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 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 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]

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 復腹複覆履良郎朗浪廊 – Food (7)  


In the last post we explored the kanji that originated from a tool to measure or handle grain and food, and saw that there were surprisingly many different shapes — 量斗升 and possibly 両, and other kanji that contain those components. In this post, we are going to add a couple more to the list – the right side of 復 and 良.

  1. The kanji 復 “to repeat; return way; again”

History of Kanji 復For the kanji 復, (a) in oracle bone style, in brown, had a cylindrical shape with a small end at the top and the bottom. This was an apparatus which one flipped up and down repeatedly in measuring grain. Underneath it was “a backward foot,”(夂) signifying “a return.” They meant “a repeated motion of going back-and-forth.” In bronze ware style (b) and (c), in green, “a crossroad” (彳) and “a hand” at the bottom were added. In (c) another “forward-facing footprint” is also seen to emphasize a repeated action of “going” and “coming” (by a backward footprint.) In (d) in seal style, in red, a forward-facing footprint was dropped. In kanji the two rounds that signified “a repeat” was changed to 日. The kanji 復 means “to repeat; return way; again.”  <the composition of the kanji 復: 彳, ノ,一, 日 and  夂>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /huku/ is in 反復する (“to do something over again; iterative” /hanpuku-suru/), 復習 (“review study; brush up” /hukushuu/), 復元する (“to restore; reconstruct” /hukugen-suru/), 回復する (“to recover” /kaihuku-suru/) and  往復する (“to go and return” /oohuku-suru/) and 復路 (“return trip” /hu’kuro/).

  1. The kanji 腹 “abdomen; belly; middle”

History of Kanji 腹For the kanji 腹, in oracle bone style and in bronze ware style it had “a measuring tool with a thick middle,” which was (a) in oracle bone style 腹 above. With “a backward footprint” together they were used phonetically for /huku/ and signify a repeated action. To this component “a person” was added on the right. In 3 in seal style “a person” was replaced by 月, a bushu nikuzuki “flesh; a part of a body.” The part of one’s body that is thick is one’s abdomen. It meant “abdomen.” The kanji 腹 means “abdomen; belly; middle.”  <the composition of the kanji 腹: 月 and the right side of 復>

The kun-yomi お腹 /onaka/ means “stomach.” Another kun-yomi /hara’/ is in 腹ぺこ (“hungry; starving” /harapeko/) in casual style, 腹ごしらえする (“to have a meal before starting work; to fortify oneself with a meal before going” /harago’shirae-suru/), 腹芸 (“subtle communication using one’s personality” /haragee/), 腹いせをする(“to get back at someone; get one’s revenge” /haraise-o-suru/). The on-yomi /huku/ is in 空腹 (“to behungry” /kuuhuku/), and /-puku/ is in 満腹になる (“to become full” /manpuku-ni-na’ru/) and 切腹 (“seppuku; hara-kiri” /seppuku/).

  1. The kanji 複 “to duplicate; copy; complex”

History of Kanji 複For the kanji 複, the seal style writing comprised 衣 “collar,” signifying “something in a fold,” and the right side of 復 meaning “to repeat,” which was used phonetically for /huku/. Together they ­meant “to duplicate.” In kanji the left became 衤, a bushu koromohen “clothing.” The kanji 複 meant “to duplicate; copy” and also “complex.”   <the composition of the kanji 複: 衤 and the right side of 復>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /huku/ is in 複製 (“duplicate; copy” /hukusee/), 複雑な (“complex” /hukuzatsu-na/) and 複層 (“double layers” /hukusoo/).

  1. The kanji 覆 “to cover; overturn; flip over”

History of Kanji 覆For the kanji 覆, the top of the seal style writing, 襾, was “a cover on an opening with the stopper in the middle.” The bottom 復 originally meant “to flip over a measuring apparatus,” and was used phonetically for /huku/. In kanji the top became 覀. Together they meant “to overturn; cover.” The kanji 覆 means “to cover; overturn; flip over.” <the composition of the kanji 覆: 覀 and 復>

The kun-yomi 覆う /oou/ means “to cover; wprad over; wrap,” and is in 日覆い (“sun shade; sun shield” /hio’oi/). Another kun-yomi 覆す /kutsuga’esu/ (and its intransitive verb 覆る /kutsuga’eru/)  means “to reverse; overthrow; turn over.” The on-yomi /huku/ is in 覆面 (“a mask to conceal one’s face” /hukumen/).  /-Puku/ is in 転覆 (“upset; overturn” /tenpuku/).

  1. The kanji 履 “clogs; to put on footwear; to perform; carry out”

History of Kanji 履The kanji 履 contains 復. However, it came from a very different origin. (a) in bronze ware style had “a leg” and “a person with a formal hat.” (b) in bronze ware style and (c) in Old style, in purple, had “a boat shape footwear” (signifying “to transport”) and “a person; head” (頁). Together they meant “one goes forward with footwear on” or “to perform.” In seal style (d) was replaced by 復 under 尸, a bushu shikabane. The kanji 履 means “clogs; to put on footwear; to perform; carry out.” <the composition of the kanji 履: 尸 and 復>

The kun-yomi 履く /haku/ means “to wear clothes by putting legs through, such as trousers, pants, shoes, skirt, etc.,” and is in 履物 (“footwear; foot gear” /haki’mono/), 上履き (“slippers” /uwabaki/). The on-yomi /ri/ is in 草履 (“Japanese sandal-style footwear for kimono” /zoori/), ゴム草履 (“flip-flops” /gomuzo’ori/), 履行する (“to execute; carry out” /rikoo-suru/) and 契約の不履行 (“non-fulfilment of a contract; a beach of agreement” /keeyaku-huri’koo/).

  1. The kanji 良 “good; excellent; true”

History of Kanji 良For the kanji 良 (a) in oracle bone style, (b) and (c) in bronze ware style was “an apparatus to select good grains”– The top was the opening to pour grain in and to blow air through to remove bad grains, and good ones were taken out from the bottom. (d) in seal style still retained that meaning in its shape, but in kanji there is little remnant to tell us its history. The kanji 良 meant “good; excellent; true.”

The kun-yomi 良い /yo‘i/ means “good,” and is in 仲良し (“good friend” /naka’yoshi/). The on-yomi /ryoo/ is in 改良する (“to improve” /kairyoo-suru/), 不良品 (“defective product” /huryoohin/), 優良な (“excellent; fine” /yuuryoo-na/), 良心 (“conscience” /ryo’shin/) and 良縁 (“suitable candidate for marriage” /ryooen/).

  1. The kanji 郎 “man”

History of Kanji 郎For the kanji 郎 in seal style it comprised 良, which was used phonetically for /roo/, and 邑 “town; village,” which became 阝, a bushu oozato. It was originally the name of a town. 郎 was used to mean a government official, and it came to be used in a male name. The kyuji 郞, in blue, had 良 on the left, which became simplified by dropping a stroke in shinji. The kanji 郎 means “man.”  <the composition of the kanji 郎: 良 without the 6th stroke and 阝>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /roo/ is used in a male name, such as 太郎, 一郎 (both “the first son”), 次郎, 二郎 (“the second son”) and 三郎 (“the third son”, etc. It is in 一族郎党 (“one’s whole clan” /ichi’zoku rootoo/) and 馬鹿野郎 (“fool; idiot” as a cursing word used by angry male speakers /bakayaro’o/).

  1. The kanji 朗 “cheerful; lively”

History of Kanji 朗For the kanji 朗 in seal style it comprised 月 “moon,” signifying “bright light of a moon,” and 良 “good,” which was used phonetically for /roo/. Together they meant “clear and bright.” In the kyuji 朗, 2, the positions of the two components were swapped. In shinji 良 was simplified in shinji by dropping a stroke. The kanji 朗 means “cheerful; lively.”  <the composition of the kanji 朗: 良 without the 6th stroke and 月>

The kun-yomi 朗らかな /hoga’raka/ means “merry; cheerful.” The on-yomi /roo/ is in 明朗な “bright; cheerful” /meeroo-na/).

  1. The kanji 浪 “wave; drift; waste”

History of Kanji 浪For the kanji 浪, the seal style writing comprised “water” and 良, which was used phonetically for /roo/. Together they were used as the name of a river. The right side 良 originated from an apparatus of selecting good grains in which grains were shaken and moved about, like “waves.” The kanji 浪 was borrowed to mean “wave; drift; waste.”  <the composition of the kanji 浪: 氵 and 良>

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /roo/ is in 浪人 (“unemployed samurai” /roonin/) and 浪人する (to study for an entrance exam for a year to try again” /roonin-suru/), 浪士 (“lordless samurai” /ro’oshi/), 放浪する (“to roam; wander about” /hooroo-suru/) and 放浪者 (“wandering tramp” /hooro’osha/).

