The Kanji 皿益塩温蓋尽盛盗盆血- Food (8)


We have been exploring kanji whose origin was related to food preparation and kitchens. In this post we are going to explore the kanji that contain 皿 “a stemmed dish or bowl” — the kanji 皿益塩温蓋尽盛盗盆血.

  1. The kanji 皿 “flat dish; plate”

History of Kanji 皿For the kanji 皿 (a) and (b) in oracle bone style, in brown, was “a stemmed dish or bowl.” It meant “dish; bowl; plate.” (c) in bronze ware style, in green, had “metal” added. (d) in seal style, in red, was back to a stemmed bowl only. The kanji 皿 means “a flat dish; plate.”

The kun-yomi /sara/ means “plate,” and is in the expression 目を皿にする (“to open one’s eyes wide” /me’-o sara-ni-suru/). /-Zara/ is in 大皿 (“platter; large dish” /oozara/), and 灰皿 (“ash tray” /haizara/), 取り皿 (“individual plate” /tori’zara/) and 受け皿 (“saucer; receiver” /uke’zara/). There is no on-yomi.

  1. The kanji 益 “gain; profit”

History of Kanji 益For the kanji 益 in oracle bone style and bronze ware style, a stemmed dish had “drops of water overflowing.” What was superabundant gave the meaning “to increase; gain.” In seal style the top was the seal style writing for “water” 水 that was placed sideways. The kanji 益 means “gain; profit.”  <the composition of the kanji 益: a truncated ソ, 一, ハ and 皿>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /eki/ is in 利益 (“profit; return; gain” /ri’eki/), 国益 (“national interest; national prosperity” /kokueki/), 公益 (“public welfare; public interest” /kooeki/), 収益 (“proceeds; earning” /shu’ueki/) and 純益 (“net profit” /ju’n-eki/).  Another on-yomi /yaku/ is in ご利益 (“divine favor” /gori’yaku/).

  1. The kanji 塩 “salt”

History of Kanji 塩For the kanji 塩 the seal style writing and the kyuji 鹽, in blue, had a complex shape — The top left, 臣, was “a watchful eye,” and the top right had “a person looking down a salt field where dots signified salt crystals.” The bottom was “a stemmed bowl with water inside.” The makings of this writing were very similar to 監 “to watch carefully,” which was phonetically /kan/. In the kanji 塩, the initial consonant disappeared. With a salt pit added it meant “salt.” The shinji 塩 was an informal style of the kyuji 鹽. The kanji 塩 means “salt.”  <the composition of the kanji 塩: a bushu tsuchihen, a short ノ, 一, a side-long 口 and 皿 >

The kun-yomi /shio’/ means “salt,” and is in 塩加減 (“seasoning with salt” /shioka’gen/), 塩辛い (“salty; briny” /shiokara’i/), 塩味 (“saline taste” /shio’aji/), 塩っぱい (“salty” /shoppa’i/), 塩気 (“salty taste; a hint of salt” /shioke/). The on-yomi /en/ is in 塩分 (“salt content; saline matter” /e’nbun/), 減塩醤油 (“light sodium soy sauce” /gen-ensho’oyu/) and 塩化ビニール (“vinyl chloride” /enkabini’iru/).

  1. The kanji 温 “warm; mild; gentle”

History of Kanji 温For the kanji 温 the left side of the seal style writing was “water.” The right side had “a stemmed bowl whose steam was captured inside a lid.” Together they meant “warm; mild; gentle.” The kanji 温 means “warm; mild; gentle.”  <the composition of the kanji 温: 氵, 日 and 皿>

The kun-yomi 温かい /atataka’i/ means “warm; mild; genial,” and is in 温める (“to warm” /atatame’ru/).  The on-yomi /on/ is in 温度 (“temperature” /o’ndo/), 温度計 (“thermometer” /ondokee/), 体温計 (“thermometer to take body temperature” /taionkee/), 気温 (“air temperature” /kion/), 温暖な (“mild; warm” /ondan-na/), 温和な 人 (“gentle person” /o’nwa-na/) and 温泉 (“hot spring; spa” /onsen/).

  1. The kanji 蓋 “lid; to cover; enwrap”

History of Kanji 蓋For the kanji 蓋 in bronze ware style (a) had “grass; plants” signifying “a covering like thatching” at the top while (b) did not. Both had “a lid or cover over a stemmed bowl.” In (c) in seal style the grass covering returned to signify “a cover.” The writing was also used to mean “probably; perhaps.” The kanji 蓋 means “a lid; to cover; possibly.”  <the composition of the kanji 蓋: 艹, 去 and 皿>

The kun-yomi 蓋 /huta/ means “cover; lid,” and is in 蓋をする “to put a cover on; put a lid on.”  /-Buta/ is in 鍋蓋 (“pot lid” /nabebuta/). The on-yomi /gai/ is in 蓋然性 (“possibility” /gaizensee/).

  1. The kanji 尽 “to exhaust; run out; devote”

History of Kanji 尽For the kanji 尽in oracle bone style it had “a stemmed bowl with a twig that was held from the top.” The twigs were used to cleanse the bowl completely. It meant “thoroughly.” In seal style it comprised “a brush (聿)” and “a stemmed bowl (皿)” along with “a fire” in the middle. The fire signified “drying.” Another view is that it was water droplets after washing that was mistaken as a fire, and became four dots in the kyuji 盡. The shinji 尽 was an informal writing of 盡. I must say that it is a drastically reduced shape from the kyuji. The kanji 尽 means “to exhaust; run out; devote.”  <the composition of the kanji 尽: 尺 and the bottom of 冬>

The kun-yomi /tsu/ is in 尽くす (“to dedicate; exhaust” /tsuku’su/), 心尽くしの (“lovingly prepared” /kokorozu’kushi-no/), 力尽きる (“to use up all one’s strength” /chikaratsuki’ru/) and 計算尽くし (“full of calculations” /keesanzu’kushi/), The on-yomi /jin/ is in 尽力 (“effort; exertion; service” /jinryoku/) and 大尽 (“rich man” /da’ijin/).

  1. The kanji 盛 “to flourish; heaty; vigorous; prosper; heap”

History of Kanji 盛For the kanji 盛 the left side of the oracle bone style comprised “a stemmed bowl” that was “spilling out offerings”- 皿. The right side was “a long-blade halberd” that signified “to pile up,” (成) and was used phonetically used for /see/. Together offerings piled up in a stemmed bowl for a religious service meant “to thrive; prosperous; to pile up.” In bronze ware style the two components were placed top and bottom. The kanji 盛 means “to flourish; vigorous; prosper; heap.”  <the composition of the kanji 盛: 成 and皿 >

The kanji 盛 has many different readings. The kun-yomi /saka-/ is in 盛んな (“prosperous” /sakan-na/), and /-zaka/ is in 育ち盛り (“growth period in children” /sodachiza’kari/) and 男盛り (“prime of manhood” /otokoza’kari/). Another kun-yomi /mo/ is in 盛る (“to heap up; stack up” /moru/), and is in 盛り上がる (“to swell; rouse” /moriagaru/), 盛り合わせ (“assortment; sampler” /moriawase/) and 酒盛りをする (“to have a drinking bout” /sakamori-o-suru/). The on-yomi /see/ is in 盛会 (“lively party; successful meeting” /seekai/). Another on-yomi /joo/ is in 繁盛する (“to prosper” /han’joo-suru/).

