevitable,” and with a negative it means “not necessarily; not entirely.” The kanji 必 means “without fail; inevitable; (with negative) not necessarily.”

The kun-yomi 必ず /kanara-zu/ means “without fail.” The on-yomi /hitsu/ is in 必要な(“necessary” /hitsuyoo-na/), 必然的な (“inevitable” /hitsuzenteki-na/) and 必死になって(“run for one’s life; desperately” /hisshi-ni-na’tte/).

  1. The kanji 密 “secret; dense; close”

History of Kanji 密For the kanji 密 in (a) and (b) the top was “a tightly wrapped halberd inside a house or shrine,” and the bottom was a “fire.” A fire had a cleansing power in religious rite. From a rite that was conducted hidden inside meant “secret.” In (c) in seal style the bottom became a mountain, most likely miscopied from the original “a fire.” The kanji 密 means “secret; dense.”  [The composition of the kanji 密: 宀, 必 and 山]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /mitsu/ is in 秘密 (“secret” /himitsu/), 機密書類(“confidential documents” /kimitsu-sho’rui/) and 精密機器 (“precision instrument” /seemitsu-ki’kai/), 密会 (“secrete meeting; clandestine meeting” /mikkai/) and 密着する (“stick fast to; adhere closely” /micchaku-suru/).

  1. The kanji 秘 “secret; to hide”

History of Kanji 秘For the kanji 秘the seal style and the kyuji 祕comprised 示“an altar table with offering” and 必used phonetically for hito mean “secret.” Together they signified “a religious rite secretly performed” or “secret.” In the shinji 秘, 示was replaced by 禾, a bushu nogihen“rice plant” for a reason that was unclear. The kanji 秘means “secret; to hide.” [The composition of the kanji 秘:禾and 必]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /hi/ is in 秘密(“secret” /himitsu/) and 極秘(“strictly confidential; top secrecy” /gokuhi/).

  1. The kanji蜜 “honey; nector”

History of Kanji 蜜In seal style of the kanji 蜜 the top of (a) had “a tripod inside a house” and “two worms” signifying “bees.” Bees produced “honey,” which was kept in a pot. In (b) 貝was replaced by 必for /mitsu/. The kanji 蜜 means “honey; nector.” [The composition of the kanji 蜜: 宀, 必 and 虫]

The kun-yomi 蜜 /mitsu/ means “honey” and is in 蜂蜜 (“bee honey” /hachimitsu/) and 花の蜜 (“flower nector” /hana-no-mi’tsu/).

  1. The kanji 泌 “to seep; ooze; run”

History of Kanji 泌The seal style writing of the kanji 泌comprised “water” and 必used phonetically for hitsu. In the origin of 必things such as an arrow was bound tightly, leainvg little space in between. Together they meant “water running through a narrow path.” The sound was onomatopic. In Japan the kanji 泌is used to mean “to seep; ooze; run.” [The composition of the kanji 泌: 氵and 必]

The kun-yomi is 沁みる /shimiru/ “to seep; ooze.” The on-yomi /pi/ is in 分泌(“secretion; discharge” /bunpi/).

We shall have one more post on the shapes that originated from a tied object. I find it very surprising to find so many shapes in this group.  Thank you very much for your reading.  –Noriko [May 12, 2018]

The Kanji 補捕浦舗哺博敷薄簿縛- (4)


The kanji 専, which we looked at in the last post, and the right side of 博 differ only in a tiny dot at the top right. It is the results of simplification that ended up with the two shapes resembling to each other almost identical. We have seen that the kyuji of 専, 專, came from a hand holding a spindle with a whorl at the bottom. In the shinji the little whorl was deleted. On the other hand if you look at the kyuji shape of the right side of the 博, 尃, very closely, the top was 甫 (The development is shown between the kanji 5 哺 and 6 博 below).  In the shinji the bottom was “shaved off” for simplicity. Through standardization of shapes the original meanings were lost. Having going over the development of all Joyo kanji now I am quite amazed at the fact that origins were preserved in the majority of Joyo kanji, if we look for them. But this is not one of them. Let us look at the kanji that were related to 甫 on this post – the kanji 補捕浦舗哺・博敷薄簿縛.

History of Kanji 甫The shape 甫 “to protect” — It was a young plant whose roots were wrapped for protection in a net. Another view is that it was nursery of rice plant seedlings, giving the meaning “to spread.” It was used phonetically for /ho/. 甫 by itself is not used as kanji but it is a component of the kanji 補捕浦舗哺.

  1. The kanji 補 “to fill a gap; supplement; compensate”

History of Kanji 補For the kanji 補 the seal style writing comprised 衣 “clothes” and 甫 “a young plant whose roots were wrapped around” or “rice plant nursery” used phonetically for /ho/, together signifying “mending a hole in clothes.” The meaning was extended for more general use. In kanji “clothes” (衣) became 衤, a bushu koromohen“clothes.” The kanji 補 means “to fill a gap; supplement; compensate.” [The composition of the kanji 補: 衤 and 甫]

The kun-yomi 補う /ogina’u/ means “to compensate for; supplement.” The on-yomi /ho/ is in 補修工事 (“repair work maintenance work” /hoshuuko’oji/), 補助 (“assistance; support” /ho’jo/), 候補 (“candidate; the just the person for the job” /ko’oho/) and 補償する (“to indemnify; make up for” /hoshoo-suru/).

  1. The kanji 捕 “to catch; seize”

History of Kanji 捕For the kanji 捕 the seal style writing comprised “hand; an act one does using a hand” (扌, a bushu tehen in kanji) and “roots of a young plant wrapped well” (甫) used phonetically for /ho/ to mean “to grab.” Together they signified “grabbing something by hand firmly.” The kanji 捕 means “to catch; seize.” [The composition of the kanji 捕: 扌 and 甫]

The kun-yomi 捕まえる /tsukamaeru/ means “to capture; seize.” Another kun-yomi 捕る /to‘ru/ means “to catch,” and /-doru/ is in 分捕る (“to plunder; loot” /bundo’ru/) and 生け捕る (“to capture alive” /ikedo’ru/). The on-yomi /ho/ is in 捕鯨 (“whaling” /hogee/), 捕獲枠 (“fishing or hunting quota” /hokaku’waku/) and 逮捕する (“to arrest; apprehend” /ta’iho-suru/).

  1. The kanji 浦 “creek; inlet; bay; seashore”

History of Kanji 浦The seal style writing of the kanji 浦 comprised “water” (氵) and 甫 “to spread” used phonetically for /ho/, together signifying “a wide area along water.” The kanji 浦 means “creek; inlet; bay; seashore.” [The composition of the kanji 浦: 氵 and 甫]

The kun-yomi 浦 /ura/ is in 津々浦々 (“from coast to coast; all over the country” /tsu’tsu ura’ura/). The on-yomi /ho/ is used in rarely used words.