  1. The kanji 廊 “corridor; walkway”

History of Kanji 廊For the kanji 廊 the seal style writing had 广 a bushu madare “the eaves of a house; canopy.” Underneath was 郞 “government official,” which was used phonetically for /roo/. Officials conducted business there. The kanji 廊 means “corridor; walkway.”  <the composition of the kanji: 广 and 郎 >

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /roo/ is in 廊下 (“hallway; space between rooms inside a house” 回廊 (“veranda; corridor” /kairoo/).

The kanji we looked at in this and last postings were either from a measuring apparatus or a ladle that was used for measuring. In some kanji they were used simply as a phonetic feature and bore little relevance to its original meaning. That is the way a large number of kanji were created as keisei moji (形声文字) “semantic-phonetic writing.”  Before I take a month’s break from posting in October and November, I shall try to post one more article next week, probably on kanji that contain 皿.  Thank you very much for your reading.  -Noriko [September 30, 2017]

The Kanji 量糧両斗料科斜升昇- Food (6)    


I am planning to discuss various types of measuring tools for grains or liquid in this and the next posts. Needless to say food is important in any civilization at any point of history, but when the primary source of levy was grains the fact that there were a number of kanji to measure food makes sense to me.

  1. The kanji 量 “mass; to measure”

History of Kanji 量In oracle bone style, in brown, in bronze, and in bronze ware style, in brown, the top round shape signified an opening of a bag tied below. It signified a scale to weigh a bag of grain. What was weighed meant “mass; amount.” In Old style, in purple, and seal style, in red, 土 “dirt” was added at the bottom, and the bottom shape became 里. It is similar to the history of kanji such a 重 “heavy” and 動 “to move.” The kanji 量 means “mass, amount.”

The kun-yomi 量る /haka’ru/ means “to measure; weigh.” The on-yomi /ryoo/ is in 量 (“quantity; amount; column” /ryoo/), 分量 (“dose; quantity” /bunryo’o/), 測量 (“location survey; surverying” /sokuryoo/), 重量制限 (“weight limit” /juuryoo-se’egen/), 感慨無量 (“deep emotion; one’s mind is filled with a thousand emotions” /kangai-muryoo/) and 力量 (“ability; power; craftsmanship” /rikiryo’o/).

  1. The kanji 糧 “food; nourishment”

History of Kanji 糧In bronze ware style it had a bag tied in the middle with an opening on top, which was the same as 量 “a scale to measure grains.” The bottom was probably “rice.” Together rice measured meant “food; provisions.” In seal style 米 was placed on the left side of 量 as a bushu komehen. The kanji 糧 means “food; provisions.”

The kun-yomi 糧 /kate’/ means “provisions; food,” as in 心の糧 (“nourishment for one’s mind” /kokoro-no-ka’te/) and 日々の糧 (“earn one’s daily bread” /hi’bi-no-kate/). The on-yomi /ryoo/ is in 食糧 /shokuryoo/) and 食糧自給率 “the food-self-sufficiency rate” /shokuryoo-jikyu’uritsu/).

  1. The kanji 両 “both; two”

History of Kanji 両One view of the origin is that the symmetrical shape was “a scale.” Another takes it as “a gourd split in two with dry seeds inside” and the third one is that it was “a handle of a horse carrier to pull two horses.” The kyuji 兩, (d) in blue, reflected (c) in seal style which had a line at the top. Ryo was a unit of currency in gold before Meiji, based on its weight. It is also used as a counter of train cars in railway. The kanji 両 means “two; double; both; a car of train; ryo (a old unit of currency).”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ryoo/ is in 両方 (“both” /ryoohoo/), 両立する (“to be compatible with ; coexist with” /ryooritsu-suru/), 両面 (“both sides” /ryoomen/), 両親 (“parents” /ryo’oshin/), 両人 (“the two people; couple” /ryo’onin/), 十両編成 (“ten-car train” /juuryoo-he’nsee/), 両替 (“exchange of money” /ryoogae/) and 百両 (“a hundred ryo” /hyaku’ryoo/).

  1. The kanji 斗 “dipper; measuring ladle”

History of Kanji 斗In bronze ware style and seal style it was “a ladle with a handle for scooping rice wine,” and was used phonetically for /to/. It was used as a unit of volume. One to in Japan was 18 liters. The kanji 斗 means “ladle; dipper; measurement unit for liquid.”

The kun-yomi /masu’/ means “a dipper,” and it is in 北斗七星 (“the Great Bear; the Big Dipper” /hokuto-shichi’see/)and 漏斗 (“funnel” /ro’oto/).

  1. The kanji 料 “food; fee; provisions”

History of Kanji 料In bronze ware style it is comprised of “rice grains” (米) and “a measuring ladle” (斗). Together they meant “measured amount of food.” An official measure food to charge a fee. The kanji 料 means “to measure; food; fee; provisions.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ryoo/ is in 料金 (“fee; charge; fair” /ryo’okin/), 手数料 (“handling fee” /tesu’uryoo/), 入場料 (“admission fee” /nyuujo’oryoo/), 無料 (“free of charge” /muryoo/), 送料 (“sending fee; postage” /sooryo’o/), 有料 (“charge; fee” /yuuryoo/), 料亭 (“Japanese style restaurant” /ryootee/).

  1. The kanji 科 “section; department; charge; penalty; conviction”

History of Kanji 科The seal style writing comprised “a rice plant” (禾), which became a bushu nogihen in kanji, and “a measuring ladle” (斗). Various types of grains such as rice were sorted out using a measuring ladle and were classified. It meant “classification; section; department.” Authorities also measured an appropriate amount of fee and penalty, and it meant “to charge a penalty; conviction.” The kanji 科 means “section; department; charge; penalty; conviction.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ka/ is in 科学 (“sicence” /ka’gaku/), 科学者 (“scientist” /kaga’kusha/), 眼科医 (“an ophthalmologist; eye specialist” /ganka’i/), 科目 (“subject” /kamoku/) and 前科 (“criminal records” /ze’nka/).

  1. The kanji 斜 “diagonal; slanted”

History of Kanji 斜The seal style writing comprised 余, which was used phonetically for /yo; sha/, and 斗 “a measuring ladle.” When one scoops liquid using a ladle, the ladle is held diagonally. From that the kanji 斜 means “diagonal; slanted.”

The kun-yomi 斜め /nana’me/ means “diagonal; slanted.” The on-yomi /sha/ is in 斜線 (“oblique line” /shasen/), 傾斜する (“to incline” /keesha-suru/), 斜面 (“slope” /sha’men/) and 斜陽産業 (“declining industry” /shayoosa’ngyoo/).

  1. The kanji 升 “dipper; measuring ladle”

History of Kanji 升In the two oracle bone style writings we can see grains or liquid that this measuring ladle was scooping up. It is very similar to 斗. In bronze ware style a dot inside the cup still signified that it was not empty. 4 in seal style the three diagonal lines was simplified to one in kanji 升. One sho was 1.8 liters. The kanji 升 means “sho,” a pre-metric measurement system for liquid.

The kun-yomi 升 /masu/ means “box; private seating section.” The on-yomi /shoo/ is in 一升 (1.8 liters)

  1. The kanji 昇 “to rise; ascend”

There is no ancient writing. The seal style writing comprised 日 “sun,” and the bottom 升 was used phonetically for /shoo/ to mean “rise.” Together the kanji 昇 meant “to rise; ascend.”

The kun-yomi 昇る /noboru/ means “to rise; ascend.” The on-yomi /shoo/ is in 上昇する (“to soar” /jooshoo-suru/), 昇華する (“to sublimate” /shooka-suru/), 昇天 (“ascension; death” /shooten/) and昇進 (“promotion; move up” /shooshin/).

There is one more shape that describes a measuring apparatus that I would like to explore. We shall start the next posting with that. Thank you very much for your reading. — Noriko [September 23, 2017]

The Kanji 酒配酎酵酷酌酬醜酔醒酢酸- Food (4) 酉


In this post we are going to look at the kanji 酒配酎酵酷酌酬醜酔醒酢酸 that contains 酉 “a rice wine cask.”

History of Kanji 酉The common component 酉 here is not a Joyo kanji. In all of the ancient writings shown on the right – (a) in oracle bone style, in brown, (b) and (c) in bronze ware style, in green, and (d) seal style, in red, – was “a rice wine cask” or “a cask to keep fermented liquid in.” So all the kanji that we are going to look at pertain to “fermentation” at one stage of the history.

The writing 酉 is used in the 12 Chinese zodiac signs, but, as with the rest of the 12 zodiac signs, the kanji was chosen arbitrarily and had no relation to its meaning. By itself it is pronounced /tori/, and is in 酉年 (“the year of chicken” /toridoshi/). Just a reminder — The kanji for “west” 西 has one stroke fewer, and is not related to this kanji.