  1. The kanji 盗 “to steal”

History of Kanji 盗For the kanji 盗 in bronze ware style, the top was “water” and “a person with his mouth open,” signifying “a person drooling with envy.” The bottom was “a stemmed bowl.” The seal style writing had the same components. Together they meant “a person wanted something in the raised bowl so much that he stole it.” The top of the kyuji 盜, 3, is the bottom of 羨 “to envy.” In shinji, the top became 次. The kanji 盗 means “to steal.”  <the composition of the kanji 盗: 次 and 皿>

The kun-yomi 盗む /nusu’mu/ means “to steal,” and is in 盗みを働く(“to commit a theft; steal” /nusumi’o hataraku/), 盗み食い (“eating by stealth” /nusumigui/), 盗み聞き (“eavesdropping” /nusumigiki/). The on-yomi /too/ is in 盗賊 (“thief; burglar” /toozoku/) and 強盗 (“burglar; robber” /gootoo/).

  1. The kanji 盆 “tray; flat dish”

History of Kanji 盆For the kanji 盆 in bronze ware style and in seal style it comprised 分, which was used phonetically for /bon/ to mean “a bulging shape,” and 皿. Together they meant “a bowl; pot; basin,” and also “something in a concave shape.” In Japanese it is used for a flat dish or tray to carry food. The kanji 盆 means “tray; flat dish.” It is also used to mean a Buddhist event in August to welcome the sprits of the ancestors and the dead.  <the composition of the kanji 盆: 分 and 皿>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /bon/ is in お盆 (“tray” /obon/), お盆 (“a Buddhist event in August for spirits of the dead to return” /obo’n/), 盆踊り (“neighborhood Bon festival dance in summer” /bon-o’dori/) and 盆地 (“catchment basin” /bonchi/).

  1. The kanji 血 “blood”

History of Kanji 血For the kanji 血 (a) and (b) in oracle bone style was “a stemmed dish with something inside.” What was inside was what the writing was about — it was “blood from a sacrificial animal” for a religious rite. Such blood was used for making a contract/promise. The kanji 血 means “blood.”  <the composition of the kanji 血: a very short ノ and 皿>

The kun-yomi 血 /chi/ means “blood,” and is in 血だらけになる (“to become covered with blood” /chida’rake-ni naru/) and 鼻血 (“nose bleeding” /hanaji/). The on-yomi /ketsu/ is in 血液 (“blood” /ketsu’eki/), 赤血球 (“red blood cell” /sekke’kyuu/), 出血 (“bleeding; hemorrhage” /shukketsu/), 血圧 (“blood pressure” /ketsuatsu/), 血清 (“blood serum” /kessee/) and 血縁関係 (“blood relative” /ketsuenka’nkee/).

Due to my engagements elsewhere I shall be away from my blog activities for the next several weeks. Thank you always for your interest and support for this blog.  – Noriko [October 7, 2017]

The Kanji 隔融徹撤甚勘堪 – Food (3)


In this posting, we are going to look at the kanji 隔融徹撤 and 甚勘堪. “How often are they used?” we may wonder. Just for a curious mind, I have here the information on how frequently these kanji appeared in newspapers, etc., before the Joyo kanji revision (that is, among the 1,945 Joyo kanji.) I have taken this from Yasuyo Tokuhiro’s work: (The letter F stands for frequency order) — 隔 (F1411), 融 (F0826), 徹 (F1177), 撤 (F1363), 甚 (F1075), 勘 (F1515) and 堪 (new Joyo kanji). Her research predated the new Joyo kanji revision in 2010 (the publication was in 2008).

Now let us start with the component 鬲. 鬲 /reki/ is not a kanji we use by itself, but we have the history as shown on the right. (a) in oracle bone style, in brown, (b) and (c) in bronze ware style, in green, and (d) in seal style, in red, was a clay tripod (meaning, three-legged) pot. The legs were thick and hollow, and it was used to keep grains.

  1. The kanji 隔 “to separate; shield”

History of Kanji 隔The left side of the seal style writing became a bushu kozatohen in kanji. A bushu kozatohen had various meanings – “a hill or mountains placed vertically,” which signified “a pile of dirt; a dirt wall separating the area; a boundary” or “a ladder; a ladder from which a god descends.” For the kanji 隔, one view is that the left side “hill” signified separating an area, and 鬲 was used phonetically for /kaku/ to mean “to block.” Together they meant “to block; separate.” The second view is that placing a tripod in front of a divine ladder signified separation of a sacred area from a secular area. The third view is that inside the pod (鬲) there was a division between grains at the top and water in the legs to cook the contents, and it signified “to separate.” If we take the first view, “hills separating areas” gave the meaning “to isolate; insulate.” The kanji 隔 means “to separate; insulate.”

The kun-yomi 隔てる /hetate’ru/ means “to leave (a distance); shield; separate.” The on-yomi /kaku/ is in 間隔 (“interval spacing; gap” /kankaku/) and 隔離する (“to isolate; quarantine” /kakuri-suru/).   <the composition of the kanji 隔: 阝 and 一, 口, 冂, 八 and 丅>

  1. The kanji 融 “to melt”

History of Kanji 融In large seal style, in light blue, which predated small seal style, (in this blog we simply call it seal style) and in seal style, it had 鬲 “a clay tripod to cook in,” and 蟲 that was used phonetically for /chuu/ to mean “to come out.” Together steam coming out during cooking gave the meaning of “something melting coming out.” In seal style, the right side 蟲 became 虫. The kanji 融 means “to melt; dissolve.”   <the composition of the kanji 融: 鬲 and 虫>

The kun-yomi 融ける /toke’ru/ “to melt” is not a Jojo kanji reading. The on-yomi /yuu/ is in 金融業 (“financial business” /kinyu’ugyoo/), 金融緩和 (“monetary relaxation” /kinyuukanwa/), 核融合(“nuclear fusion” /kakuyu’ugoo/) and 融解 (“melting; thawing” /yuukai/).

  1. The kanji 徹 “to do thoroughly; penetrate”

History of Kanji 徹(a) in oracle bone style had “a tripod” and “a hand,” signifying “a person laying tripods in a row by hand.” In (b) in bronze ware style “a footprint” was added to signify “keeping on doing something.” It meant “to penetrate; stick to.” (c) in Old style, in purple, had 彳 “a crossroad,” taking the place of “a footprint,” 鬲 “a tripod” and 攴 “to cause an action.” In (d) in seal style 鬲 was replaced by 育. Some scholars view this as miscopied.  The kanji 徹 took (d). The kanji 徹 means “to do thoroughly; penetrate; stick to.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /tetsu/ is in 徹底的な (“exhaustive; thorough” /tetteeteki-na/), 貫徹する (“to carry through; achieve” /kantetsu-suru/), 冷徹な (“cool-headed” /reetetsu-na/), and 一徹な (“obstinate; headstrong” /ittetsu-na/).   <the composition of the kanji: 彳, 育 and 攵>

  1. The kanji 撤 “to remove; withdraw”

There is no ancient writing. The kanji 徹 is closely related to the kanji 徹, originally having the meaning “finishing laying tripods in a row.” On the left side, instead of 彳, a bushu gyooninben “to go on doing,” 扌, a bushu tehen “an act that one does using a hand,” was used. Together they have two seemingly contradictory meanings – one is “to scatter something by hand” and the other “to remove what was laid out by hand.” The kanji 撤 means “to scatter; remove; withdraw from a previous activity.”  <the composition of the kanji: 扌, 育 and 攵>

The kun-yomi /maku/ means 水撒き (“watering; sprinkling” /mizuma’ki/), 撒き散らす (“to disperse; scatter” /makichira’su/) and豆撒き (“bean-scattering ceremony” /mame’maki/) on Setsubun day. The on-yomi /tetsu/ is in 撤兵する (“to withdraw the troops from abroad” /teppee-suru/) and 撤退する (“to withdraw from activities” /tettai-suru/) and  (案を)撤回する (“to withdraw a proposal” /a’n o tekkai-suru/).