  1. The kanji 舗 “shop”

History of Kanji 舗For the kanji 舗 the seal writing comprised 金 “metal” and 甫 used phonetically for /ho/, together signifying “a metal piece that was used on a door lock or handle.” Later it meant “shop,” and 金changed to 舍 “house.” The kyuji 舖, in blue,  The component 舍changed to 舎 in the shinji, as was the case with other kanji that contained it. The kanji 舗 means “shop.” [The composition of the kanji 舗: 舎 and 甫]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ho/ is in 舗装道路 (“paved street” /hosoodo’oro/), and /-po/ is in 店舗 (“shop” /te’npo/). It is also used for the Japanese word /shinise/ 老舗 “a long-established store.”

  1. The kanji 哺 “to take in one’s mouth”

History of Kanji 哺The seal style writing of the kanji comprised 口 “mouth,” and 甫 used phonetically for /ho/ to mean “to catch,” together meaning a parent bird giving food to its chick’s mouth” and “to chew in the mouth.” The kanji 哺 means “to take in one’s mouth.” [The composition of the kanji 哺: 口 and 甫]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ho/ is in 哺乳類 (“Mammalia” /honyu’urui/) and 哺乳瓶 (“a baby’s nursing bottle” /honyu’ubin/).

History of Kanji 尃By adding a hand below 甫, the shape 尃 in the kyuji style, signified “a hand planting seedlings” or “nursery.” It meant “to spread” and further “wide.” The kanji are 博敷薄簿縛.

  1. The kanji 博 “spreading; wide; broad”

History of Kanji 博For the kanji 博 the bronze ware style writings comprised 尃 “young plant with its roots protected by a hand” used phonetically for /hu; haku/ and 十 “gathering many things into one,” together signifying “planting young seedlings in a wide area” or more generally “spreading; wide.” Later the kanji 博 came to mean “breadth of knowledge.” The right side of the seal style writing still retained the image of the original meaning. The kanji 博 means “spreading; wide.” [The composition of the kanji 博: 十 and 一,曰,丨, a dot and 寸]

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /haku/ is in 博覧会 (“exhibition exposition” /hakura’nkai/), 博学 (“extensive learning; encyclopedic knowledge” /hakugaku/), 博士号 (“doctorate” /hakushi’goo/), 博士 (“expert, an expert” /ha’kase/). /-Baku/ is in 賭博 (“gambling” /tobaku/). /-Paku/ is in 万博 ( “a world fair” /banpaku/).

  1. The kanji 敷 “to spread out; stretch”

History of Kanji 敷For the kanji 敷 the bronze ware style writing was “a young seedling (甫) with its roots protected” that was held by “a hand” (寸), and was used phonetically for /hu/. In seal style “a hand holding a stick” (攴, a bushu bokunyuu) was added to signify “an action.” Together they signified “to plant a seedling in the ground and level the ground” or “to lay spread.” In kanji the bottom left became 方 “four directions.” The kanji 敷 means “to spread out; stretch.” [The composition of the kanji 敷: 一, 曰, 丨, a dot, 方 and 攵]

The kun-yomi 敷く /shiku/ means “to spread; pave; lay out,” and also is in 風呂敷 (“a wrapping cloth” /huro’shiki/), 屋敷 (“residential site; the premises” /yashiki’/), 座敷 (“Japanese-style tatami room; drawing room” /zashiki’/), 敷き布団 (“sleeping mat” /shikibu’ton/) and 敷居 (“threshold; sill of an entrance” /shikii/). The on-yomi /hu/ is in 敷設する (“to construct; build” /husetsu-suru/).

  1. The kanji 薄 “thin; weak; watery”

History of Kanji 薄The seal style of the kanji 薄 comprised“plants” (艸), “water” (氵) and  “wide; to spread flat” used phonetically for /haku/. Water or plants spread in a wide area made it thin. The kanji 薄 meant “thin; weak; watery.” [The composition of the kanji 薄: 艹, 氵and the right side of 博]

The kun-yomi 薄い /usui/ means “thin; weak; watery; pale,” and is in 薄める (“to dilute; weaken” /usumeru/), 手薄な (“thinly staffed” /teusu-na/) and 薄暗い (“gloomy; dusky; dim” /usugurai/). The on-yomi /haku/ is in 軽薄な (“indiscreet; frivolous” /keehaku-na/) and 薄情な (“heartless; coldhearted” /hakujoo-na/).

  1. The kanji 簿 “register; bookkeeping record”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 簿. The kanji had 竹, a bushu takekammuri “bamboo,” and the same bottom as 薄 “thin” used phonetically for /bo/. Thin wood or bamboo pieces were used for bookkeeping and were bound together. The kanji 簿 means “register; bookkeeping record.” [The composition of the kanji 簿: 竹かんむり, 氵 and the right side of 博]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /bo/ is in 名簿 (“roll; name list” /meebo/), 帳簿 (“an account book; ledger” /choobo/), 簿記 (“register” /bo’ki/), 戸籍簿 (“a record of koseki – official family register”/koseki’bo/) and 家計簿 (“a housekeeping accounts book” /kake’ebo/).

  1. The kanji 縛 “to restrain; bind”

History of Kanji 縛The seal style writing of the kanji 縛 comprised 糸 “skein of threads” and “a young seedling held in a hand” used phonetically for /baku/. Something constrained in one’s hand and bound in threads gave the meaning “to bind.” The kanji 縛 means “to restrain; bind.” [The composition of the kanji 縛: 糸 and the right side of 博]

The kun-yomi 縛る /shiba’ru/ means “to bind.” The on-yomi /baku/ is in 束縛 (“restraint; shackles” /sokubaku/) and 呪縛 (“spell” /jubaku/).

In our four posts we explored kanji that appeared to share the same original shape (Please refer to the comparison of 東重童専甫 table on our last post). The first two posts were related to stuff that was wrapped around and tied at the two openings and in the middle, signifying “stuff; weight.” The third post was about a spindle being turned by a hand, signifying “to rotate; roll.” And this post was about a seedling whose roots were wrapped for protection, signifying “to protect,” and a hand added to it, signifying “to spread; broad.” On the table we see that the original shapes of all four shapes existed in oracle bone style, the oldest style (all in brown in our color). We also see how creators differentiated meanings using simple shapes available. They would have been astonished to know how complex their simple shapes had become. In the next post we move onto the topic of things that were bundled. Thank you very much for your reading. — Noriko [May 5, 2018]

The Kanji 専伝転団恵穂 – (3)


We have been exploring the relationship among the kanji that contained “wrapped stuff tied on both ends and in the middle with a shaft going through.” The chart below shows groups of kanji whose ancient style appeared to have similar shapes. The three basic shapes (a), (d) and (e) began in oracle bone style, the oldest writing, in brown. (b) and (c) were in bronze ware style, in green, which was the next oldest style. It is reasonable to think that (b) and (c) were created based on (a).Comparison of 東重童専甫尃smaller

In the first post a couple of weeks ago we looked at the kanji 東棟陳練錬曹遭槽量糧, as in the column (a). In second post last week we looked at the kanji 重動働腫衝種童鐘憧瞳 in which additional components appeared, as in the column (b) and (c). In this post we are going to look at (d) and the six kanji 専伝転団惠穂, which might or might not have been related to (a).