  1. The kanji 酒 “alcohol beverage; rice wine; sake

History of Kanji 酒2In oracle bone style (a), “a rice wine cask” was on the left and “water; liquid” on the right. In bronze ware style (b), (c) and (d) “a rice wine cask” was standing alone but the small dots in (c) were pointing out its contents rather than the cask as a container. Together they meant “rice wine.” In (e) in seal style “water; liquid” was separately added to a wine cask, possibly signifying that it was the liquid from which sake lees had been removed. The kanji 酒 means “rice wine; fermented drink; alcohol beverage.”   <The composition of the kanji 酒: 氵and 酉>

The kun-yomi /sake/ means “Japanese rice wine; sake; alcohol beverage,” and is in 酒粕 (“sake lees” /sakekasu/), which is used for cooking as well. /-Zake/ is in 寝酒 (“nightcap” /nezake/), 甘酒 (“sweet sake lee drink” /amaza’ke/) and 居酒屋 (“pub; bar; tavern” /izakaya/).  /Saka-/ is in 酒屋 (“liquor store; alcohol beverage shop” /sakaya/), 酒盛り (”drinking party; drinking bout” /sakamori/). The on-yomi /shu/ is in 日本酒 (“Japanese rice wine” /nihonshu/) and 葡萄酒 (“(grape) wine” /budo’oshu/).

  1. The kanji 配 “to distribute; hand out; arrange”

History of Kanji 配(a) in oracle bone style, (b) and (c) in bronze ware style and (d) in seal style all comprised “a wine cask” on the left and “a squatting person looking at the cask.” He was waiting for rice wine to be handed out to him. It means “to hand out; deal.” In (d) in seal style and kanji 配, the person took the shape 己 “a squatting person; a person.” The kanji 配 means “to distribute; to hand out; to arrange.”  <The composition of the kanji 配: 酉 and 己>

The kun-yomi 配る /kuba’ru/ means “to deliver; deal.” The on-yomi /hai/ is in 配達 (“delivery of goods/food” /haitatsu/), 配分する (“to allocate; distribute” /haibun-suru/), 手配する (“to arrange; provide for” /te’hai-suru/), 配当金 (“divined” /haitookin/). /-Pai/ is in 心配 (“worry” /shinpai/). /-Bai/ is in 軍配 (“an umpire’s fan” in a sumo match /gunbai/).

  1. The kanji 酎 “distilled liquor; flavorful three-time filtered liquor”

History of Kanji 酎The seal style writing comprised 酉 “a rice wine cask,” and 寸 “a hand,” which was used phonetically for /chuu/. Together they meant “flavorful wine that was filtered three times.” The kanji 酎 means “flavorful rice wine.”  <The composition of the kanji 酎: 酉 and 寸>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /chuu/ is in 焼酎 (“white liquor; Japanese distilled liquor made of potato” /shoochu’u/).

  1. The kanji 酵 “yeast; fermentation”

There is no ancient writing. The kanji 酵 had 酉 “a rice wine cask” on the left. The right side 孝 “filial duty” (with 耂, a bushu “old person”) was used phonetically for /koo/, perhaps suggesting a long time to ferment. Together they meant “yeast” that made fermented wine or “fermentation.” The kanji 酵 means “fermentation; yeast.”  <The composition of the kanji 酵: 酉 and 孝 >

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /koo/ is in 発酵する (“to ferment” /hakkoo-suru/), 酵母 (“yeast” /ko’obo/) and 酵素 (“enzyme” /ko’oso/).

  1. The kanji 酷 “cruel”

History of Kanji 酷The seal style writing comprised 酉 “a rice wine cask,” and 告, which was used phonetically for /koku/. Together they meant “intense taste of alcohol.” From that the kanji 酷 means “intense; cruel; harsh.” The phrase  酷のある /koku-no-a’ru/ “full-bodied; robust” is usually written in katakana コク nowadays.   <The composition of the kanji 酷: 酉 and 告>

The kun-yomi 酷い /mugo’i/ means “cruel.” The on-yomi /koku/ is in 残酷な (“cruel; extremely harsh” /zankoku-na/), 酷暑 (“severe heat of summer” /ko’kusho/) and 酷使する (“to drive someone work hard; strain oneself” /ko’kushi-suru/).

  1. The kanji 酌 “to serve wine; scoop out sake”

History of Kanji 酌The seal style writing comprised 酉 “a rice wine cask,” and 勺 “a ladle scooping up,” which was used phonetically for /shaku/. Together they meant “a ladle scooping up wine.” The kanji 酌 means “to serve wine; scoop out sake.”  <The composition of the kanji 酌: 酉 and 勺>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /shaku/ is in お酌する (“to fill someone else’s sake cup” /oshaku-suru/), 晩酌 (“evening dinner-time drink” /banshaku/), 媒酌人 (“matchmaker” at a wedding /baishakunin/) and 酌量 (“consideration” /shakuryoo/).

  1. The kanji 酬 “reply; reward; fee”

History of Kanji 酬In seal style (a) and (b) had 酉 “a rice wine cask” on the left. The right side of (a), 寿 (the kyuji 壽) “long life; auspicious,” was used phonetically for /shuu/. Together they originally meant “to offer a drink of wine to a guest.” Later it meant “to reply; reward.” In (b) 壽 was replaced by the phonetically same 州 /shuu/. The kanji 酬 is also used for “fee.”  <The composition of the kanji 酬: 酉 and 州>

The kun-yomi 酬いる /mukui’ru; mukuiru/ means “to reward.” The on-yomi /shuu/ is in 応酬する (“to make a sharp retort; reply” /ooshuu-suru/) and 報酬 (“reward; fee” /hooshuu/).

  1. The kanji 醜 “ugly”

History of Kanji 醜The seal style writing comprised 酉 “a rice wine cask,” which was used phonetically for /shuu/. The right side was 鬼 “spirit of a deceased; ghost,” which had a frightfully ugly face and ム “a floating spirit.” Together they meant “ugly; mean-spirited; shameful.” <The composition of the kanji 醜: 酉 and 鬼>

The kun-yomi /miniku’i/ means “ugly; shameful.”  The on-yomi /shuu/ is in 醜聞 (“scandal; malicious gossip” /shuubun/) and 醜悪な (“unsightly” /shuuaku-na/).

  1. The kanji 酔 “to become drunk; be intoxicated”

History of Kanji 酔The seal style writing comprised 酉 “a rice wine cask,” and 卒 “to end,” which was used phonetically for /sui/. Together they meant “to drink rice wine to finish off” – thus “to be drunk.” The kyuji 醉, in blue, reflected seal style, but in shinji 酔 the right side 卒 was replaced by 卆. The kanji 酔 means “to become drunk; get inebriated on sake; be intoxicated.”  <The composition of the kanji 酔: 酉 and 卆>

The kun-yomi 酔う /yo’u/ means “to become drunk; become intoxicated,” and is in 船酔い (“seasickness” /hunayoi/), and 酔っ払い (“a drunken man; drunk” /yopparai/). The on-yomi /sui/ is in 心酔する (“to adore; be fascinated by” /shinsui-suru/),  酔狂な (“eccentric; whimsical” /su’ikyoo-na/), 麻酔 (“anesthesia” /masui/) and 陶酔する (“to be intoxicated; be fascinated” /toosui-suru/).

  1. The kanji 醒 “to awaken; have clear awareness”

History of Kanji 醒The seal style writing comprised 酉 “a rice wine cask,” and 星, which was used phonetically for /see/. Together they meant “to sober up from being drunk,” that is “to awaken; have clear awareness.” The kanji 醒 means “to awaken; have clear awareness.” <The composition of the kanji 醒: 酉and 星>

The kun-yomi 醒める /same’ru/ means “to become awake.” The on-yomi /see/ is in 覚醒剤 (“psychostimulant; stimulant drug” /kakuse’ezai/). It is a strange use of this kanji.

  1. The kanji 酢 “vinegar”

History of Kanji 酢The two bronze ware style writings had “a cask of fermented liquid” (酉), and 乍, which was used phonetically for /saku/ to mean “something past,” which is related to the kanji 昨. Rice wine that went bad is vinegar. The kanji 酢 means “vinegar.”  <The composition of the kanji 醒: 酉 and 星>

The kun-yomi 酢 /su/ means “vinegar,” 酢豚 (“sweet and sour pork” /su’buta/) and is in 酢の物 (“a vinegared dish” /suno’mono/). The on-yomi /saku/ is in 酢酸 (“acetic acid” /sakusan/).