   5.  The kanji 甚 “exceedingly”

History of Kanji 甚In bronze ware style, Old style, and seal style it was a brazier (a portable cooking apparatus) with a pot on top. It meant “to cook food thoroughly over a fire.” From cooking food over a heat well it meant “thoroughly” or “excessively.” This is the account by Shirakawa. Another view that other scholars take is based on the account on Setsumon Kaiji — it signified pleasure between a man and a woman. Looking at the bronze ware style writing a brazier with a pot makes more sense to me until I come across something else in the future. The kanji 甚 meant “exceedingly; intense.” <the composition of the kanji 甚: 其 and an angle on the bottom left>

The kun-yomi 甚だしい (“grossly” /hanahadashi’i/) and 甚だ (“immensely; exceedingly” /hanahada/) as an adverb. The on-yomi /jin/ is in甚大な (“tremendous; enormous” /jindai-na/), 幸甚 (“thankful; grateful” /koojin/) as in the phrase 幸甚に存じます “I appreciate it very much” in a very formal correspondence.

  1. The kanji 勘 “to investigate; perception”

History of Kanji 勘The seal style writing comprised 甚 “thoroughly; exceedingly” and 力 “effort.” Together they meant “to look over thoroughly or check against something else.” In Japanese it is also used to mean “perceptiveness; intuition.” The kanji 勘 means “to investigate; perceptiveness; intuition; sixth sense.” <the composition of the kanji 勘; 甚 and 力>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /kan/ is in 勘違い (“misunderstanding” /kanchi’gai/) 勘のいい(“quick on the uptake; intuitive; perceptive” /kannoi’i/), 勘弁する (“to forgive; pardon” /ka’nben-suru/), 勘ぐる (“to suspect; surmise” /kangu’ru/), 勘定 (“calculation; account” /kanjo’o/) and 割り勘にする (“to share expenses with” /warikan-ni suru).

  1. The kanji 堪 “to ensure; bear”

History of Kanji 堪The seal style writing comprised 土 “soil; ground,” and 甚 “excessive,” which was used phonetically for /kan; tan/. Together they originally meant “a large mound of soil,” possibly “a kiln” (Shirakawa). What was baked in a kiln went through extreme heat and it gave the meaning “to endure; bear.” The kanji 堪 means “to withstand; bear; tolerate.” <the composition of the kanji 堪: 土へん and 甚>

The kun-yomi 堪える /tae’ru/ means “to suffer; endure,” and is in 堪え難い (“intolerable; unbearable” /taegata’i/), 堪え忍ぶ (to abide; bear; stand” /taeshino’bu/). Another kun-yomi /korae’ru / “to bear suffering” is not a Joyo kanji reading, but the word itself is often used in such phrases as 怒りを堪える (“to restrain one’s anger” /ikari’o korae’ru/) and 堪え性のない (“with no perseverance” /koraeshoo-no-na’i/).

There also are two on-yomi. The on-yomi /kan/ is in 堪忍 (“forgiveness” /ka’nnin/) and 堪忍する (“to be patient with; let someone off” /ka’nnin-suru/), the expression 堪忍袋の尾が切れる (“run out of patience; can no longer put up with” /kanninbu’kuro-no o’-ga kire’ru/). I have just realized to my surprise that the other on-yomi /tan/ is not included even on the revised Joyo kanji list. It is in 堪能な (“proficient; expert” /tannoo-na/) and 堪能する (“to enjoy to one’s content” /tannoo-suru/). Sometimes words that are used often are not included in Joyo kanji, while some of the Joyo kanji are rarely used.

The more complex the kanji the more twists it contains in its history, and sometimes it is not worth the time to spend mulling it over. I am afraid this week’s kanji may belong to that group. Hopefully we shall look at kanji that are more familiar to us next week.  Thank you very much for your reading.  -Noriko  [September 2, 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 実貫慣賛鎖価賜唄- Cowrie (2)


This is the second post on kanji that originated from precious cowries — the kanji 実(實)貫慣賛鎖朋価賜唄. We also touch upon ‘a strand of small cowries” in kanji, such as 小少朋豊.

  1. The kanji 実 “substance; nut; berry; reality”

History of Kanji 実The top of (a) and (b) in bronze ware style, in green, was a house or a family mausoleum. The top of the inside, 毌, meant “small cowries pierced through and strung together,” and the bottom 貝 was “cowrie,” signifying valuable items or money. Valuable offerings at a mausoleum signified fullness of wealth having “substance” and wealth displayed, signifying “real; actual.” It also came to be used to mean “fruit; nut; berry.” The kyuji 實, (e) in blue, reflected (d) in seal style, in red. In shinji 実, the inside of the bushu ukanmuri was replaced by a much simpler shape that had no meaning attached. The kanji 実 means “substance; contents; fruit; nut; berry; contents; reality.”

The kun-yomi 実 /mi/ means “fruit; nut; berry; substance; ingredient,” as in 実がなる (“to produce a crop or fruit” /mi-ga-na’ru/). The verb 実る/mino’ru/ means “to ripen; show results.” The on-yomi /jitu/ is in 実は (“as a matter of fact; in truth” /jitsu’-wa/), 現実 (“actuality; a hard fact” /genjitsu/), 実現する (“to realize; materialize; come true” /jitsugen-suru/), 実務 (“practical business; administrative work” /ji’tsumu/) and 誠実な (”sincere; truthful” /seejitsu-na/). /Jit-/ is in 実際に (“really; truly; in practice” /jissai-ni/).

  1. The kanji 貫 “to pierce through; penetrate”

History of Kanji 貫The kanji 貫 was a component of the kyuji of the kanji 実 above, but the earliest writing appears to be in seal style. So I suspect that this kanji was derived from the kanji 實. (If that is the case it is a curious reverse process.) The top 毌 of the seal style writing came from two cowries pierced through, and was used phonetically for /kan/. With the bottom 貝 “cowrie,” they meant “to pierce through; penetrate; carry through.”

The kun-yomi 貫く /tsuranu’ku/ means “to pass through; pierce; keep (one’s faith),” and is in 貫き通す (“to stick with; follow” /tsuranukito’osu/). The on-yomi /kan/ is in 貫通する (“boring through” /kantsuu-suru/), 初志貫徹 (“carrying out one’s original intention” /sho’shi kantetsu/). The word 一貫 (“consistency” /ikkan/) forms various compound word or phrase, such as 一貫教育 (“all-through education; education that has a unified program of elementary and secondary schools” /ikkan kyo’oiku/), 一貫作業 (“work in a continuous process; integrated linear operation of work” /ikkan sa’gyoo/) and 終始一貫して (“be consistent from beginning to end” /shu’ushi ikkan-shite/).