The shape (d) meant “to rotate” and has been explained as a tied bag of stuff that was pounded to make a round shape by hand,–  thus “round” (View A). This view is in line with (a). Another view is that its was a spindle, and the hand below was rotating it, — thus “to rotate” (View B). It became 專 in kyuji, and became 専 in the shinji. When used as component 專 was replaced by 云 in shinji. (The remaining shaped (e) and (f) will be discussed in the next post.)

A spindle — What is a spindle 紡錘 /boosui/? “A spindle in weaving is a rod for spinning and winding natural fibers, consisting of a shaft and circular whorl at the end of the shaft.” I got this description a while ago (but do now remember from where now). The photo (taken from Wiki) is a modern version in which a whorl is at the top, unlike our ancient writing (d). I have also come across a video clip that shows the mechanism of a modern (Navaho drop spindle –

Let us begin with this week’s kanji from the original shape (d).

  1. The kanji 専 (專) “solely; exclusively; entirely; to monopolize”

For the kanji 専, View A (by Shirakawa) takes the oracle bone style writing to be “a tied bag of stuff with the top opening tied that was pounded into a round shape by a hand,” signifying “to round; make a wad.” View B explains it as a spindle which had a whorl (weight attached at the bottom) and was turned by a hand, together signifying “to turn; rotate.” The two accounts viewed the source of “turning” differently but arrived at the same meaning “to rotate; round.” Multiple fibers converging into one forming a thread or yarn gave the meaning “solely; monopolize.” In seal style, in red, the hand at the bottom became寸. The kyuji 專, in blue, had the remnant of a small whorl in a spindle, but was dropped in the shinji 専. The kanji 専 means “solely; exclusively; entirely; to monopolize.” [The composition of the kanji 専: 十 and 曰 and 寸 (not the correct stroke order)]

The kun-yomi 専ら/moppara/ means “solely; entirely.” The on-yomi /sen/ is in 専門 (“specialty” /senmon/), 専門家 (“specialist” /senmonka/), 専業 (“primary occupation” /sengyoo/), 専心する (“to devote one’s attention to” /senshin-suru/), 専用 (“exclusive” /sen-yoo/) and 専制政治 (“autocratic government” /sensee-se’eji/).

2. 伝 (傳) “to relay; convey; hand down”

For the kanji 伝, (a)  in oracle bone style and (b) and (c) in bronze ware style comprised “a person; an act that one does” (イ) and “a rolling motion” (專), also used phonetically for /den/. Together a person carrying on his back a load that rotated signified “to relay; hand down to another.” In the seal style (d) a hand “寸” returned, and the kyuji 傳 in (e), in blue. In the shinji 伝, the right side 專 was replaced by 云, one of the shapes used for simplification. The kanji 伝means “to relay; convey; hand down.” [The composition of the kanji 伝: イand 云]

The kun-yomi 伝える /tsutaeru/ means “to convey; hand down,” and is in 手伝い (“help” tetsuda’i/). /-Zute/ is in 言伝て (“message” /kotozute/). The on-yomi /den/ is in 伝達 (“conveyance; transfer” /dentatsu/), 直伝 (“art handed down directly” /jikiden/), 伝説 (“legend” /densetsu/), 伝統 (“tradition” /dentoo/) and 遺伝子 (“gene” /ide’nshi/).

3. 転 (轉) “to roll; fall; change”

For the kanji 転 in bronze ware style the top had “a vehicle with two wheels that were connected with a shaft with yokes or handles, signifying “to roll.” The bottom was “a rolling motion,” used phonetically for /ten/. Together they meant “to turn; roll.” Turning wheels of a vehicle transport something to a different place, and it also gave the meaning “to change to something else.” In seal style a vehicle was simplified to車. It meant “to roll over; fall; change.” The right side of the kyuji 轉, 專, was replaced by 云 in shinji style. The kanji 転 means “to roll; fall; change.” [The composition of the kanji 転: 車 and 云]

The kun-yomi 転がる means “to roll; fall.” and is in 寝転がる (/nekoroga’ru/). The on-yomi /ten/ is in 回転(“rotation; rolling” /kaiten/), 逆転 (“reversal” /gyakuten/), 転職 (“changing one’s employment” /tenshoku/), 運転手 (“driver” /unte’nshu/), 転機 (“turning point” /te’nki/).  The kun-yomi 転ぶ /korobu/ means “to fall,” and is in 転げる (“to roll overl” /korogeru/)  and its intransitive counterpart 転がる (“to roll over” /korogaru/).

4. 団 (團) “band; round; mellow; lump; mass”

For the kanji 団the bronze ware style and seal style writings had 專, used phonetically for /dan/, inside 囗, a bushu kunigamae“enclosure.” A band of people also made a circle. From those, it meant “round” or “a group or band of people.” People sitting together in a circle also meant “harmony.” In shinji団, inside 囗, only the bottom half of 專, 寸“a hand,” is kept. The kanji 団 means “band; round; mellow; lump; mass.” [The composition of the kanji 団: 囗 and 寸 (the bottom line in 囗 comes last)]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /dan/ is 団体 (“band of people” /dantai/), 集団 (“group” /shuudan/), 団子(“dumpling” /dango/), 一家団欒 (“pleasures of a happy home; happy time of family together” /i’kka danran/), 団地 (“housing or apartment complex” /danchi/). Another on-yomi /ton/ is in 掛け布団 (“quit; cover” /kakebu’ton/), 敷布団 (“futon mattress” /shikibu’ton/) and 座布団  (“seating cushon” /zabu’ton).

5. 恵 (惠) “blessing; bounty; benefaction”

The kanji 恵 had appeared in a many variations in the history. (a) in oracle bone style was a spindle, same as 専without a hand.  (b) and (c) in bronze ware style can be viewed just variations of (a), and was used phonetically for /kee/. Something that rotated signified “all around; fullness.” In (d) and (e) “a heart” was added at the bottom. Together a heart that was full covering all around signified “generous and kind,” and it also meant “to bless; to give something in charity; be merciful.” The top of the kyuji 惠 in (h) was the same as the kanji 伝転団 without 寸. The kanji 恵 means “blessing; bounty; to confer benefits on one.” [The composition of the kanji 恵: 十, 曰 (not in this stroke order) and 心]

The kun-yomi /megumi/ means “blessing,” the verb /megumu/ means “to give something in charity” and the adjective恵まれた“to be blessed with; fortunate” /megumareta/. The on-yomi /kee/ is in 恩恵(“benefit; favor” /onkee/). Another on-yomi /e/ is in 知恵(“wisdom” /chie’/) and 悪知恵(“cunning” /warujie/).

