The Kanji 雨雲曇雪霜霧露—あめかんむり(1)


In this and next posts, we are going to look at kanji that have a bushu amekanmuri (雨). It means “rain” and also pertains to atmospheric phenomena.

  1. The kanji 雨 “rain; rainfall”

History of Kanji 雨For the kanji 雨, the oracle bone style writing, (a) in brown, consisted of two parts– The top was “cloud” or “sky,” and the bottom was “rain drops.” Together water droplets coming down from the clouds or sky meant “rain.” In bronze ware style (b) and (c), in green, two water droplets were placed inside each of the two halves with a vertical line in the center. The ten style writing, (e) in red, took the bronze ware style, which became the kanji 雨 (f). Setsumon also gave (d) as its earlier style, which does not have a dividing vertical line in the middle.

The kun-yomi 雨 /a’me/ means “rain,” and /ama-/ is in 雨具 (“raingear” /ama’gu/), 雨水 (“rainwater” /ama’mizu/) and 雨垂れ (“raindrops” /amadare/). The on-yomi /u/ is in 雨天 (“rainy weather” /u’ten/) and 降雨量 (“amount of rainfall” /koou’ryoo/). There are a few traditional usages that are neither kun-yomi nor on-yomi — 春雨 (“fine rain in spring” /harusame/), 時雨 (“late-autumn or early winter shower; occasional shower” / shigure/), 五月雨 (“early summer rain” /samidare/) and 梅雨 (“rainy season rain” /ba’iu/ or /tsuyu/).

  1. The kanji 雲 “cloud”

History of Kanji 雲For cloud, originally it only had the bottom 云, which was “cloud.” Shirakawa explained that a dragon, an imaginary powerful animal, was believed to be inside clouds and that the oracle bone style writing (a) had a dragon in the cloud with its tail curled up. Setsumon gave (b) and (c) as earlier writings. The ten style writings got 雨 /ameka’nmuri/ on the top together with (b) for (d), and (c) for (f). The kanji 雲 means “cloud.”

The kun-yomi 雲 /ku’mo/ means “cloud,” and is in 雲行き (“the movement of the clouds; the turn of events” /kumoyuki/). /-Gumo/ is in 入道雲 (“thunderhead” /nyuudoogu’mo/). The on-yomi /u’n/ is in the phrase 雲泥の差 (“a big difference; world of difference” /undee-no-sa/) – 泥 means “mud.”

The kanji 曇 “cloudy”

When the sun 日 is placed on top of 雲, it makes up another Joyo kanji 曇. The sun blocked by clouds means “cloudy.” The kun-yomi 曇り /kumori’/ means “cloudy; cloudy sky,” and is in 曇る (“to become cloudy; become dim” /kumo’ru/), 曇りがち (“tending to be cloudy; broken clouds” /kumorigachi/). The on-yomi /do’n/ is in 曇天 (“cloudy sky” /donten/).

  1. The kanji 雪 “snow”

History of Kanji 雪For the kanji 雪, the oracle bone style writings (a) and (b) had a cloud at the top and the bottom showed lightly falling flakes coming down from the sky, which meant “snowfall; snow.” The ten style writing (c) had different components. The top was the same, something that falls from the sky. The middle had two brushes or brooms, and the bottom had a hand — together they signified a hand holding a broom to sweep or clean. Snowfall blankets the earth as if cleansing everything on the ground. It meant “snow.”

The kun-yomi 雪 /yuki’/ means “snow,” and is in 大雪 (“blizzard; big snowfall” /ooyuki/), and 雪かき (“snow shoveling; snow removal” /yukika’ki/). The on-yomi /se’tsu/ is in 新雪 (“new snow” /shinsetsu/) and 残雪 (“lingering snow on the ground” /zansetsu/).

The kanji 霰 and 雹– Other kanji regarding something that falls from the sky include 霰 (“small-sized hail” /arare/) and 雹 (“hail” /hyo’o/). Technically hail under 5 mm is 霰, but who is measuring? /Arare/ falling is something we can enjoy looking at, but if it is /hyo’o/ we probably start to worry about possible damage. Neither kanji is a joyo kanji, but you do see them used, possibly with phonetic katakana accompanying them.

The bushu amekanmuri pertains not only to something that falls from the sky but also to something atmospheric. Moisture in the air creates all kinds of phenomena. Among other Joyo kanji, in 霧, 霜 and 露 the bottom components are all used phonetically.  We look at those kanji now.

  1. The kanji 霜 “frost”

History of Kanji 霜When moisture becomes frozen on the surface or in the ground, it becomes frost. The ten style of the kanji 霜 had a bushu amekanmuri “atmospheric phenomenon” and the bottom 相 was used phonetically for /so’o/. It meant “frost.” The Kadokawa dictionary and Kanjigen explained that 相 “to face each other” gave the meaning of moisture in the ground forming columns, as in 霜柱 (“frost column” /shimoba’shira/).

The kun-yomi 霜 /shimo/ means “frost,” and is in 霜降り肉 (“marbled meat” /shimohuri’niku/), 霜取り (“defrosting in freezer” /shimotori/). The on-yomi /so’o/ is in 星霜 (“years” /seesoo/), which is only used in literary phrases, such as 十年の星霜を経て (“after long ten years”).

  1. The kanji 霧 “haze; fog; mist”

History of Kanji 霧When the moisture is suspended in the air as tiny water droplets it becomes fog. The ten style of the kanji 霧 consisted of 雨 “atmospheric phenomenon” and 務, used phonetically for /mu/ to mean “something unclear.” An atmospheric phenomenon that hampered visibility due to tiny water droplets in the air was “fog.” The writing in blue is in Large ten style 大篆 /daiten/, which preceded Small ten style 小篆 /shooten/ (what we are using as ten style in this blog.)

The kun-yomi 霧 /kiri/ means “fog; mist,” and is in 霧吹き (”spray; sprayer” /kirihu’ki/). /-Gi’ri/ is in 夜霧 (“night fog” /yo’giri/). The on-yomi /mu/ is in an expression 五里霧中 (“to be lost in a fog; be at sea” /go’ri muchuu/).

  1. The kanji 露 “dew: to expose”

History of Kanji 露When moisture in the air becomes water droplets on the ground, it is dew. The ten style of the kanji 露 consisted of 雨 “atmospheric phenomenon” and 路, used phonetically for /ro/. The dew covers everything outside. From that 露 also meant “to cover; expose.”

The kun-yomi 露 (“dew” /tsu’yu/) is in 夜露 (“night dew” /yo’tsuyu/) and 雨露 (“rain and dew; outside weather” /a’metsuyu/), which is used in phrases such as 雨露にさらされる (“to be exposed to the elements; to be open to the wet” /ametsuyu-ni sarasareru/). The on-yomi /ro/ is in 露見する (“to come to light” /roken-suru/), 露出 (“exposure” /roshutsu/) and 暴露する (“to reveal or expose a secret intentionally” /ba’kuro-suru/).

In the next post we continue with more kanji that have a bushu amekanmuri and a few related kanji.   [March 27, 201]

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