  1. The kanji 慣 “to become used to; familiar”

History of Kanji 慣The seal style writing of the kanji 慣 comprised扌, a bushu tehen “hand; an act that one does using a hand,” and 貫, which was used phonetically for /kan/ to mean “linking things.” Together they signified “to accumulate.” Doing things many times makes one’s mind being accustomed to it, and in kanji the left side was replaced by忄, a bushu risshinben “heart.” The kanji 慣 means “to become used to; custom.”

The kun-yomi 慣れる /nare’ru/ means “to become used to; grow accustomed to,” and is also in 場慣れする (“to be used to a situation” /banare-suru/) and 耳慣れた (“familiar” /miminareta/). The on-yomi /kan/ is in 習慣 (“(personal) habit; custom” /shuukan/), 慣習 (“(social) custom” /kanshuu/), 慣例 (“general practice; precident” /kanree/), 慣性 (“inertia” /ka’nsee/) and 生活習慣病 (life-style related disease” /seekatsu shuukanbyoo/).

  1. The kanji 賛 “to agree”

History of Kanji 賛The top of the kanji 賛 in seal style, (a), was used phonetically for /shin; san/ to mean “offer; present.” The bottom was 貝 “cowrie.” Together they meant “to present valuable goods at an audience or meeting.” The kyuji (c) had two 先 at the top, which in kanji was replaced by two 夫. The kanji 賛 means “to present; help; laud.”

Interestingly, despite of the shape at the top in (a), (b) in the green box, which came from a seal made during the Chin Han era, had two strands of small cowries, which signified valuable things. I would imagine that this might have been due to a decorative and creative element that a seal maker chose to make it more auspicious.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /san/ is in 賛成する (“to agree” /sansee-suru/), 賛同する (“to approve of; subscribe to” /sandoo-suru/) and 協賛会社 (“support company” /kyoosan-ga’isha.)

  1. The kanji 鎖 “chain; link; to shut down”

History of Kanji 鎖For the kanji 鎖, the left side of the seal style writing was 金 “metal.” The right side comprised small shells at the top (小) and 貝 at the bottom, and was used phonetically for /sa/. Together small metal things linked together meant “chain” and “to lock down.” The top right component小flipped upside down and became a shape called sakasashoo “flipped 小.” (This flipping of 小 in shinji happened in other kanji such as 消.) The kanji 鎖 means “chain” and “to lock.”

The kun-yomi 鎖 /kusari/ means “chain.” The on-yomi /sa/ is in 鎖国 (“national isolation; national seclusion” /sakoku/) and 閉鎖する (“to shut down” /heesa-suru/).

Notes on the origin of the kanji 小 and 少

History of Kanji 少For a long time I treated the origin of 小 as just small markers, rather than having a specific origin. But after going over kanji such as 貫, 鎖, 朋 in the context of cowries that ancient people valued, the account by Shirakawa, which explains that those were small shells, makes some sense to me now. History of Kanji 小 In the bronze ware style writing (b) for the kanji 少, shown on the left, the last long stroke of the kanji is viewed as a string that would have linked the small cowries. The history of the kanji 小 is shown on the right.

History of Kanji 朋To have a better image of the small cowries that were made into strands, the history of the kanji 朋 shown on the right may be helpful. The kanji 朋is not a Joyo kanji but we are familiar with it because it is used in a given name. In the kanji 豊 “abundance” might have had two strands of cowries that were among offerings on an altar table (Ochiai 2014: 236).

  1. The kanji 価 “value”

History of Kanji 価For the kanji 価, the right side in seal style had “person.” The right side 賈 comprised “cover” (襾) and “cowrie” (貝), and was used phonetically for /ka/ to mean “to sell and buy.” A value is something people apply. The kyuji 價 was replaced by 価. The kanji 価 means “value; price.”

The kun-yomi /atai/ means “value.” The on-yomi /ka/ is in 価値 (“value” /ka’chi/), 価格 (“price” /kakaku/), 定価 (“fixed price; manufacturer’s suggested price” /teeka/) and 地価 (“land value; land price” /chi’ka/).

  1. The kanji 賜 “to bestow; confer”

History of Kanji 賜The kanji 賜 is not a daily kanji that we would need at all. It describes an act of giving by royalty. (a) in oracle bone style had a rice wine pitcher pouring wine in a wine cup. An emperor giving a cup of wine out of a wine pitcher called shaku (爵) personally meant “to confer; bestow.” (b) in oracle bone style and (c) and (d) in bronze ware style was for 易. The origin of 易 could have been the sun’s ray and a lizard on the right, but the association is not clear. In seal style (e), 貝 was added to mean a valuable thing.  The kanji 賜 means “to bestow; confer.”

The kun-yomi 賜る /tamawa’ru/ means “to bestow; confer by a king.” The on-yomi /shi/ is in 賜杯 (“trophy given by an emperor” /shihai/) and 恩賜財団 (“royal endowment foundation” /onshiza’idan/).

  1. The kanji 唄 “folk song; song”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 唄. The kanji is comprised of 口 “mouth; speaking,” and 貝, which is used phonetically for /bai/. It was a phonetic rendition of a Sanskrit word pathaka, which meant chanting in praise of Buddha’s virtues. In Japanese it is used for “popular song.”  The kanji 唄 means “folk song; song.”

The kun-yomi 唄 /uta’/ means “song; folk song.” There is no on-yomi.

The ancient writings for 貝 and 鼎 looked very much like each other, and sometimes they appear to be mingled. In the next post, we shall be exploring kanji that originated from a bronze ware cooking pot with three or four legs that was used to cook sacrificial animal meat for an offering in ancestral worship. Thank you very much for your reading.  — Noriko [June 24, 2017]

The Kanji 卜占外貼店点訃赴・兆跳挑逃眺桃


This is the third post on kanji whose origin pertained to religious matters. We have looked at kanji that contain 示 and a bushu shimesuhen, both of which came from an altar. In this post we are going to explore kanji that originated from divination – – 卜占外貼店点訃赴 and 兆跳挑逃眺桃.

1. The kanji 卜 “divination”

History of Kanji 卜The kanji 卜 is not among the Joyo kanji. But it appeared in many kanji as a component. In oracle bone style (a) and (b), in brown, bronze ware style (c), in green, and seal style (d), in red, the two lines signified cracks (vertical and horizontal) that appeared on a heated underside shell of a turtle or tortoise or a piece of animal bone that was used for divination. On the back of a bone heat was applied to a small hole that had been drilled in advance, and heat cracks that appeared were read as oracle on the topic that a ruler was seeking. The kanji 卜 meant “oracle; divination.”

The kun-yomi 卜う /urana’u/ means “to tell someone’s fortune; forecast.” The on-yomi /boku/ is in 卜辞 (“inscription on bones and tortoise carapaces” /bokuji/), synonymous to oracle bone style writing.

  1. The kanji 占 “divination; to occupy”

History of Kanji 占The kanji 占 in oracle bone style (a) was comprisee of a bone with divination cracks (卜), and a mouth (口) at the bottom. In (b), the two components in (a) were in an enclosure. It meant “oracle; divination.” The kanji 占 means “to tell someone’s fortune; divine.” Another interpretation of the bottom 口 is an “area,” which meant asking a deity which area one should take. From that it also meant “to occupy.”