  1. 穂 (穗) “ear or spear of rice plants”

For the kanji 穂 in seal style (a) comprised 禾 “rice plant” and 惠 used phonetically for /sui/ to mean “hanging; drooping,” whereas (b) had “fingers from above” that were “picking up rice plant” whose tip was drooping with its own weight. They meant “ear or spear of rice plant.” As with other kanji that had 惠 in its kyuji, the kyuji 穗 was simplified to 穂. The kanji 穂 means “ear or spear of rice plants.” The two seal style writings (a) and (b) differed so much. (a) was a semantic-phonetic composite while b) was a semantic composite (会意文字/ kaii-mo’ji/). Personally since I am interested in how a shape formed the meaning, I find (b) make more sense, but the history chose (a). [The composition of the kanji 穂: 禾 and 恵]

The kun-yomi /ho/ means “ear or spear of plant” and is in 稲穂 (“ear of rice plant” /inaho/. The on-yomi /sui/ is rarely used.

We also notice that all six kanji in this group had the kyuji writings. If we know the history we can see that what was deleted in shinji was a weight in a spindle. It ended up very similar to the right side of the kanji 博. The right side of the kanji 博 also went through simplification. Weshall explore that in the next post. Thank you very much for your reading. –Noriko  [April 28, 2018]

The Kanji 重腫種童動働衝鐘憧瞳- tied wrapped stuff with a shaft through (2)


In the last post we explored kanji that came from the shape that described something wrapped in cloth that was tied around at both ends and in the middle and had a shaft going through in the middle. By itself it became the kanji 東. In this post we are going to look at two other shapes that contain the same origin but with additional components. In the kanji 重腫種 “dirt” and “a person” were added, while in the kanji 童動働衝鐘憧瞳 “a tattooing needle over an eye” signifying “slave” was added.

Let us begin with the three kanji 重腫 and 種: To 東, 土“dirt; soil” and “a person” were added.

  1. The kanji 重 “heavy; large; to treasure; to lay over”

History of Kanji 重For the kanji 重 (a) in bronze ware style, in green, comprised “a person” at the top, “stuff wrapped in cloth tied around at both ends and in the middle with a shaft going through,” as in 東, and “soil” (土) signifying “weight” at the bottom. Together “a person standing on top of a heavy load stamping it down on the ground” meant “heavy.” Putting something over from the top also meant “to lay over; pile; repeat.” Something heavy should not be taken lightly and meant “important; previous.” The kanji 重 means “heavy; large; to treasure; to lay over.”  [Composition of the kanji 重: ノ, 一 and 里 with the vertical line reaching ノ]

The kun-yomi 重い /omoi/ means “heavy; grave,” and is in 重荷 (“heavy load; responsibility” /omoni/) and 身重 (“pregnant” /miomo/). The second kun-yomi 重ねる /kasaneru/ means “to repeat; lay over.” The third kun-yomi /e/ is in 八重桜 (“double-pedaled cherry bloosom” /yaeza’kura/), 二重 (“twofold” /huta’e/). The on-yomi /juu/ is in 重量 (“weight” /juuryo’o/), 重要な (“important” /juuyoo-na/) and 厳重に (“sternly; closely” /genjuu-ni/). Another on-yomi /choo/ is in 重宝する (“to find something useful; handy” /cho’ohoo-suru/), 貴重な (“precious; important” /kichoo-na/) and 慎重に(“cautiously” /shinchoo-ni/).

  1. The kanji 腫 “swelling; boil; tumor”

History of Kanji 腫The seal style writing of the kanji 腫 comprised 月, a bushu nikuzuki “part of the body” and 重 used phonetically for /shu/ to mean something inside. The curved shape of tied stuff was applied to one’s body and meant “swelling; boil; tumor.” The kanji 腫 means “swelling; boil; tumor.” [Composition of the kanji  腫: 月 and 重]

The kun-yomi 腫れる /hareru/ means “to swell.” The on-yomi /shu/ is in 腫瘍 (“tumor” /shuyoo/).

  1. The kanji 種 “seed; kind; sort”

History of Kanji 種For the kanji 種 in seal style (a) comprised 禾 “rice plant with crop” and 重 “heavy” used phonetically for /shu/. Grains that were full and heavy made good seeds and were kept for the next sowing. Seeds also differentiated plants.  (The right side of (b) is the shape we look at in the next group.) The kanji 種 means “seed; kind; sort.” [Composition of the kanji 種: 禾 and 重]

The kun-yomi 種 /ta‘ne/ means “seed.” /-Dane/ is in 一粒種 (“the only child of someone” /hitotsubuda’ne/). The on-yomi /shu/ is in 種類 (“kind; sort” /shurui/), 人種 (“race; ethnic group” /jinshu/) and 品種 (“kind” /hinshu/).

The next shape was in the kanji 童動働衝鐘憧瞳– to 東, “a tattooing needle” and “an eye” were added.

 4.The kanji 童 “young child”

History of Kanji 童The bronze ware style writing of the kanji 童 was very long because it contained four separate components on top of another. The top had “a tattooing needle” (辛) and “an eye” (目), together signifying “a prisoner or slave who got tattooed above the eyes.” The bottom had “rolled stuff tied with a pole through” (東) and “dirt” (土), together making up 重 “heavy.” Altogether they signified “a prisoner or a slave who was made to do manual labor such as moving heavy dirt.” The meaning of punishment was dropped. Someone who was ignorant like a prisoner or slave meant “child.” The seal style writing dropped “an eye.” In kanji a needle became 立 and the bottom coalesced into 里 (no relation to the kanji 里). The kanji 童 means “young child.”  [Composition of the kanji 童: 立 and 里]

The kun-yomi 童 /wa’rabe/  is in 童歌 or わらべ歌 (“children’s nursery song” /warabe’uta/). The on-yomi /doo/ is in 童謡 (“children’s song” /dooyoo/) and 童心に帰る(“to retrieve one’s childlike innocence” /dooshin-ni ka’eru/).

  1. The kanji 動 “to move”

History of Kanji 動For the kanji 動 in bronze ware style (a) was the same as 童 “prisoner; slave” who moved heavy stuff. (b) had “a crossroad” on the left, 童 on the right and “a footprint” at the bottom. Together they meant “to move or push forward something heavy.” (c) in Old style a crossroad and a footprint became 辵, the precursor of a bushu shinnyoo, and 重. However, in (d) in seal style instead of 辵 力“a plough” was used to include strenuous work such as field work. The kanji 動 means “to move.” [Composition of the kanji 動: 重 and 力]

The kun-yomi 動く/ugo’ku/ and its transitive counterpart 動かす /ugoka’su/ mean “to move.” The on-yomi /doo/ is in 移動する (“to move; shift” /idoo-suru), 手動 (“manual operation” /shudoo/), 原動力 (“driving force” /gendo’oryoku/), 行動 (“behavior; act” /koodoo/), 動物 (“animal” /doobutsu/) and 一挙一動 (“every move; the slightest move” /i’kkyo ichidoo/).