  1. The kanji 酸 “sour; acid”

History of Kanji 酸The seal style writing comprised 酉 “a wine cask,” and 夋, which was used phonetically for /san/ to mean “sour.” When wine goes bad it becomes sour. The kanji means “acidic; sour.” <The composition of the kanji 酸: 酉 and 夋>

The kun-yomi 酸っぱい /suppa/i/ means “sour” and is in 甘酸っぱい (/amazuppa’i/ “sweet and sour”). The on-yomi /san/ is in 酸素 (“oxygen” /sa’nso/), 酸性 (“acidity” /sansee/), 塩酸 (“hydrochloric acid” /ensan/), 酸化する(“to oxidize” /sanka-suru/), 炭酸飲料水 (“carbonated drink” /tansan-inryo’osui/) and 乳酸菌 (“lactic acid bacteria” /nyuusankin/).

Among the kanji we did not look at in this post include 醤油 (“soy sauce” /shooyu’/), which is a seasoning liquid that was made of soy beans with yeast (酵母), and the kyuji 醫 for 医, which had 酉 at the bottom as sake to cleanse an arrow wound. We have also looked at 醸 “fermentation” in an earlier post.

When we look at any of the kanji 酒配酎酵酷酌酬醜酔醒酢酸 in isolation, it may appear to have a complex shape. Once we understand the meaning of the common component 酉, however, it reduces our task to just focusing on the other component, which is likely a component we have studied already in other kanji. So, it becomes a matter of comparing simpler shapes and adding “fermentation” to it. That is the advantage of learning kanji by common components, or bushu in a larger sense. — Sorry for my pitch. I know that our regular readers need no such reminder. The old habit of a classroom teacher stating the obvious is hard to lose.  Thank you very much for your reading.  -Noriko [September 9, 2017]

The Kanji 即既憤概・会曽増層憎僧贈- Food (2)


Last week we started exploring kanji that originated food and kitchen, etc. In this second article, two groups of kanji are looked at: The first group is 即既慨概, which contained “food in a raised bowl.” In addition to that three of them contained 旡 “someone with full stomach.” The second group – 会曽層増憎僧贈 – came from “layers in a food steamer” for its meaning and sound.

  1. The kanji 即 “immediate; to accede to the throne; namely”

History of Kanji 即For the kanji 即 in (a) in oracle bone style, in brown, (b) and (c) in bronze ware style, in green, and (d) in seal style, in red, the left side was “food in a raised bowl,” and the right side was “a person about to take a seat to eat.” A person about to do something gave the meaning “at once; immediately.” The sense of immediacy was also used to mean “accession to a throne” (it happens immediately after a predecessor’s death). The kyuji 卽, (e) in blue, comprised 皀 (often explained as “a bowl of food” and “a spoon” (ヒ)), and 卩 “a kneeling person.” In shinji the left side became the bottom of a bushu shokuhen. The kanji 即 means “immediate; instance; to accede to the throne; namely.”

The kun-yomi 即ち /suna’wachi/ means “namely; just; precisely.” The on-yomi /soku/ is in 即時 (“immediate; prompt” /so’kuji/), 即位 (“enthrone” /so’kui/), 即席 (“instant; impromptu” /sokuseki/), 即興 (“improvised amusement” /sokkyoo/) and 即死 (“instant death” /sokushi/).

  1. The kanji 既 “already”

History of Kanji 既For the kanji 既, in (a) and (b) in oracle bone style a person who knelt down in front of food was turning his face away from the food to indicate that he had had enough food. His open mouth is interpreted as belching because of his full stomach. “Having finished eating” gave the meaning “already.” In (c) in bronze ware style and (d) in seal style the two components swapped the positions. In (d) the right side was the reversed shape of 欠 in seal style and became 旡 /ki/ in kanji to mean “full of.” (The kanji 欠 “lack of” and 旡 “full of” had a reverse meaning of each other” in its origin.) The kanji 既 means “already; to be finished.”

The kun-yomi 既に /su’deni/ means “already.” The on-yomi /ki/ is in 既存の (“existing” /kison-no/), 既出 (“aforementioned; previously covered” /kishutsu/), 既婚 (“married” /kikon/), 既製服 (“ready-made clothes; off-the shelf clothing” /kise‘ehuku/), 既成事実 (“an established fact” /kiseeji’jitsu/) and 皆既日食 (“total solar eclipse” /kaiki-ni’sshoku/).

  1. The kanji 慨 “to lament; deplore; grieve over”

FHistory of Kanji 慨or the kanji 慨, the seal style writing comprised “heart,” and 既 “a person looking backward with an open mouth.” A heart full of emotions signified “to lament; grieve over,” and was used phonetically for /gai/. The kanji 慨 means “to lament; deplore; grieve over.”

The on-yomi /gai/  is in 憤慨 (“resentment; indignation” /hungai/) and 感慨 (“strong feelings; deep emotion” /kangai/).

  1. The kanji 概 “roughly; in general”

History of Kanji 概For the kanji 概, in the seal style writing the top 既 was used phonetically for /gai/, and the bottom meant 木 “tree; wood.” Together they originally meant “a wooden strickle – a rod to level off a heaped measure.” Leveling off grains indicated “roughly equal.” The kanji 概 means “roughly; in general.”

The on-yomi /gai/ is in 大概 (“almost; mostly; for the most part; probably; all probability” /taigai/), 概説 (“a rough summary; a rough sketch; brief account” /gaisetsu/), 概観 (“general view; general survey” /gaikan/ and 概要 (“outline; summary; resume” /gaiyoo/).

  1. The kanji 会 “to meet”

History of Kanji 会For the kanji 会 the oracle bone style writing comprised “a crossroad” (彳), “a container with a lid” (合), signifying “to fit; meet,” and “a footprint” at the bottom. Together they meant “to go on foot to meet (someone).” In bronze ware style and seal style it had “a food steamer with a lid with layers of steaming trays” and “a cooking stove” at the bottom. The crossroad disappeared. The kyuji 會 reflected seal style. The shinji 会 is the simplified form with 云 (a shape that is used in place of a complex shape) under 𠆢 “a cover.” The kanji 会 means “to meet; meeting; association.”

The kun-yomi 会う /a’u/ means “ to meet,” and is in 出会う (“to encounter” /dea’u/). The on-yomi /kai/ is in 会合 (“meeting” /kaigoo/), 会議 (“conference; meeting” /ka’igi/), 会計 (“accounts; bill; check” /kaikee/), 会話 (“conversation” /kaiwa/) and in the expression 会心の笑み (“smile of satisfaction” /kaishin-no-e-mi’/). nother on-yomi /e/ is in 会釈 (“a bow” /e’shaku/) and会得する (“to grasp; understand” /etoku-suru/).

  1. The kanji 曽 “formerly; great-grand (father)”

History of Kanji 曽For the kanji 曽, (a) and (b) in bronze ware style was “a steamer” from which steam was rising (八) at the top. A steamer had layers of trays or baskets, and from that it meant “to layer; layered.” The kyuji 曾, (d), reflected (c) in seal style, and became simplified to 曽 in shinji, changing ハ to a truncated ソ, 田 and曰. It was also borrowed to mean “once; on one occasion; formerly” or “three generations ago.” The kanji 曽 means “to lay something on top of another; formerly.”

The kun-yomi /katu/ is in 曽て (“formerly; once” /ka’tsute/). The on-yomi /soo/ is in 曽祖父 (“great-grandfather” /sooso-hu/) and曾孫 (“great-grandchild” /sooson/).

  1. The kanji 層 “layer”

History of Kanji 層For the kanji 層 the seal style comprised 尸 , a bushu shikabane “roof,” and 曾 “layers; to add” and was used phonetically for /soo/. Something in multiple levels meant “stratum.” It is also used for “class of people.” The kyuji 層, 2, reflected 1. The kanji 層 means “layer; stratum.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /soo/ is in 層になる (“to become the layer” /so’o-ni-naru/), 断層 (“fault; dislocation; a gap; difference” /dansoo/) and 階層 (“class; rank; level in society” /kaisoo/).

  1. The kanji 増 “to increase; add”

History of Kanji 増For the kanji 増the seal style writing comprised 土 “dirt; soil,” and 曾 “layer; to add,” which was used phonetically for /soo/. Together adding soil to existing layers meant “to increase.” The kyuji 增, 2, was simplified to 増. The kanji 増 means “to add; increase.”

The kun-yomi 増す /masu/ means “to increase.”  Another kun-yomi /huya’su/ 増やす (transitive verb) and 増える /hue’ru/ (intransitive verb) are “to increase; add.” The on-yomi /zoo/ is 増加 (“increase” /zooka/), 増水 (“the rise of a river; flooding” /zoosui/), 倍増 (“redoubling” /baizoo/) and 増長する (“to grow impudent; become presumptuous; be puffed up (with pride)” /zoochoo-suru/).