The kun-yomi 占い  /uranai/ means “fortune telling,” and is in 星占い (“horoscope” /hoshiu’ranai/). Another kun-yomi 占める /shime’ru/ means “to occupy; hold; make up” and 買い占める (“to buy out; buy up” /kaishime’ru/). The on-yomi /sen/ is in 占有地 (“occupied land” /sen-yu’uchi/), 独占 (“monopoly” /dokusen/) and 占拠する (“to occupy” /se’nkyo-suru/).

  1. The kanji 外 “outside; others; to take out”

History of Kanji 外For the kanji 外, the oracle bone style writing had 工, which was probably used phonetically, and 卜 “oracle.” The left side of the bronze ware style writing and seal style writing had an early moon (夕), which would appear outside, or a piece of meat (月) offering for divination. The divination appeared on the surface or outside the bone. The kanji 外 means “outside; exterior,” and its extention “others; else; to take out.”

The kun-yomi 外 /so’to/ means “outside.” Another kun-yomi 外 /hoka/ means “others; else.” The third kun-yomi /hazusu/ means “to take out; omit.” The on-yomi /gai/ is in 外国 (“foreign country” /gaikoku/), 以外 (“other than; except” /i’gai/) and 予想外 (“unexpectedly” /yoso’ogai/). Another on-yomi /ge/ is in 外科医 (“surgeon” /geka’i/).

  1. The kanji 貼 “to stick; paste”

History of Kanji 貼The seal style writing was comprised of 貝 “cowry,” and 占, which was used phonetically for /choo; ten/.  Together they meant “to stick on; affix over something.” The kanji 貼 means “to stick; paste.”  The kanji 貼 was added to the Joyo kanji in 2010, and before that 張 was used instead.

The kun-yomi 貼る /haru/ means “to stick; paste.” The on-yomi /ten/ is in 貼付する (“to paste” /tenpu-suru/).

  1. The kanji 店 “store; shop”

There is no ancient writing. The kanji 店 is comprised of  广, a bushu madare “a house with one side open for easy access,” and 占, which was used phonetically for /ten/. Together they meant a kiosk or a place to put things. The kanji 店 means “shop; store.”

The kun-yomi 店 /mise’/ means “store; shop.” The on-yomi /ten/ is in 店内 (“inside a store” /te’nnai/) and 閉店時間 (“store’s closing time” /heetenji’kan/).

  1. The kanji 点 “small dot; point; to add a small note”

History of Kanji 点For the kanji 点, the left side in seal style was the same as 黒 “black,” which had a chimney with soot and two fires. The right side占 was used phonetically for /ten/ to mean “small dot.” Together they signified “small (black) dots.” Adding small points also gave the meaning “score.” The kyuji 點, in blue, had 黑 and 占. In kanji “black” was dropped except the “fire” underneath 占 as a bushu renga/rekka. The kanji 点 means “small dot; point; to add a small note.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ten/ is in 点 (“points; dot” /ten/), 点火する (“to light a fire; ignite” /tenka-suru/, 点検 (“inspection; overhaul” /tenken/) and 点滴 (“drip-feed” /tenteki/).

  1. The kanji 訃 “the news of someone’s death”

There is no ancient writing. The kanji 訃 is comprised of 言 “word; language,” and 卜, which was used phonetically for /hu/. Together they meant “the news of someone’s death.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /hu/ is in 訃報 (“the news of someone’s death; obituary” /huhoo/).

  1. The kanji 赴 “to go somewhere for a new post”

History of Kanji 赴For the kanji 赴, the seal style writing was comprised of 走 “to run,” and 卜, which was used phonetically for /hu/ to mean “the news of someone’s death.” Together they originally meant “to tell” and “to rush in a distance.” From that the kanji 赴 means “to go somewhere at a distance; proceed; head for (a destination).”

The kun-yomi /omomu’ku/ means “to proceed; head for (a destination).” The on-yomi /hu/ is in 赴任する (“to go to start a new post” /hunin-suru/).

9. The kanji 兆 “sign; omen; trillion”

History of Kanji 兆For the kanji 兆 (a) in Old style and (b) in seal style was a pictograph of a oracle bone writing, possibly signifying the whole image of a tortoise shell with cracks. It meant “sign; indication; omen.”  兆 is also used to mean “trillion.”

The kun-yomi /kizashi/ means “indication; omen.” The on-yomi /choo/ means 予兆 “omen; indication,” 吉兆 (“auspicious sign” /kicchoo/) and 二兆円 /nichooen/ “two trillion yen.

10. The kanji 逃 “to run away; evade”

History of Kanji 逃For the kanji 逃 the bronze ware style writing had a crossroad on the left, and crosses scattered, which was also used phonetically for /too/.  The way in which a crack ran through rapidly in divination was similar to soldiers in defeat in a battle running away in all directions. It meant “to run away.” The seal style writing was comprised of 辵 “to move forward” and 兆, which was used phonetically for /choo/. From “a hasty retreat” the kanji 逃 meant “to run away; dodge; evade.”

The kun-yomi /nigeru/ means “to run away.” Another kun-yomi /nogare’ru/ means “to evade; miss.” The on-yomi /too/ is in 逃亡する (“to run away; fly” /tooboo-suru/) and 逃走する (“to escape” /toosoo-suru/).

11. The kanji 跳 “to leap; jump”

History of Kanji 跳The seal style writing was comprised of 足 “leg” and 兆, which was used phonetically for /choo/ to mean “leaping,” from the manner in which cracks appeared in a heated bone in divination. Together from legs leaping up and down, the kanji 跳 means “to leap; jump.”

The kun-yomi 跳ぶ /tobu/ means “to leap; bound; vault.” The on-yomi /choo/ is in 跳躍 (“spring; jump; leap” /chooyaku/).

12. The kanji 挑 “to challenge; confront; go after”

History of Kanji 挑The seal style writing was comprised of “hand”and 兆, which was used phonetically for /choo/ to mean “to bend.” Together they meant a hand bending something forcefully which met a push back. The kanji 挑 means “to challenge; confront; go after.”

The kun-yomi 挑む /ido’mu/ means “ to challenge.” The on-yomi /choo/ is in 挑戦 (“challenge” /choosen/) and 挑発する (“to provoke” /choohatsu-suru/).

13. The kanji 眺 “view”

History of Kanji 眺The seal style writing was comprised of 目 “eye” and兆, which was used phonetically for /choo/ to mean “to disperse.” Together they meant “to look at a distance; see.”

The kun-yomi 眺める /nagame’ru/ means “to look; examine,” and is in 眺めがいい (“to have a good view” /nagame’-ga i’i/). The on-yomi /choo/ is in 眺望 (“view; lookout” /chooboo/).

14. The kanji 桃 “peach”

History of Kanji 桃The seal style writing of the kanji 桃 was comprised of 木 “tree” and 兆, which was used phonetically for /too/ to mean something to split in half. Together they meant “peach.”

The kun-yomi 桃 /momo/ means “peach,” and is in 桃色 (“pink” /momoiro/). The on-yomi /too/ is in 白桃 (“white peach” /hakutoo/).