  1. The kanji 働 “to work; operate”

The kanji 働 was created in Japan, thus no ancient writing existed. The kanji 働 comprises イ, a bushu ninben “an act that one does,” and 動, whose original meaning was “manual heavy work” used phonetically for /doo/. Together they meant “one working hard like doing field work or moving heavy stuff.” The kanji 働 means “to work; operate.” [Composition of the kanji 働: イ, 重 and 力]

The kun-yomi 働く /hataraku/ meant “to work.” /-Batara-ki/ is in 只働き (“working for nothing.” The on-yomi /doo/ is in 労働者 (“laborer” /roodo’osha/), 稼働する(“to operate; work” /kadoo-suru/) and 実働時間 (“actual working hours” /jitsudooji’kan/).

  1. The kanji 衝 “to collide; crash”

History of Kanji 衝For the kanji 衝 the two seal style writings both had 行 “crossroad” signifying “to move forward.” Inside (a) was 童 used phonetically for /shoo/ to mean “to strike” while (b) had 重 used phonetically for /shoo/. The original meaning of a pole going through gave the meaning “to push something through.” Together “striking or to push something forward” meant “to collide; road.” The kanji 衝 means “to collide; crash.” [Composition of the kanji 衝: 彳, 重 and the right side of 行]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /shoo/ is in 衝突 (“collision; clash; falling-out” /shoototsu/), 衝動的な (“impulsive” /shoodoo-teki-na/) and 衝撃 (“impact; shock” /shoogeki/).
8. The kanji 鐘 “a large bell”

History of Kanji 鐘For the kanji 鐘 (a), (b) and (c) comprised 金 “metal” and 童 used phonetically for shoo. It was a large bell for a festival and religious rite to strike with a stick. The kanji 鐘 means “a large bell.” [Composition of the kanji 鐘: 鐘 and 童]

The kun-yomi 鐘 /kane/ means “a bell.” The on-yomi /shoo/ is in 警鐘 (“alarm bell” /keeshoo/).

  1. The kanji 憧 “unsettled; to yearn after; admire”

History of Kanji 憧The seal style writing of the kanji 憧 comprised “a heart,” which became 忄, a bushu risshinben “heart” placed on the left side, and 童 used phonetically for /doo/. Together they meant “an unsettled heart.” It also means “to yearn after; admire.” The kanji 憧 means “unsettled; to yearn after; admire.”[Composition of the kanji 憧: 忄and 童]

The kun-yomi 憧れ /akogare/ means “yearning.” The on-yomi /doo/ is in 憧憬 (“yearning” /dookee/).

  1. The kanji 瞳 “pupil; eye”

There is no ancient writing of the kanji 瞳. The kanji comprised 目 “eye” and 童 used phonetically for /too/. Together they meant “pupil of an eye.” The kanji 瞳 means “pupil; eye.” [Composition of the kanji 瞳: 目 and 童]

The kun-yomi 瞳 /hitomi/ means “pupil; eye.” The on-yomi /doo/ is in 瞳孔 (“pupil” /dookoo/).

Our “something wrapped in cloth that was tied around on both ends and in the middle and had a shaft going through in the middle” (I need to rephrase this wordy descrition at one point) does not end with the twenty kanji we have explored. It extends to another small group of kanji and that will be our topic next week.  Thank you very much for your reading. – Noriko [April 21, 2018]

The kanji 東棟陳凍練錬曹遭槽量糧-a rolled stuff tied on both ends and around 1


When we glance at a large group of kanji such as 東棟陳凍・練錬・曹遭槽・量糧・重動働腫種衝・童鐘憧瞳・専伝(=傳)転(=轉)団(團)・恵穂 and, with the association with 専 kanji that contain 尃, 博敷薄簿縛・補捕浦舗哺 they certainly appear to be good candidates for our exploration in finding out if common shapes in kanji originated from the same origins. In order to cover all these kanji, we probably need to spend several posts. Most kanji are composites of two or more shapes, and naturally they do come up again in different contexts. In this post we are going to look at the first sub-group that originated rolled stuff or bag tied at both ends and around -東棟陳凍・練錬・曹遭槽・量糧.

The first shape is東in東棟陳凍.

  1. The kanji 東 “east”

History of Kanji 東Any Japanese student knows the kanji 東 “east” because it is in the word Tokyo 東京 /tookyoo/. But the meaning “east” was a borrowing and had no relevance to its original meaning. In oracle bone style, in brown, and bronze ware style, in green, it was rolled stuff with a shaft going through that was tied on both ends and was wrapped around with a tie in the middle. In seal style, in red, it became more like the kanji 東. As a component it retained the meanings “through” and “rolled stuff,” but by itself it is used in the borrowed meaning “east.”

The kun-yomi 東 /higashi/ means “east,” and is in 東海岸 (“east coast: the East Coast”). The on-yomi /too/ is in 東京 (“Tokyo” /tookyoo/), 関東 (“Kanto region” /ka’ntoo/), 東西南北(“every direction” /toozaina’nboku/), 中東 (“Middle East” /chuutoo/) and 中近東 (The Near and Middle East” /chuuki’ntoo/).

  1. The kanji 棟 “ridgepole; house; counter for houses”

History of Kanji 棟The seal style writing of the kanji 棟 comprised 木 “tree; wood” and 東 used phonetically for /too/ to mean “through.” A piece of wood that was placed across a house was “a ridgepole; ridge beam,” which is the highest part of a house where two sides of roof met. It was also used to mean “a house” and as a counter for houses. The kanji 棟 means “ridgepole; house; counter for houses.” [The composition of the kanji 棟: 木and 東]

The kun-yomi 棟/mune’/ means “house”and is in 別棟 (“different building; annex building” /betsumune/) and also used as a counter for houses.” The on-yomi /too/ is in 病棟 (“hospital ward” /byootoo/) and 棟梁 (“master carpenter” /to’oryoo/) and 三棟 (“three building” /sa’ntoo/).

  1. The kanji 陳 “to line up; show; timeworn; outdated”

History of Kanji 陳For the kanji 陳 (a) and (b) in bronze was style had “mounds of dirt; hills” (vertically placed) (阝)  on the left and “rolled stuff tied on both ends and around” (東) signifying “a thing.” In addition to them, (a) had 攴“to cause an action; do something” whereas (b) had 土 “soil.” The sound /chin/ meant “to display.” Together they meant to display things on the ground or line up bags of dirt. When something in display was left for a long time, it became “old; stale.” In (c) in seal style neither 攴nor 土appeared. The kanji 陳 means “to line up; show; timeworn; outdated; old.” [The composition of the kanji 陳: 阝 and 東]

There is no kun-yomi for  the kanji 陳 in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /chin/ is in 陳列 (“display” /chinretsu/), 陳腐な (“stale; clichéd; obsolete” /chi’npu-na/), 陳情する(“to make a petition in person” /chinjoo-suru/) and 新陳代謝 (“metabolism; switch from old to new” /shinchin ta’isha/).