  1. The kanji 憎 “to hate”

History of Kanji 憎For the kanji 憎 the seal style writing comprised “heart,” which became , a bushu risshinben, and 曾 “layers; to add,” which was used phonetically for /zoo/. Together “certain emotions that accumulated” gave the meaning “hate.” The kyuji 憎, 2, became shinji 憎. The kanji 憎 means “to hate; detest; abhor; hateful.”

The kun-yomi 憎む /niku’mu/ means “to hate,” and is in 憎しみ (“hatred; animosity; bad blood” /nikushimi/) and 憎い (“detestable; annoying; fantastic; remarkable” /niku’i/). The on-yomi /zoo/ is in 憎悪 (“hatred” /zo’oo/) and 愛憎 (“love and hatred” /aizoo/).

  1. The kanji 僧 “monk”

History of Kanji 僧For the kanji 僧 the seal style writing comprised “a person,” and 曾, which was used phonetically for /soo/. The writing was used as a phonetic rendition of the Buddhism word sampha in Sanskrit. The kanji 僧 means “monk; priest.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /soo/ is in 僧侶 (“monk” /so’oryo/).

  1. The kanji 贈 “to give; present”

History of Kanji 贈For the kanji 贈 the seal style writing comprised 貝 “cowry” signifying “valuable; monetary value,” and 曾 “layers; to add,” which was used phonetically for /soo; zoo/. Giving a present was an act of one conferring or giving a valuable item to another person. The kyuji 贈, 2, was simplified to 贈. The kanji 贈 means “to give; present.”

The kun-yomi 贈る /okuru/ means “to give (a gift).” The on-yomi /zoo/ is in 贈答品 (“gift” /zootoohin/) and 寄贈する (“to contribute; donate” /kazoo-suru/).

The second group会曽層増憎僧贈 is rather straight forward — The common component (曽) was used phonetically for /so; soo; zoo/ as well as to mean “to add; layer.” With , a bushu shikabane 層 means “stratum; level”; with 土, a bushu tsushiben 増 means “to add”; with, a bushu risshinben, 憎 means “hatred”; with イ, a bushu ninben, 僧 means “monk”; and with 貝means a bushu kaihen “to give a present,” and even in kanji会, with 𠆢, a bushu hitoyane 會, in kyuji.

There are many more kanji that originated from things in kitchen and we shall be exploring them in the next few postings.  Thank you very much for your reading.  – Noriko [August 26, 2017]

The Kanji 食飯餓館飽飾飲餌養 – Food (1)


食と食へんThe new area of topics we are going to explore in the this and next several postings is around a kitchen, cooking, measuring, etc. We start kanji with a bushu shokuhen “eating; food” – 食飯餓館飽飾飲餌養. A bushu shokuhen has one stroke fewer than the kanji 食, as shown on the right. We shall also see that not all the kanji with a bushu shokuhen originated from 食.

  1. The kanji 食 “to eat; meal”

History of Kanji 食For the kanji 食, in (a), (b) and (c) in oracle bone style, in brown, it was “food in a raised bowl with a lid.” (b) had the dotted lines on both sides. I am unable to find the account for this in reference, but I am wondering if they signified that there was so much food that it was spilling over. It meant “food; to eat.” (d), in green, was in bronze ware style. In seal style (e), in red, some scholars analyze it as 皀 with 𠆢 — “a cover” (𠆢), “food” (白) and “a spoon; ladle” (ヒ). The kanji 食 means “to eat; food.”  <The composition of the kanji: 𠆢 and 良>

The kun-yomi 食べる /tabe’ru/ means “to eat,” and is in 食べ物 (“food” /tabe’mono/). Another kun-yomi 食う /ku’u/ has many uses — 食う (/ku’u/ “to eat” – a male speaker’s style; or used for an animal), 電池を食う (“to use up battery” /de’nchi-o ku’u/), 足止めを食う or 食らう (“to be prevented leaving” /ashidome-o-ku’u; kura’u/), 虫が食う (“to be eaten by worms” /mushi-ga-ku’u/), 食い止める (“to stop; hold back” /kuitome’ru/), 食ってかかる (“to go at someone; lash out at someone” /ku’ttekakaru/) and 食い違う (“do not match; go wrong” /kuichigau/). The on-yomi /shoku/ is in 食事 (“meal” /shokuji/), 朝食 (“breakfast” /chooshoku/), 食材 (“food; ingredients” /shokuzai/), 粗食 (“plain food” /soshoku/), 食料品 (“foodstuffs; groceries” /shokuryoohin/) and 給食 (“school lunch” /kyuushoku/).

  1. The kanji 飯 “cooked rice; meal”

History of Kanji 飯For the kanji 飯, in bronze ware style and seal style it comprised “food in a raised bowl with a lid,” and 反, which was used phonetically for /han/. Together they originally meant “cooked grains such as rice and millet.” The kanji 飯 means “cooked rice; meal.” <The composition of the kanji 飯: a bushu shokuhen and 反>

The kun-yomi 飯 /meshi’/ means (“mea” /meshi’/ by a male speaker), and is in 昼飯 (“lunch” /hirumeshi/ by a male speaker), 握り飯 (“rice ball” /nigirimeshi/) and 朝飯前 (“piece of cake; snap” /asamashima’e/). The on-yomi /han/ is in (お)赤飯 (“steamed sticky rice with red azuki beans” for a celebratory meal /oseki’han/ or /sekihan/), 炊飯器 (“(electric) rice cooker” /suiha’nki/), 五目ご飯 (“rice cooked with a few other ingredients” /gomoku-go’han/) and in the expression 日常茶飯事 (“daily occurrence” /nichijoosaha’nji/). /-Pan/ is in 残飯 (“leftovers from a meal” /zanpa’n/).

  1. The kanji 餓 “to starve”

History of Kanji 餓For the kanji 餓, the seal style writing comprised “food in a raised bowl with a lid,” and 我, which was used phonetically for /ga/ to mean “to starve.” The kanji 餓 means “to starve.” A few postings ago, we looked at another kanji that meant “to starve” – the kanji 飢. The kanji 飢 focuses on lack of food (such as in famine).   <The composition of the kanji 餓: a bushu shokuhen and 我>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ga/ is in 飢餓 (“starvation” /ki’ga/), 餓死 (“death due to starvation” /ga’shi/) and 餓鬼 (“imp” /ga’ki/; “young mischievous kid; brat” spoken by a male speaker” /gaki’/).

4. The kanji 館 “building; large house”

History of Kanji 館For the kanji 館, the seal style writing had “food in a raised bowl with a lid” (食), and 官 “a place where military officers stay,” which was used phonetically for /kan/. Together they originally meant “a place where many people gather and eat.” The kanji 館 means “a large building; mansion.”  <The composition of the kanji 館: a bushu shokuhen and 官>

The kun-yomi 館 /yataka/ means “a mansion; a large house.” The on-yomi /kan/ is in 旅館(“Japanese-style inn” /ryokan/), 会館 (“hall; clubhouse; building” /kaikan/), 図書館 (“library” /tosho’kan/), 大使館 (“embassy” /taishi’kan/) and 水族館 (“aquarium” /suizoku’kan/).

  1. The kanji 飽 “to grow tired; weary; be fed up; full”

History of Kanji 飽For the kanji 飽, in Old style the left side of (a), in purple, had “a covered bowl of food.” The right side had “a hand” over “a baby.” Together they meant “feeding a baby to full stomach.” The top of (b) is not clear, but it could be two doors to an altar, and (b) means “to offer food to satisfy a god.” In seal style in (c) the right side was replaced by 包 “to wrap up completely,” from a baby in mother’s womb, and was used phonetically for /hoo/ to mean “full.” After eating much food one’s stomach was full. With too much of anything one gets weary of. The kanji 飽 means “to become tired of; be saturated; weary; full.”  <The composition of the kanji 飽: a bushu shokuhen and 包>

The kun-yomi 飽きる /aki’ru/ means “to grow weary of; become tired of.” It is in 飽きが来る (“to grow tired of” /aki’ga-kuru/), 飽き足らない (“unsatisfying” /akitaranai/), 聞き飽きた (“I got tired of hearing it” /kikia’kita/) and 飽くまで (“to the bitter end; to the last; stubbornly” /aku’made/). The on-yomi /hoo/ is in 飽和 (“saturation” /hoowa/).