The two shapes that came from oracle bone writings, 卜 and 兆, were in the midst of the very things we are exploring –writings on oracle bones. They had been buried in the ground for over three thousand years and were fragile and broken to pieces. Being the oldest writing that connects to kanji, oracle bones provide crucial clues for us to conjecture about how each kanji was created in the extraordinarily imaginative minds of ancient creators.

We shall continue in the next post our exploration of kanji having religious origins. Thank you very much for your reading. -Noriko [May 27, 2017]

The Kanji 網綱縄総紋紅紺縁級給 – itohen “thread” (2)

  1. The kanji 網 “net”

History of Kanji 網For the kanji 網, (a) and (b) in oracle bone style, in brown, was a net and was also used phonetically for /moo/.  It meant “net.” (c) in seal style, in red, the outside was a net and inside was a skein of thread (糸) and 亡 for /boo; moo/. In kanji, (d), a skein of thread was taken outside the net as a bushu itohen, and the right side became 罔. The kanji 網 meant “net; net-like thing.”

The kun-yomi 網 /ami’/ meant “net.” The on-yomi /moo/ is in 連絡網 (“contact network” /renraku’moo) and 網羅する (“to contain all the points; cover thoroughly” /mo’ora-suru/).

  1. The kanji 綱 “cable; principle”

History of Kanji 綱The seal style for the kanji 綱 had 岡, which was used phonetically for /koo/. 岡 was originally a hard mold that was baked at a high temperature and signified “strong.” Together with 糸, they meant “cable; line.” Something that was strong gave a principle for an order, thus it meant “principle.”  The kanji 綱 meant “cable; principle.”

The kun-yomi 綱 /tsuna’/ means “rope,” and is in 横綱 (“grand champion sumo wrestler” /yokozuna/) and 綱渡り (“tightrope; ropewalking” /tsunawa’tari/). The on-yomi /koo/ is in 綱領 (“platform; principles; directive” /kooryoo/).

  1. The kanji 縄 “rope”

History of Kanji 縄In the seal style writing of the kanji 縄, the right side originated from a fly, but was used phonetically for /joo/ to mean a “twisted thing.” Together they meant “rope.” The kyuji, in blue, reflected seal style. In kanji the right side became simplified. The kanji 縄 meant “rope; cord.”

The kun-yomi 縄 /nawa’/ meant “rope.” The on-yomi /jo’o/ is in 縄文時代 (“Jomon pre-historic era in Japanese history” /joomonji’dai/). The name came from pottery that had the embossed pattern of a rope, and it preceded 弥生時代 /Yayoiji’dai/).

  1. The kanji 総 “to gather all; all; general”

History of Kanji 総In the seal style writing of the kanji 総, next to the skein of threads (糸) was  悤, which was used phonetically for /soo/ to mean “to bundle up hair.” Together they meant to bundle threads into one. From that it meant “to gather all” and “all.” In kanji the right side悤became忩. The kanji 総 meant “to gather all; all; general.”

The kun-yomi 総て /su’bete/ meant “all”. Another kun-yomi /husa/ is in a name. The on-yomi /soo/ is in 総合 (“total; synthesis” /soogoo/), 総称 (“general name; name for all” /sooshoo/), 総務 (“general administration” /so’omu/) and 総理大臣 (“prime minister” /soorida’ijin/).

  1. The kanji 紋 “pattern; (family) crest”

History of Kanji 紋The bronze ware style writing for the kanji 紋 had a skein of threads (three rounds), and the right side was a hand holding a stick, signifying “action by hand.” Together they signified a hand making a pattern with threads. Setsumon did not give any seal style writing. The right side (文) of the kanji 紋 was used phonetically for /bun; mon/ to mean “design.”  With 糸 and 文 together they meant a pretty pattern in woven fabric.  In Japanese 紋 is also used to mean “family crest.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi 紋 /mon/ meant “family crest,” and is in 波紋 (“ripple” /hamon/), 指紋 (“finger print” /shimon/) and 家紋 (“family crest” /ka’mon/).

  1. The kanji 紅 “red”

History of Kanji 紅The seal style writing was comprised of 糸, a skein of threads, and 工, which was used phonetically for /koo/. Together they meant “red.”  The kanji 紅 meant “red.”

The kun-yomi 紅 /be’ni/ is in 紅色 (“red” /beniiro/), 口紅 (“lipstick” /kuchibeni/). The on-yomi /koo/ is in 紅茶 (“black tea” from the color of brewed tea /koocha/) and 紅一点 (“only female in the company” /ko’o itten/).

  1. The kanji 紺 “dark blue”

History of Kanji 紺The seal style writing was comprised of 糸 and 甘, which was used phonetically for /kan/. Together they meant “dark blue.” The kanji 紺 meant “dark blue.”

The kun-yomi /kon/ is in 紺色 (“dark blue” /kon-iro/), 濃紺 (“dark blue” /nookun/) and 紺碧の空 (“the azure sky” /konpeki-no-so’ra/).

  1. The kanji 縁 “edge; to be linked by fate”

History of Kanji 縁The right side of the seal style writing (彖) was used phonetically for /tan; en/ to mean “edge.”  With the left side 糸, together they meant “edge of clothes; fringe.” From that it also meant something connecting. In Buddhism this kanji means “to be linked by fate.” The kyuji, in blue, reflected the seal style. In shinji the right top was simplified. The kanji 縁 meant “edge; to be linked by fate.”

The kun-yomi 縁 /huchi’/ means “edge; border; brim,” and 額縁 (“picture frame” /gakubuchi/) and 縁なし眼鏡 (“a pair of rimless eyeglasses” /huchinashi-me’gane/). The on-yomi /e’n/ is in 縁起がいい (“of good omen; boding well for” /engi-ga-i’i/), 縁談 (“marriage proposal; marriage prospect” /endan/), 縁故採用 (“hiring through personal connection” /enko-sa’iyoo/) and 縁がある (“to be linked by fate” /e’n-ga-aru/).

  1. The kanji 級 “class; order”

History of Kanji 級The kanji 級 had 糸and 及, which was used phonetically for /kyuu/. The history of 及 by itself is shown on the right. The image was a person and a hand of another person catching the person in front. The sense of “order” from these two people, front and behind, signified order. With threads added, they originally meant setting up threads in the right order on the loom. From that it was extended to mean “phase; stage.” The kanji級 meant “class; order.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /kyuu/ is in 等級 (“rank; class” /tookyuu/), 上級生 (“upper class student” /jookyu’usee/) and 一級品 (“first-rate goods” /ikyuuhin/).

  1. The kanji 給 “to supply; be given”

History of Kanji 給The right side合 of the kanji 給 was used phonetically for /kyuu/ to mean “to fill a gap.” With the left side 糸, they meant “to meet what is deficient.” The kanji 給 meant “to supply.”

The kun-yomi 給う /tama’u/ means “to be given (by a superior person)” humble style; “(a superior person) to give.” The on-yomi /kyuu/ is in 給料 (“salary; wage” /kyu’uryoo/), 給与 (“salary; wage” /kyu’uyo/), 支給する (“to pay; provide” /shikyuu-suru/) and 給油 (“refueling; oil supply” /kyuuyu.)

We will continue with a bushu itohen in the next post.  Thank you very much. -Noriko [March 18, 2017]

The Kanji 盾循干刊汗


This is a short post in finishing up with kanji that originated from two weapons– 盾循 and 干刊汗.