  1. The kanji 凍 “to freeze; be numb with cold; be chilled to the bone”

History of Kanji 凍The seal style writing of the kanji 凍 comprised “ice that has streaks” and 東 used phonetically for /too/ to mean “stuff tied” together signifying stuff freezing or a person freezing. It contrasts to the kanji 氷 “ice,” which was “water freezes; frozen ice.” The kanji 凍 means “to freeze; be numb with cold; be chilled to the bone.” [The composition of the kanji 凍: 冫and 東]

The next two kanji 練 and 錬 contain 東 in kanji, but in the kyuji it had 柬 with different meaning and the sound /ren/.

  1. The kanji 練 “to refine; knead; train”

HIstory of Kanji 練In bronze ware style and seal style the kanji 練 had “a skein of threads” (糸) on the left side. The right side 柬 used phonetically for /ren/was “bundle of threads inside a rolled bag tied on both ends and around to be softened.” Softening threads involved repeated steps of exposing them to direct sunlight and soaking them in water at night. From repeating a process of refining materials, it meant “knead; train.” The kyuji 練, in blue, retained 柬, but in the shinji 練 the right side 柬 became 東.The kanji 練 means “to refine; knead; train hard.” [The composition of the kanji 練: 糸 and 東]

The kun-yomi 練る /ne’ru/ means “to kneed.” The on-yomi /ren/ is in 練習 (“practice; rehearsal” /renshuu/), 熟練した (“experienced and skilled” /jukuren-shita/) and 試練 (“trial; ordeal” /shi’ren/).

  1. The kanji 錬 “to refine metal; train”

HIstory of Kanji 錬The kanji 錬 comprised 金 “metal” and 柬 “to refine; knead” used phonetically for /ren/. Together they meant “heating iron in a high temperature and remove the impure minerals.” The kyuji 鍊 retained 柬. The kanji 錬 means “to refine metal; train hard.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ren/ is in 錬金術 (“alchemy” /renki’njutsu/), 精錬(“metal refining; smelting” /seeren/) and 鍛錬 (“tempering; toughening; annealing” /ta’nren/).  [The composition of the kanji : 金 and 東]

The next three kanji 曹遭槽 also shared the origin with 東even though it is not easy for us to recognize it. But their ancient writings demonstrate that connection.

  1. The kanji 曹 “low-level official; sergeant; fellows”

HIstory of Kanji 曹For the kanji 曹 in oracle bone style and bronze ware style the top had two pieces of stuff tied on both ends and around (東), signifying “two parties in a court – plaintiff and accused.” The bottom 曰 was “to speak.” (It is not 日 “the sun” but 曰 “to speak”). Together two parties standing to speak in court gave the meaning “companions; fellows.” It also meant “low-level officers; seargent.” The kanji 曹 means “low-level official; sergeant; fellows.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /soo/ is in 法曹界 “leagal circles; the bench and bar” /hooso’okai/), 軍曹 (“seargent” /gu’nsoo/) 重曹 (“sodium bicarbonate; baking soda” /juusoo/). /-Zoo/ is in 御曹司 (“a son of a doble or distinguished family” /onzo’oshi/).

  1. The kanji 遭 “to encounter; meet by chance”

HIstory of Kanji 遭The bronze ware style writing of the kanji 遭 was the same as 曹. The left side (辵) of the seal style writing had “a crossroad” and “a footstep,” together signifying “to move forward,” which eventually became a bushu shinnyooin kanji. The right side 曹 “fellows; companions” was also used phonetically for /soo/. “People meeting on their way unectectedly” meant “to encounter.” In kanji 遭 is associated with mishap such as “accident.” The kanji 遭 means “to encounter; meet by chance; mishap.”  [The composition of the kanji 遭: 曹 and 辶]

The kun-yomi 遭う /a’u/ means “to encounter.” The on-yomi /soo/ is in 遭難 (“disaster; mishap; shipwreck” /soonan/) and 遭遇する(“to encounter; come upon” /sooguu-suru/).

  1. The kanji 槽 “tub; tank; vat”

HIstory of Kanji 槽The seal style writing of the kanji 槽 comprised 木“tree; wood” and 曹 used phonetically for /soo/ to mean “tub” together signifying “a wooden tub.” The kanji 槽 means “tub; tank; vat.” [The composition of the kanji : and ]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /soo/ is in 水槽 (“water tank” /suisoo/) and 浴槽 (“bath tub” /yokusoo/).

The kanji 量 and 糧 were discussed earlier in connection with a scale to measure grain. I  bring them back here for us to know that 量had a rolled stuff tied at the bottom in oracle bone style and bronze ware style.

  1. The kanji 量 “mass; amount”

History of Kanji 量In the two earliest writing of kanji 量 also had rolled stuff tied on both ends and around signifying “stuff,” and a round shape at the top indicated an opening to put grains in to measure. Together they meant “a scale to weigh a bag of grain.” What was weighed meant “mass; amount.” An interesting thing was seen in Old style and seal style – they had土“dirt,” probably in a bag as a weight at the bottom, added. This combination of 東and 土will lead us to the next group of kanji starting with重“heavy” in the next post. In the kanji 量 the bottom took the shape 里. The kanji 量 means “mass; amount.” [The composition of the kanji 量: 曰, 一 and 里]

  1. The kanji 糧 “food; provisions”

History of Kanji 糧For the kanji 糧 the bronze ware style writing is seen in other kanji such as 重 “heavy” and had “a tied bag” in the middle with “an opening” on top, which was 量 “a scale to measure grains.” The bottom was “rice.” Together they meant “food; provisions.” In seal style “rice” was moved to the left and became 米 a bushu komehenin kanji. The kanji 糧means “food; provisions.” [The composition of the kanji 糧: 米 and 量]

For the sample words for the kanji 量 and 糧 please refer to the earlier post.

Trying to find a common thread in so many kanji is not very easy. I needed an extra week to sort them out. Let us continue with this exploration into our assumption or premise – “the same kanji components came from the same origin (verified by ancient writings), thus they retain related meaning in kanji.” Thank you very much for your reading.  – Noriko [April 14, 2018]

Sorry, but no article today


As I started to write for this week, I came across a snag. I need to reexamine a few different groups of kanji that I thought to be related or unrelated (if this makes sense to you at all). So, no post this week. My apology to our regular readers.

Have a good week.   -Noriko [April 8, 2018]

The Kanji 声南琴喜樹膨鼓-musical instrument


As the last article of the group of kanji that originated from “a thing; stuff,” we are going to look at kanji that originated from musical instruments – 声南琴喜樹膨鼓.

  1. The kanji 声 “voice; fame; reputation; sound”

History of Kanji 声For the kanji 声 (a) in oracle bone style, in brown, was “a musical instrument with a hanging rope” and “an ear” below that. (b) and (c) in seal style, in red, had “a hand holding a stick to bang the hanging sound” board added. Together they meant “one listening to the sound of a hanging musical instrument that was banged by hand.” The kyuji 聲 in (d), in blue, contained all the components — “a banging instrument,” “a hand hitting with a tool” and “an ear to listen to.” But in the shinji 声only the top left was kept. Even though the origin was from an musical instrument and a person’s ear, it meant human “voice.” The kanji 声means “voice; fame; reputation; sound.”