  1. The kanji 飾 “to decorate”

History of Kanji 飾For the kanji 飾, the left side of the seal style writing had 食 “food in a raised bowl with a lid” and 人 “person” on the right top, and 巾 “cloth” at the bottom. Together they meant “a person in front of a bowl of food wiping the bowl with a piece of cloth.” It meant “to make it clean or pretty.” The kanji 飾 meant “to decorate; embellish.”  <The composition of the kanji 飾: a bushu shokuhen, a short ノ, 一 and 巾>

The kun-yomi 飾る /kazaru/ means “to decorate,” and is in 髪飾り(“hair accessory” /kamika’zari/), 飾り付け (“decoration” /kazaritsuke/) and 着飾る (“to dress up” /kikazaru/). The on-yomi /shoku/ is in 修飾語 (“modifier” in grammar /shuushokugo/), 服飾デザイナー (“dress designer” /hukushoku-deza’inaa/) and 粉飾決算 (“fraudulent account; window dressing settlement” /hunshoku-ke’ssan/).

In the next three kanji – 飲餌養, the bushu shokuhen originated from something other than “food in a raised bowl with a lid.”

  1. The kanji 飲 “to drink; swallow”

History of Kanji 飲For the kanji 飲, in oracle bone style (a) had “a person trying to drink wine from a large wine cask.” If we look at (a) closely, the tongue was a forked shape, as was in the ancient writings of the kanji 舌 “tongue,” indicating eating. It meant “to drink (wine).” (b) in oracle bone style was a large wine cask (酉) with a stopper at the top. The left side of (c) and (d) in bronze ware style and (e) in seal style had a wine cask with a stopper. The right side was a person trying to drink or opening his mouth wide. In the kyuji 飮, (f) in blue, the cask was replaced by a bushu shokuhen “to eat; food.” The reason could be that a bushu 酉 was primarily used for fermented liquid and the kanji 飲 is more inclusive of liquids and food that one drinks or swallows without chewing. The kanji 飲 meant “to drink; swallow.”  <The composition of the kanji 飲: a bushu shokuhen and 欠 >

The kun-yomi 飲む /no’mu/ means “to drink; swallow,” and is in 飲み込む (“to swallow; understand” /nomiko’mu/), 飲み込みがいい (“quick to comprehend” /nomikomi-ga-ii/), 飲食店 (“restaurant” /inshoku’ten/), 飲料水 (“drinking water” /inryo’osui/) and 誤飲 (“drinking or swallowing by mistake” /goin/).

  1. The kanji 餌 “bait; feed”

History of Kanji 餌For the kanji 餌, the two seal style writings, (a) and (b), had totally different shapes. (a) was “a vessel to keep grains” (鬲) with 耳 on top, which was used phonetically for /ji/ to mean “flour dumpling.” Together they originally meant “steamed dumpling.” (b) had “food on a raised bowl with a lid” on the left side, and 耳 “ear,” which was used phonetically for /ji/. The kanji 餌 means “animal feed; bait; lure.”  <The composition of the kanji 餌: a bushu shokuhen and 耳>

The kun-yomi 餌 (“bait; lure; animal feed” /esa’; e’/), and is in 餌付ける (“to feed (to domesticate)” /ezuke’ru/) and 餌食になる (“to become a victim” /e’jiki-ni-naru/). The on-yomi /ji/ is not on the Joyo kanji list.

  1. The kanji 養 “to support; nourish; foster”

History of Kanji 養For the kanji 養, (a) in oracle bone style and (b) and (c) in bronze ware style had a sheep on the left, which was used phonetically for /yoo/ to mean “to feed.” The right side was “a stick held by a hand,” signifying “action.” Together they signified sheep farming. The right side would have become 攴 in kanji, but in seal style, (d), the kanji 食 “to eat; food” replaced it. The kanji 養 means “to support (by providing food); nourish; foster.”  <The composition of the kanji 養: 羊 with a short last stroke, 八 and 良>   (P. S. — Actually (a) was “a cow; ox,” judging from the shape of the horns. August 20, 2017)

Other kanji such as 飼 “to keep animal,” 飢 “to starve” and 餅 “rice cake” do not have ancient writing and are phonetic-semantic kanji, in which a bushu shokuhen signified “food.”

In this posting we have seen in all the kanji that a bushu shokuhen, which is one stroke fewer than the kanji 食, pertains to food, eating or drinking.  Some kanji even did not contain 食 in earlier writings, but for the meaning of “food; eating” a bushu shokuhen took over as a semantic feature.  We shall continue exploring the topic around food preparation and eating in the next several postings. Thank you very much for your reading. – Noriko [August 19, 2017]

The Kanji 将奨状壮荘装床 – “table” (3) 爿   


This is the third post on kanji that originated from “a table.” We are going to explore a table with two legs that were placed vertically – 爿.  The kanji in this post are 将奨状壮荘装 and 床.

  1. The kanji 将 “military leader; immediate future”

History of Kanji 将For the kanji 将, in bronze ware style, in green, it had爿”a vertically placed two-legged table,” 月 “a piece of meat,” and 刀 “a knife.” Together they signified placing the offering of sacrificial animal meat on an altar table right before a battle. The person who conducted the rite was a military leader – thus it meant “military leader; general.” It was conducted right before embarking on a battle – thus it meant “immediate future.” In seal style, in red, and the kyuji 將, in blue, the bottom became 寸 “hand.” In shinji 将, the legs of the table were simplified to a ハ shape, vertically placed, and the piece of meat was replaced by “a hand with fingers showing from above.” The kanji 将 means “a military leader; general; immediate future.”  <the composition of the kanji 将: the reduced shape of 爿, a small ノ, a truncated ツ and 寸>

The kun-yomi /ma’sa/ is in 将に (“just; precisely” /ma’sa-ni/), not included in Joyo kanji kun-reading. The on-yomi /sho’o/ is in 将軍 (“general; shogunate in Japanese history” /shogun/), 大将 (“admiral; general; chief” /ta’ishoo/), 将校 (“commissioned officer” /sho’okoo/), 主将 (“captain” /shushoo/) and 将来 (“near future” /sho’orai/).

  1. The kanji 奨 “to urge; commend; encourage”

History of Kanji 奨For the kanji 奨 the seal style writing had a vertically placed  table (爿), “ a piece of meat” (月), which was used phonetically for 將 /shoo/, and “dog” (犬) at the bottom right. Together they meant “to recommend; encourage.” The role of a dog is not clear, but some scholars view it that “setting a dog on” gave the meaning “to instigate; encourage.” (Personally I do not feel this explanation sits well.) In the kyuji 奬 the bottom was replaced by 大 “person.” (In many of the kanji that contained 犬 “a dog” in ancient writing, it lost the short stroke, and became 大 “person” or “big.”) The kanji 奨 means “to urge; commend; encourage.” <the composition of the kanji 奨: 将 and 大>

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /sho’o/ is in 奨励する (“to give encouragement to; promote” /suishoo-suru/), 推奨する (“to recommend; endorse”) and 奨学金 (“scholarship; stipend” /shoogakukin/).

  1. The kanji 状 “state; condition; letter”

History of Kanji 状For the kanji 状 the seal style writing comprised “a vertically placed table” (爿), which was used phonetically for /joo/, and “a dog” (犬). For this kanji Setsumon explained it as “the shape of a dog.” It meant “shapes; conditions.” One reported the condition of a matter by a letter, thus it also meant “letter; a piece of paper.” The kanji 状 means “state; condition; letter.”  <the composition of the kanji 状: the reduced shape of 爿 and 犬>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /joo/ is in 状態 (“condition” /jootai/), 状況 (“situation” /jookyoo/), 白状する (“to confess” /ha’kujoo-suru/), 状差し (“letter holder” /joosa’shi/), 紹介状 (“letter of introduction” /shookaijoo/), 令状 (“warrant” /reejoo/) and 礼状 (“thank you letter” /reejoo/).

  1. The kanji 壮 “grand; manly; strong”

History of Kanji 壮For the kanji 壮 the seal style writing comprised 爿 “a table with legs that was placed vertically” and was used phonetically for /shoo; soo/.  The right side 士, “man; warrior,” came from an ceremonial axe to signify that a man belongs to the “warrior class.” Together they meant “grand; manly; strong.”  <the composition of the kanji 壮: a reduced shape of 爿 and 士>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /soo/ is in 壮大な (“grand; magnificent /soodai-na/). 勇壮な (“brave; heroic; valiant; gallant” /yuusoo-na/), 壮観 (“thrilling sight; spectacle view” /sookan/), 壮行会 (“farewell party; a rousing send-off” /sooko’okai/) and 悲壮な (“in the midst of grief; tragic but courageous” /hisoo-na/).

  1. The kanji 荘 “villa; manor; solemn; grand”

History of Kanji 荘For the kanji 荘, (a) in bronze ware style had爿“a vertically placed table,” 由 and 口, together having the meaning “grandness in religious ceremony, and meant “grand; solemn.” (b) in Old style, in purple, had a table (爿), deceased bones (歹) on a table (几). (For the Old style (b) I have not been able to find an analysis in references.) (c) in seal style had 艸 “grass” and 壮, which was /soo/ phonetically. Together a place where many trees and plants vigorously grew gave the meaning “villa; manor.” The kanji 荘 means “villa; manor; solemn; grand.”  <the composition of the kanji 荘: 艹 and 壮>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /soo/ (in kan-on) is in 別荘 (“villa; vacation home; country place” /be’ssoo/), 荘重な (“solemn; imposing” /soochoo-na/) and 荘厳な (“solemn; majestic” /soogon-na/).’’ Another on-yomi /shoo/ (in go-on) is in 荘園 (“a private estate owned by a noble, temple or shrine” /shooen/).