  1. The kanji 盾 “shield”

history-of-kanji-%e7%9b%beIn oracle bone style, in brown, and bronze ware style, in green, it was an image of a shield. The seal style writing, in red, had a canopy-like shape and an eye with a cross shape. Following Setsumon’s explanation, which is based on the seal style, many scholars view this as a shield which protected the eyes of a soldier and his body. The kanji 盾 meant “shield.”

The kun-yomi 盾 /tate’/ meant “shield,” and /-date/ is in 後ろ盾 (“support; backing” /ushirodate/).  The on-yomi /jun/ is in 矛盾 (“contradiction; inconsistency” /mujun/) that comprises 矛 “halberd” for attacking an enemy and 盾 “shield” for defending oneself.

  1. The kanji 循 “to follow”

history-of-kanji-%e5%be%aaThe left side of the seal style writing was a crossroad, signifying “going” and the right side 盾 “shield” was also used phonetically for /jun/ to mean “to follow; go along.” The kanji 循 meant “to follow.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /jun/ is in 循環 (“cycle; circulation; rotation” /junkan/).

  1. The kanji 干 “dry; attack”

history-of-kanji-%e5%b9%b2rIn oracle bone, bronze ware and ten styles, it was a forked weapon. The kanji 干 meant “to violate; attack.” However, this kanji is rarely used to mean aggression, except in the word 干渉 “interference; meddling.” It was borrowed to mean “dry; dry up.”

The kun-yomi /hi/ is in 干からびる (“to shrivel up; shrink” /hikarabi’ru/), 干物 (“dried fish” /himono/). Another kun-yomi /ho’su/ means “to air under the sun,” as used in 布団を干す /huton o hosu/ “to air futon under the sun.” The on-yomi /kan/ is in 干渉する (“to interfere; meddle” /kanshoo-suru/), 干拓 (“reclamation by drainage” /kantaku/) and 干害 (“drought damage” /kangai/).

  1. The kanji 刊 “to publish”

history-of-kanji-%e5%88%8aFor the kanji 刊, the left side (干) of the seal style writing was used phonetically for /kan/ to mean “to shave a piece of wood.” The right side was a knife. By using a knife, printing blocks were shaved to make a book. In kanji the knife became刂,a bushu rittoo “knife.” The kanji 刊 meant “to publish.”

There is no fun-yomi. The on-yomi /kan/ is in 月刊誌 (“monthly magazine” /gekka’nshi/), 朝刊 (“morning paper” /chookan/), 刊行 (“publication” /kankoo/), 新刊本 (“new publication; new title” /shinkanbon/).

  1. The kanji 汗 “perspiration; sweat”

history-of-kanji-%e6%b1%97For the kanji 汗, the left side of the seal style was “water,” which became a bushu sanzui in kanji (). The right side was used phonetically for /kan/. The kanji 汗 meant “perspiration; sweat.”

The kun-yomi /a’se/ means “perspiration; sweat” and is in 汗をかく(“to sweat; perspire” /a’se-o kaku/) and 冷や汗 (“cold sweat” /hiyaa’se/).  The on-yomi /kan/ is in 発汗 (“sweating” /hakkan/).

It is time for us to move onto another subject. I have not decided which groups of “things and objects” we may start with next time yet. Thank you very much for your reading. -Noriko [March 5, 2017]

The Kanji 義儀犠感減威滅 –戈 “halberd” (2)


This is the second post on kanji that contain 戈 “halberd/battle-axe/broad-blade axe.” We are going to look at the kanji 義儀犠威戚感滅. There are a number of kanji that originated from a halberd, including 我 戉 and 戊. In the past any kanji that had 戈 was put in more or less a single bag of “a halberd or halberd-like weapon.” But I am curious now whether these were represented differently in their oracle bone style and bronze ware style writings. The answer may not be as clear as I would like, but it is worthwhile to satisfy our curiosity.

history-of-kanji-%e6%88%91Review of 我–Before the holiday season posts on Christmas day and New Year’s Day, in the post entitled The kanji 戈戒械成城誠伐閥我-戈halberd (1), we looked at the kanji 我 “I (first person pronoun)” as the last kanji. The kanji 我was borrowed kanji and had little relationship with its origin. Its origin was the shape of a saw-like halberd or a saw. The history is shown on the right. We saw a three-pronged shape attached to a long stick or a halberd. The writing was a pictograph of a pronged weapon or saw.

  1. The kanji 義 “just; morality; significance; meaning.”

history-of-kanji-%e7%be%a9For the kanji 義 (a) and (b) in oracle bone style, in brown, were very similar to (a) and (b) for the kanji 我, except one point – The top of the vertical line had sheep’s curled horns.  In bronze ware style, in green, the sheep got separated from the bottom. The bottom of 12 writings had three or more prongs on the left, as in (c) and (d). Only two of them had the shape without prongs, as in (e), and that was an axe. Since the overwhelming number had a prong shape, we can comfortably conclude that the bottom of the kanji 義 was a saw-like object or a saw. 羊 “sheep” and 我 “saw” together meant cutting a sacrificial sheep with a saw to prepare for an offering to a god. What is suitable for a god meant “morality; just.” Explaining “what is just” also gave the meaning “significance; meaning.” So the kanji 義 meant “just; morality; significance; meaning.”

The kanji 議 — Later on, 義 phonetically for /gi/ and and 言 “words; language” together made a new kanji 議. From two sides together “discussing what is right” the kanji 議 meant “to discuss.”

  1. The kanji 儀 “ceremony; affair; matter”

history-of-kanji-%e5%84%80The bronze ware style of the kanji 儀 was the same as (c) and (d) for 義. That suggests that the meanings of 儀 was originally a part of 義.  In seal style, in red, , a bushu ninben “standing person,” was added to 義 that was used phonetically for /gi/. Together they signified a person’s righteous deed. A right way of doing by a righteous person became the meaning “protocol; ceremony; affair.” The kanji 儀 meant “ceremony; affair; matter.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /gi/ is in 儀礼 (“ceremony” /giree/), 行儀がいい (“well-mannered” /gyoogi’-ga ii/) and 祝儀 (“celebration; festivity; tips on happy occasion” /shu’ugi/).

  1. The kanji 犠 “sacrifice”

history-of-kanji-%e7%8a%a0The left side of the seal style writing of the kanji 犠was 牛 “cow,” which sometimes signified animals in general. In kanji the right side is 義, but in seal style the bottom had something else added. What this addition meant is not clear. From the original meaning of 義 “a sheep to be cut with a saw for an offering” and 牛 together meant “sacrificial animal; sacrifice.”

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /gi/ is in犠牲になる (“to be sacrificed; fall prey for” /gisee-ni-na’ru/) and犠牲者 (“victim” /gise’esha/.)

history-of-kanji-%e5%92%b8The kanji 咸— The kanji 感and 減share the same shape 咸. The history of 咸, which is not a Joyo kanji, is shown on the right. In oracle bone style, (a) and (b), the top, some sort of halberd (戈), had a large axe. Underneath was a mouth  (口). Together making someone close his mouth by giving a shock of a threat of an axe or weapon” meant “to contain.”