The kun-yomi 声 /ko’e/ means “voice.” 鶴の一声 (“authoritative pronouncement; voice of authority” /tsu’ru-no hito’koe/). /-Goe/ is in 大声 (“loud voice” /oogo’e/). Another kun-yomi /kowa-/ is in 声音 (“tone of voice” /kowa’ne/). The on-yomi /see/ is in 無声音 (“voiceless sound” /muse’eon/), 音声 (“voice; sound” /o’nsee/), 銃声 (“sound of gunfire” /juusee/, 声援を送る (“to cheer” /seen-o okuru/) and 名声 (“fame” /meesee/). Another on-yomi /shoo/ is a go-on in 大音声 (”an ear-splitting voice” /daio’njoo/).

  1. The kanji 南 “south”

History of Kanji 南For the kanji 南 in oracle bone, bronze ware style, in green, and seal style  it was a musical instrument called /nan/, which was hung with ropes at the top. The shape was similar to a hanging bell. The writing was borrowed to mean “south.” Some scholars suggested that the sound nanwas similar to dan 暖 “warm,” and it may have something to do with this choice. The kanji 南means “south.”

The kun-yomi 南 /minami/ means “south” and is in 南側 (“south side” /minamigawa/). The on-yomi /nan/ is in 南北 (“the south and north” /na’nboku/), 南極 (“Antarctica: South Pole” /nankyoku/) and 中南米 (“Latin America; Central and South America” /chuuna’nbee/).

  1. The kanji 琴 “harp”

History of Kanji 琴The seal style writing of the kanji 琴 was “a harp,” with a bowed body and bridges for strings. The kanji 琴 means “harp.”

The kun-yomi /koto/ means “hard.” The on-yomi /kin/ is in 木琴(“marimba; xylopohone” /mokkin/) and 心の琴線に触れる(“to touch one’s heartstrings” /kokoro-no-kinsen-ni hureru/).

  1. The kanji 喜 “to rejoice; happy; be delighted”

History of Kanji 喜For the kanji 喜 the oracle bone style and bronze ware style writings had “a hand drum with a hanging device” at the top and 口 “a box of prayers and benedictions” at the bottom. They meant “pleasing a god with good drumming. The Old style writing, in purple, had a person who was singing or about to eat feast with his mouth wide open added but dropped in seal style. The kanji 喜 means “to rejoice; happy; be delighted.”

The kun-yomi 喜ぶ /yoroko’bu/ means “to rejoice; be delighted” and is in 大喜びする  (“to be overjoyed; be thrilled” /ooyo’rokobi-suru/). The on-yomi /ki/ is in 歓喜(“delight” /ka’nki/), 喜劇 (“comedy” /ki’gki/), 悲喜こもごも(“bittersweet; having mingled feelings of joy and sorrow” /hi’ki-komo’gomo/), 喜怒哀楽 (“feelings” /ki’do airaku/) and 一喜一憂 (“glad and sad by turns” /i’kki ichiyuu/).

  1. The kanji 樹 “tree; to plant a tree; establish”

History of Kanji 樹For the kanji 樹 the bronze ware style writing, (a), comprised 壴 “a drum” and 寸 “hand” used phonetically for /chu; ju/ to mean “a tree; arbor.” (c) in seal style reflected (a), but in (b) 木 “tree” was added. “A hand holding a tree straight up” gave the meaning “to plant a tree” and “to establish” in a general sense. The kanji 樹 means “tree; to plant a tree; establish.”

The kun-yomi /ki/ means “tree.” The on-yomi /ju/ is in 樹立する (“to establish” /juristsu-suru/), 果樹園 (“orchard” /kaju’en/) and 広葉樹 (“broad leaf tree” /kooyo’oju/).

  1. The kanji 膨 “to swell out; expand; get big”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 膨. The kanji comprised 月 “a part of one’s body” on the left side and 壴 “a hanging drum” and 彡 “something pretty” together used phonetically for booto mean “sound of a hand drum reverberating” or something spreading like the sound. A part of the body that tended to expand was a stomach. The meaning of a part of body dropped it meant “to expand.” The kanji 膨means “to swell out; expand; get big.”

The kun-yomi 膨らむ /hukuramu/ means “to swell out; expand,” and is in 着膨れる(“to be thickly clad” /kibukure’ru/). The on-yomi /boo/ is in 膨張する(to expand; swell” /boochoo-suru/) and 膨大な (“enormous; colossal” /boodai-na/).

  1. The kanji 鼓 “a hand drum; to hit a drum; drum up”

History of Kanji 鼓For the kanji 鼓(a) and (b) in oracle bone style and (c) and (d) in bronze ware style and (e) in seal style comprised “a drum with a hanging rope at the top” and “a hand hitting the drum with a drumstick.” Together they meant “a hand drum.” A hand hitting a drum gave the meaning “rhythemic; to stir up.” The kanji 鼓 means “a hand drum; to hit a drum; drum up.”

The kun-yomi /tuzumi/ (つづみ) means “hand drum” and is in 小鼓 (“hand-held drum” /kotuzumi/). The on-yomi /ko/ is in 太鼓 (“drum” /taiko/), 鼓舞する(“to encourage; inspire” /ko’bu-suru/), 鼓動 (“to beat; pulsate” /kodoo-suru/) and 鼓笛隊 (“fife and drum band” /kotekitai/).

The next group of kanji we explore is a tied bag or things in a bundle. Thank you very much for your reading.  – Noriko [March 31, 2018]

The Kanji 典冊柵・偏編遍・論輪倫 – “bound writing tablets”


In this post we are going to look at nine kanji in three subgroups –典冊柵 (with 冊)・偏編遍 (with 扁)・論輪倫 (with 侖). They share the origin of writing tablets bound together that made a book and could be rolled up for storage.

  1. The kanji 典 “code; law; model”

History of Kanji 典For the kanji 典 in (a) and (b) in oracle bone style, in brown, the top was writing tablets of the same length linked together with leather straps. (a) had two hands holding it very carefully while (b) had a hand turning the book to read. What the two lines at the bottom in (a) signified is not clear, but they might have indicated a table. (c) and (d) in bronze ware style, in green, had a low table (几). The important bound writing tablets were a model or code from precedents that one looked up, and the writing meant “code; law; model.” In (e) in Old style, in purple, “bamboo” pertaining to “writing” was added at the top, but it was dropped in (f) in seal style, in red. In kanji the top was coalesced to the top of a low table. The kanji 典 means “code, law; model.”

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /ten/ is in 辞典 (“dictionary” /jiten/), 典雅な (“refined; elegant” /te’nga-na/), 出典 (“source of reference” /shutten/), 古典 (“classics” /koten/) and

典型的な (“stereotyped; typical” /tenkeeteki-na/). /-Den/ is in 香典 (“offering in Buddhism funeral” /kooden/; 典 substitutes for a non-Joyo kanji).