  1. The kanji 装 “to wear clothes; equip; pretend”

History of Kanji 装For the kanji 装 in seal style the top 壮 was used phonetically for /soo/ to mean “grand; manly,” and the bottom 衣 meant “clothes” from “collar.” From putting on a good outfit to look grand it meant “to put on good clothes; equip with gear.” It also meant “to pretend.” The kanji 装 means “to wear clothes; equip; pretend.”  <the composition of the kanji 装: 壮 and 衣>

The kun-yomi 装う /yosooo/ means “to dress oneself; be attired; feign; pretend.” The on-yomi /soo/ (in kan-on) is in 偽装する (“to camouflage something as” /gisoo-suru/), 装備する (“to equip” /so’bi-suru/), 装飾 (“decoration” /sooshoku/), and 正装 (“formal attire” /seesoo/). Another on-yomi /shoo/ (in go-on) is in 衣装 (“clothing; attire” /i’shoo/) and 装束 (“costume; attire” /sho’ozoku/), as in 白装束 (“white shroud” /shirosho’ozoku/).

  1. The kanji 床 “floor; bed”

History of Kanji 床There is one more kanji that I would like to bring in – the kanji 床, even though 爿 does not appear on the surface. The kanji 床 had the Correct writing style 牀, in green, on the left. The kanji 牀 comprised 爿 “table; wooden plank,” which was used phonetically for /shoo/, and 木 “wood.” Together they meant “wooden floor; wooden bed.” The kanji 床 became a popular writing for 牀 in much later times. The kanji 床 means “floor; bed.”  <the composition of the kanji 床: 广 and 木>

The kun-yomi 床 /yuka/ means “floor.” Another kun-yomi 床 /toko/ means “sleeping futon laid out,” 床を取る (“to lay futon” /toko-o to’ru/), perhaps a slightly old expression, and is also in 床の間 (“alcove; the recess in a Japanese room in which a scroll may be hung” /tokonoma/) and 床屋 (“barber shop” /tokoya/). /-Doko/ is in 寝床 (“sleeping bed; berth” /nedoko/). The on-yomi /shoo/ is in 温床 (“hotbed” /onshoo/),  起床時間 (“the hour of rising; the time one gets up” /kishooji’kan/), 病床 (“sick bed” /byooshoo/) and 臨床試験 (“clinical trial” /rinshoo-shi’ken/).

It seems that we need one more posting before finishing this topic. In the next posting we shall look at kanji that originated from 疒 “illness” from “a person lying on a bed.”  Thank you very much for your reading.  – Noriko  [July 29, 2017]

The Kanji 丙柄商更梗硬便 – “a table” (2)丙


In this post we are going to explore another table shape – 丙. The seven kanji 丙柄商更梗硬便 have either 丙 in kanji 丙柄 or in earlier writings of the kanji 商更梗硬便.

  1. The kanji 丙 “poor grade”

History of Kanji 丙The kanji 丙 has quite limited use in the current writing system, but it had a longer history than some other kanji. (a) in oracle bone style and (b), (c) and (d) in bronze ware style was a pictograph of a table or a pedestal to place something on. Unlike 几, the legs were fortified with diagonal supports. It was used phonetically for /hee/ and was borrowed to mean a certain time in the Chinese calendar. In (e) another line was added to indicate that this table was a place to put something on or a pedestal.  In Japanese 丙 was also used to indicate a lowest grade  in 甲乙丙 /ko’o o’tsu he’e/ “Top, Medium and Low.” The kanji 丙 means “the third-class; poor grade.”   <the composition of the kanji 丙: 一 and 内>

The kun-yomi /hinoe/ is a name of the calendar time. The on-yomi /koo/ is in 丙種 (“C-grade; third grade” /he’eshu/).

  1. The kanji 柄 “handle; power; demeanor; pattern”

History of Kanji 柄(a) in oracle bone style had a tree on top of a base, whereas in (b) in seal style the two components were placed side by side.  Together they signified a ladle with a long wooden stick. A long wooden stick or handle could be a tool to manipulate something or even a person. From that it also meant “power; to handle power; manner in which a matter is handled.” In Japanese it also means “pattern.” The kanji 柄 means “a handle; power; to manipulate; demeanor; pattern.”  < the composition of the kanji 柄: 木 and 丙>

The kun-yomi 柄 /e/ means “handle.” Another kun-yomi /gara/ means “pattern,” and is in 大柄な (“a person with a large build; large pattern,” /oogara-na/), 人柄 (“a person’s character; disposition” /hitogara/), 家柄 (“social standing of a family; good family” /iegara/), 柄の悪い (“vulgar” /gara-no-waru’i/) and 間柄 (“relationship” /aidagara/). The on-yomi /hee/ is in 横柄な(“arrogant; disdainful” /o’ohee-na/). It is also used in 柄杓(“ladle with a long handle” /hishaku/).

  1. The kanji 商 “commerce; trade; business”

History of Kanji 商(a) and (b) in oracle bone style comprised “a tattooing needle” at the top and “a table” at the bottom. In (c) and (d) in bronze ware style and (e) in seal style, 口 “mouth or a box of benedictions” was added. There have been various views on the origin of 商. One view is that a person who had the power to tattoo criminals also talked or prayed to a god to ask the will of a god. The meaning of god was dropped but the meaning of asking someone if he is interested in trading business. It meant “commerce.” Another view, which is often cited, is that 商 /sho’o/ (Shang in Chinese) was the capital of the ancient dynasty 殷, Yin (Shang).  When the Shang dynasty fell they became merchants travelling around the country. From that the kanji 商 meant “trade; commerce.”  <the composition of the kanji 商: 立 without the last stroke, 冂, 八 and 口>

The kun-yomi 商い /aki’nai/ means “sale.”  The on-yomi /shoo/ is in 商品 (“merchandize” /sho’ohin/), 商売 (“business; trade; transaction” /sho’obai/), 商談 (“business negotiation” /shoodan/), 商才 (“business acumen” /shoosai/) and 年商 (“annual turnover; annual business volume” /nenshoo/).

  1. The kanji 更 “again; further; to change”

History of Kanji 更In oracle bone style (a) had “a table” at the top and “a hand with a stick” signifying “to hit; cause something.” In bronze ware style in (b) and (c) another table was added, signifying “repeat” or “replacing.” (d) in seal style became 丙 at the top and 攴 at the bottom. In kanji, the two components were coalesced into one, in which an elongated shape of a hand (又) may be recognized in the last two strokes.  The kanji 更 means “again; further; to change.”

The kun-yomi 更に (“in addition to; furthermore” /sa’ra-ni/), 今更 (“at this late time; afresh”  /imasara/). Another kun-yomi 更ける /huke’ru/ means “to grow late; (time) advance,” and is in 夜更け (“deep in the night; late at night” /yohuke’/). The on-yomi /koo/ is in 更衣室 (“a clothes changing room; locker room” /kooishitu/), 更新する (to renew”  /kooshin-suru/) and 更生 (“rehabilitation; regeneration” /koosee/).

  1. The kanji 梗 “hard”

History of Kanji 梗The seal style writing was comprised of 木 on the left, and 丙 and攴 (which became 更 in kanji), which was used phonetically for /koo/. It is used for a mountain elm tree, which was thorny and hard. The kanji 梗 means “hard.”  <the composition of the kanji梗: 木 and 更>

There is no kun-yomi. This kanji is rarely used, except in medical terms such as 脳梗塞 (“cerebral infarction” /nooko’osoku/) and 心筋梗塞 (“cardiac infarction; heart infarction”/shinkinko’osoku/), and a flower called 桔梗 /kikyoo/ “balloon flower; platycodon,” an elegant dark blue-purple flower that appears in Japanese design. (I have never seen any in the U. S., except on a nursery catalogue.)

  1. The kanji 硬 “hard; stiff”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 硬. The kanji is comprised of 石 “rock; stone” and 更, which was used phonetically for /koo/ to mean “hard.” Together they meant something solid and hard like a rock.   The kanji 硬 means “hard; rigid.”  <the composition of the kanji硬: 石 and 更>

The kun-yumi 硬い /katai/ means “hard; rigid.” The on-yomi /koo/ is強硬な (“strong; firm; aggressive” /kyookoo-na/), 生硬な (“raw; crude; unrefined” /seekoo-na/), 硬貨 (“coin; metallic money” /ko’oka/), 硬直した (“rigid; stiff” /koochokushita/) and 態度を硬化させる (“to stiffen one’s attitude” /ta’ido o ko’oka-saseru/).