  1. The kanji 冊 “bound book; a counter for books”

History of Kanji 冊The history of the kanji 冊 has two different interpretations. One is that it was writing tablets linked together as a book. (d) in Old style, in purple, had “bamboo” at the top but lost it in (e) in seal style. This development is very similar to the kanji 典, without a table to place on. It meant “a counter of bound books.” Another view takes notice on the different length of the vertical lines in the ancient writings. Shirakawa says that a writing tablet had a set length and that wooden stakes of different length linked in a circle signified “a corral to keep live stocks to be used for sacrificial offering.” It was /saku/ phonetically. Because of the similar appearance between stakes pounded to the ground to keep live animals and writing tablets linked together, the writing mistakenly came to be used to mean “a bound book.” The kyuji 册, (f) in blue, was simplified to 冊. The kanji 冊 is used as a counter for books.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /satsu/ is in 三冊 (“three books” /sa’nsatsu/), 冊数 (“number of volume” /satsusu’u/), 別冊 (“separate volume; extra issue” /bessatsu/) and 小冊子 (“booklet” /shoosa’sshi/). Another on-yomi /-zaku/ is in 短冊 (“strip of paper” /tanzaku/).

  1. The kanji 柵 “fence; wooden stockade”

History of Kanji 柵The seal style writing of the kanji 柵 comprised 木 “tree; wood” and 冊 “linked wooden stakes” used phonetically for /saku/. Because the writing 冊 changed to mean “a bound book,” the new writing was created for the original meaning of “wooden uneven length stakes to keep animals.” The kanji 柵 means “fence; wooden stockade.”  <Composition of the kanji 柵: 木 and 冊>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi 柵 /saku/ means “fence” and is in 鉄柵 (“iron fence” /tessaku/)

扁: In the next three kanji 偏編遍, what is common is 扁. One view of the origin is “a screen; mesh” in a part of a single swing door (扁); another view is that it was a bound book.

  1. The kanji 偏 “to become lopsided”

History of Kanji 偏The seal style writing of the kanji 偏  comprised イ “an act one does” and 扁 “a screen door” used phonetically for /hen/ to mean “one side (of the two),” together signifying “to lean to one side.” The kanji 偏 means “to get lopsided; one side; bias.” <Composition of the kanji 偏: イ, 戸 and 冊 without the horizontal line going through >

The kun-yomi 偏る /katayo’ru/ means “to become lopsided; become biased.” The on-yomi /hen/ is in 偏と旁 (left side component and right side component in kanji), 偏食 (“deviated food habit; unbalanced diet” /henshoku/) and 偏向 (“inclination; leaning; bias” /henkoo/).

  1. The kanji 編 “to compile; edit; knit; braid”

History of Kanji 編The seal style writing of the kanji 編 comprised 糸 “a skein of thread” and 扁 for /hen/ phonetically. 扁 comprised 戸 “door; family” and 冊 “bamboo or wooden tablets tied together for record keeping,” signifying “family registry record; to compile documents; edit.” Together they also meant “to knit (yarn); braid.” The kanji 編 means “to compile; edit; knit.” <Composition of the kanji 編: 糸 and 扁>

The kun-yomi /a’mu/ means “to knit” and is in 編み物 (“knitting” /ami’mono/), 三つ編み (“braid” /mitsuami/), 編み出す (“to invent; forge; contrive” /amida’su/). The on-yomi /hen/ is in 編集 (“editing” /henshuu/), 再編成 (“reorganization; reshuffle” /saihe’nsee/) and 長編小説 (“long novel” /choohen sho’osetsu/).

  1. The kanji 遍 “to go around; universal; time”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 遍. The kanji 遍 comprises 辶, a bushu shinnyoo “to move forward” and 扁 used phonetically for /hen/, together signifying “to go around,” and further “everywhere; widely; extensively; far and wide.” “Making a round in a circuit” also gave the meaning “once; time.” The kanji 遍 means “to go around; far and wide; time.” <Composition of the kanji 遍: 扁 and 辶>

The kun-yomi 遍く/amane’ku/ means “everyplace; all over; extensively.” The on-yomi /hen/ is 普遍的 (worldwide; universal; general” /huhenteki/). /-Pen/ is in 一遍 (“once; one time” /ippen/) and 一遍に (“in one sitting; all at one” /ippe’n-ni/). /-Ben/ is in 何遍も (“several times; repeatedly” /na’nben-mo/).

History of Kanji 侖The third shape 侖 has the history shown on the right. (a), (b) and (c) had writing tablets that were linked with straps as a book rolled up for storage under a roof. From “bound writing tablets rolled up” 侖 signified “things in good order in a circular shape.”

  1. The kanji 論 “logic; argument”

History of Kanji 論For the kanji 論 the bronze ware style writing was things in good order bound together in a circular shape (侖). The seal style writing comprised “word; language; to say” was added. Words that were arranged in good order meant “logic; argument.” The kanji 論 means “logic; argument.”  <Composition of the kanji 論: 言 and 侖>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ron/ is in 論じる (“to discuss” /ronjiru/), 議論 (“argument” /gi’ron/), 論争 (“dispute; controversy” /ronsoo/), 論文 (“article; dissertation; thesis” /ronbun/), 異論を唱える (“to object to” /iron-o tonae’ru/) and 世論 (“public opinion” /yo’ron/).

  1. The kanji 輪 “wheel; circle; loop”

History of Kanji 輪The seal style writing of the kanji 輪 comprised 車 “a wheel” and 侖 used phonetically for /rin/ to mean “many arrows arranged in a circular shape.” Together they meant “wheel; circle; loop.” <Composition of the kanji 輪: 車 and 侖>

The kun-yomi 輪 /wa/ means “a ring,” and is in 輪ゴム (“elastic band” /wagomu/) and 内輪話 (“inside information; private talk” /uchiwaba’nashi/). The on-yomi /rin/ is in 車輪 (“wheel” /sharin/), 三輪車 (“tricycle” /sanri’nsha/), 両輪 (“two wheels; both wheels” /ryoorin/) and 輪郭 (“contour; outline; profile” /rinkaku/).

  1. The kanji 倫 “ethics; principle”

History of Kanji 倫The seal style writing of the kanji 倫 had a “person; an act that one does” and 侖 used phoentically for /rin/ to mean “things ordered in good order.” Together “what a person should observe” means “ethics; principle.” The kanji 倫 means “ethics; principle.” <Composition of the kanji 倫: イ and 侖>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /rin/ is in 倫理 (“morality; ethics” /ri’nri/) and 人倫 (“human relations; morality” /jinrin/).

Even though the three shapes 冊, 扁 and 侖 have different meanings, they share the underlying meaning “writing tablets or stakes linked together in an orderly manner and it can be rolled up.” I believe that we still need to have another post on the topics of objects next week. Thank you very much for your reading.  – Noriko [March 24, 2018]