  1. The kanji 便 “convenient; service; bowel movement”

History of Kanji 便The seal style writing comprised イ“person” and 更 “to renew.” From the meaning of “a person changed something to make it better,” it meant “convenient; service.” It is also used for something that happened regularly such as “service; bowel movement.” The kanji 便 means “convenient; service; bowel movement.”  <the composition of the kanji便: イ and 更>

The kun-yomi /ta’yori/ means “letter.” The on-yomi /ben/ is in 便利な (“convenient; handy” /be’nri-na/), 不便な (“inconvenient” /hu’ben-na/), 便宜を図る (“to accommodate” /be’ngi-o haka’ru/), バスの便がいい (“to have good bus service” /ba’su-no-bn-ga i’i/), 小便 (“urin” /shoobe’n/) and 大便 (“excrement” /daiben/). Another on-yomi /bin/ is in 全日空001便 (“the All Nippon Airways flight number 1” /zenni’kkuu ichibin/), 航空便 (“airmail” /kookuubin/), 便乗する (“yo avail oneself of; jump on the bandwagon; take a ride” /binjoo-suru/) and 穏便な (“amicable; peaceful” /onbin-na/).

There are a couple of more “table shapes” that developed into kanji components (爿 and 疒). We shall continue with these shapes in the next post. Thank you very much for your reading.  – Noriko  [July 23, 2017]

The Kanji 則側測賊 and 墳噴憤 – 貝(4) 


This is the fourth posting on kanji that contain the shape 貝. In the first two postings, we explored the shape 貝 related to a “cowrie” that signified “money; value.” In the third posting we explored the shape 貝 related to a “three-legged bronze vessel.” In this posting we are continuing with a three-legged bronze vessel – the kanji 則側測賊. I have realized this week that there is another shape, 賁, that contains 貝 and can be explained as a cowrie. The 墳噴憤 are added to conclude our exploration of the shape 貝.

  1. The kanji 則 “rule; law”

History of Kanji 則For the kanji 則, we have three writing samples in bronze ware style, in green, here. (a) had two three-legged bronze ware vessels whereas (b) and (c) has just one vessel. The right side was a knife. The knife next to the vessel has been given different accounts — It was a knife used as a utensil for eating food that was cooked in the vessel. Sacrificial animal meat and other food that was offered to a deity was also shared by participants in a religious rite. Something that always accompanied the vessel signified “the rules always to be abided by.” Another account is that a knife signified inscription on the vessel [Shirakawa]. What was inscribed on a bronze ware stayed for a long time and was to be abided by — thus “rules; laws.” The double vessels in (a), and (d) in Old style, in purple, are explained by Shirakawa as signifying the fact that important contracts were inscribed in two vessels for each party to keep as proof. In kanji the knife became刂, a bushu rittoo “a knife placed vertically.”

In the last post in discussing the kanji 敗 we touched upon ambiguity of interpreting 貝 as a cowrie or a three- or four-legged bronze vessel. We can see that the kanji 則 is another example. Kyoshin (許慎 Xu Shen), the compiler of Setsumon Kaiji at the turn of the second century A.D., took them (in (d) in 則, I believe) as cowries.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /soku/ is in 規則 (“rules; bylaw; statutory instrument” /ki’soku/), 法則 (“law; principle; rule” /hoosoku/), 鉄則 (“ironclad rule; inviolable rule” /tessoku/) and 変則的な (“irregular” /hensokuteki-na/).

  1. The kanji 側 “close by; side; aspect”

History of Kanji 側For the kanji 側, the bronze ware style writing, and the seal style writing, in red, had a “person” (イ), a “three-legged bronze ware vessel” (貝) and a “knife” (刀).  則 was used phonetically for /soku/. A person standing next to the vessel meant “by the side.” The kanji 側 means “close by; side.”

The kun-yomi /-kawa; -gawa/ is in 向こう側 (“opposite side; the other side” /mukoogawa/), 裏側 (“behind; the back side” /uragawa/) and 片側 (“one side” /katagawa/). The on-yomi /soku/ is in 側面 (“aspect; side view; profile; flank” /sokumen/) and 側近 (“close adviser; member of one’s entourage”).

  1. The kanji 測 “to measure”

History of Kanji 測The seal style writing of the kanji 測 comprised “water” and 則, which was used phonetically for /soku/ to mean “standard.” Together they signified measuring the depth of water or in a more general sense of “to measure.” The kanji 測 means “to measure.”

The kun-yomi 測る /haka’ru/ means “to measure. The on-yomi /soku/ is in 測量 (“location survey” /sokuryoo/), 推測する (“to guess; presume; speculate” /suisoku-suru/) and 目測 (“eye-estimation; measurement with the eye” /mokusoku/).

  1. The kanji 賊 “damage due to a robbery; thief”

History of Kanji 賊In the bronze ware style of the kanji 賊. we see a halberd (戈) on the top right and a three-legged vessel (貝) underneath. But what was the small piece on the left side of the vessel?  Was it a “knife” or a “person”?  As I mentioned in earlier posts, a knife and a person looked so alike in bronze ware style that they caused some confusion. History of Kanji 戎(frame)Then when I looked up the ancient writing for 戎 (“soldier; weapon” /e’bisu; kai/), which was the right side of the kanji 賊, it became clear that it was a shield or armor (The history is shown on the right). The kanji 戎 had a halberd (戈) and a shield, making up the meaning “weapons.” So, the kanji 賊 comprises 貝 “three-legged vessel” and 戎 “weapons; soldier.” Together they meant scraping an inscription of an oath out of bronze ware to revoke it. It was also used to mean injuring a person. The kanji 賊 means “to damage; damage due to a robbery; robber.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /zoku/ is in 賊が押し入る (“a robber breaks into it” /zoku-ga-oshiiru/), 海賊 (“pirate” /kaizoku/), 海賊版 (“pirated edition” /kaizokuban/), 盗賊 (“robber; thief” /toozoku/), 盗賊の一味 (“a pack of thieves” /toozoku-no ichi’mi/) and 賊軍 (“rebels; rebel army” /zokugun/).

History of Kanji 賁(frame)We leave the exploration of the kanji that originated from a legged bronze ware vessel here. The last shape we are exploring in this group of four posts is the shape 賁. The kanji 賁 /hi; hun/ is not a Joyo kanji but we have the history shown on the right side. The bronze ware style was richly decorated ornament. In seal style a cowrie was added to indicate decoration with cowries. The kanji 賁 means “to decorate colorfully,” and when it is used as a component it meant “to burst out.”

  1. The kanji 墳 “burial mound”

History of Kanji 墳The seal style writing of the kanji 墳 comprised 土 “soil; dirt” and 賁, which was used phonetically for /hun/ to mean “causing something to swell; rise.” Together they meant a burial mound of ancient times. In kanji 土 became a bushu tsuchihen “ground; dirt.” The kanji 墳 means “burial mound.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /hun/ is in 古墳 (“ancient burial mound; ancient tomb” /kohun/), 古墳時代 (“tumulus period; Kofun period” /kohunji’dai/) and 墳墓 (“tomb; grave” /hu’nbo/).

  1. The kanji 噴 “to spout out; erupt; blow out”

History of Kanji 噴The seal style writing of the kanji 噴 comprised 口 “mouth; opening” and 賁, which was used phonetically for /hun/ to mean “to burst out; gush out.” Together they meant “to gush out.”

The kun-yomi 噴き出す /hukida’su/ means “to spout out; erupt; blow out.” The on-yomi /hun/ is in 噴出 (“to gush out; eject” /hunshutu/), 噴水 (“fountain” /hunsui/) and 火山の噴火 (“volcanic eruption” /kazan-no hunka/).

  1. The kanji 憤 “to anger; outrage; indignation”

History of Kanji 憤The seal style writing of the kanji 憤 comprised “heart” and 賁, which was used phonetically for /hun/to mean “to burst out.” Together a heart gushing out with emotions meant “to anger; rancor ; outrage; indignation” In kanji, a heart became 忄, a bushu risshinben “heart.” The kanji 憤 means “anger; rancor; outrage; indignation.”

The kun-yomi 憤る /ikidoo’ru/ means “to be furious about; seethe with anger.” The on-yomi /hun/ is in 憤慨する (“to get very angry; feel indignant” /hungai-suru/), 義憤 (“righteous indignation” /gihun/) and 憤激する (“to flare up; explode with anger” /hungai-suru/).

We shall move to another topic in the next post.  Thank you very much for your reading.  – Noriko [July 8, 2017]