  1. The kanji 感 “to feel”

history-of-kanji-%e6%84%9fFor the kanji 感, the seal style writing had 咸 at the top, which was used phonetically for /kan/ to mean “to contain,” and 心 “heart” at the bottom. Together they signified what was contained inside one’s heart — “to feel; emotion; feeing.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ka’n/ is in 感じる (“to feel” /kanjiru/), 感情 (“emotion” /kanjoo/) and 感謝 (“gratitude” /kansha-suru/).

  1. The kanji 減 “to reduce”

history-of-kanji-%e6%b8%9bFor the kanji 減 the bronze ware style writing had a stream of water on the left, and the right side was a battle-axe and a mouth, signifying “to confine.” Together they meant that closing the mouth of a stream reduced the amount of the flow of water. The kanji 減 meant “to reduce.”

The kun-yomi is in 減らす /herasu/ means “to reduce; make less” and its intransitive counterpart verb 減る /heru/ “to decrease.”  The on-yomi /ge’n/ is in 加減する(“to adjust” /kagen-suru/), 湯加減 (“bath temperature” /yuka’gen/), 軽減 (“reduction” /keegen/) and 減速 (“slowing down” /gensoku/).

history-of-kanji-%e6%88%89The kanji 戉 “broad-blade axe”– In oracle bone style, (a) and (b) were a battle-axe in mirror images. In bronze ware style, (c) had a broad curved blade whereas (d) was a long straight blade. In seal style the blade curled up at the end. It became the kanji 戉. When a bushu kanehen 金 “metal” was added it became 鉞 “broad-blade (curved) axe.” (Neither 戉 nor 鉞 is Joyo kanji, but a phonetic feature /e’tsu/ is used in the Joyo kanji 越.) Shirakawa viewed that the kanji 王 was a king’s ornamental axe with the blade side at the bottom (without a handle). In bronze ware style some had a thick curved blade. [Oracle Bone Writings at Tokyo National Museum and the Kanji 王旺皇士仕 on November 13, 2016]

  1. The kanji 威 “(personal) dignity; prestige”

history-of-kanji-%e5%a8%81For the kanji 威, the two bronze ware style writings had a broad-blade axe or battle-axe (戉) and a woman (女) underneath. Together a woman under the threat of a weapon signified “to threaten” or “authority.”

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /i/ is in 権威 (“authority” /ke’n-i/), 威嚇する (“to threaten” /ikaku-suru/) and 威容 (“commanding appearance” /iyoo/).

  1. The kanji 滅 “to run out; die away”

history-of-kanji-%e6%bb%85The seal style writing of the kanji 滅 hada bushu sanzui  “water.” The right side had a 戉 “broad blade battle-axe” and 火 “fire” inside, and was used phonetically for /betsu/ to mean “to exhaust; run out.” Both sides together signified water running out. From that the kanji 滅 meant “to run out; die away.”

The kun-yomi 滅ぼす /horobo’su/ means “to destroy” and its intransitive verb 滅びる (“to die away; be destroyed” /horobi’ru/). The on-yomi /me’tsu/ is in 点滅する (“to flicker” /tenmetsu-suru/), 滅亡 (“extinction” /metsuboo/), 支離滅裂な (incoherent; disconnected /shi’ri-metsuretsu-na/) and 滅法 (“exceedingly” /meppo’o/), as in 滅法強い (“extremely strong” /meppo’o tsuyo’i/).

We will continue with this topic in the next post. –Noriko  (January 8, 2017)

The Kanji 戈戒械成城誠伐閥我-戈 “halberd” (1)


Last several posts, we have been exploring kanji that originated from a sharp-edged object. We have looked at kanji that have 刀刂王士斤刃 and 召.  In this and next few posts we are going to look at kanji that originated from戈 “halberd.” The shape 戈 appears as a component in a surprisingly large number of kanji. In this post we are going to look at the kanji 戈戒械成城誠伐閥我.

Seal Style for Ten Style;  From this post on I am going to use the term “seal style” for “ten style 篆文,” I have stayed away from the term seal style because using it as a seal engraving was not its original use. But I have decided to go along with the custom in English.

  1.  The kanji 戈 “halberd”


戈-Shirakawa (2004)

history-of-kanji-%e6%88%88The kanji 戈 is not Joyo kanji, but it has a long important history in the history of kanji.  戈 is read as /ho’ko/ (and its on-yomi is /ka/), which is translated as “halberd” in English. A halberd is a weapon that has two functions, thrusting and cutting. In the history of oracle bone style, (a) and (b) in brown, we see a long vertical line with a short line crossing near the top. According to Shirakawa Setsumon explained that the short line was a flat blade that was shown sideways. The picture of 戈 on the right is taken from Shirakawa (2004). (I am writing with some trepidation because having been raised and educated in an extremely pacifist atmosphere of Post-war Japan, knowledge of weapons never came to me.)  My simple understanding from this is that 戈 came from a spear which had a flat-blade axe attached to it on the side.

Another point is that (a), (b) and (c) had a stand to place a halberd upward, which suggests that it was in a ceremony. (c) in bronze ware style had an ornament hanging down from the top. We can imagine that the more a soldier achieved in battle the more decorated his halberd became. In (d) in bronze ware style, in green, and (e) in seal style, in red, the long line became bent and a short intersecting diagonal line was added. I am imagining that these halberds were placed tilted forward at a ceremony, and the short line was a support for that. The kanji reflected the seal style writing. These ancient writings give us a lot to think about regarding the kanji 戈.

As a component, 戈 comes on the right side and is called /hokozu’kuri/ (ほこづくり). It  appears in many kanji contributing meanings such as “under threat of a weapon,” “to cut” and others, as we will see, as well as a phonetic role as /ka; kai; ki/.

  1. The kanji 戒 “to admonish”

history-of-kanji-%e6%88%92The oracle bone style writing for the kanji 戒 had a halberd standing straight up in the center and a hand on each side. They meant raising a halberd with both hands “to guard against; keep a look out for.” In the bronze ware writing, in green, a halberd was raised by two hands and pushed to the right. In seal style, in red, the halberd was placed on top of the two hands. In kanji two hands holding up the halberd became the shape  廾. The kanji 戒 meant “to admonish; guard against.”

The kun-yomi 戒める /imashime’ru/ means “to admonish,” and is in 戒めを守る (“to follow stern advise/lesson” /imashime-o mamo’ru/). The on-reading /ka’i/ is in 僧侶の戒律 (“religious precepts of priests,” /so’oryo-no kairitsu/), 十戒 (“the Ten Commandments” /jikkai/), 懲戒処分 (“disciplinary punishment” /chookai-sho’bun/) and 警戒する (“to look out; guard” /keekai-suru/).  Having the threat of a halberd in their origins, words that use 戒 have a strong sense of a warning to adhere to what one is instructed to do.

3. The kanji 械 “machine; gadget”

history-of-kanji-%e6%a2%b0The seal style writing had 木 “tree; wood” on the left side. The top of the right side 戒 was used phonetically for /ka’i/, and meant “to admonish.” Together they meant a wooden gadget that shackled a criminal’s hands. The meaning of handcuffs dropped, and it was used to mean something mechanical. The kanji 械 meant “gadget; machine” in general.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ka’i/ is in 機械 “machine” and 器械 “instrument,” both of which have the same pronunciation /kika’i/.

  1. The kanji 成 “to accomplish; complete”

history-of-kanji-%e6%88%90 For the kanji 成 in oracle bone style and bronze ware style it had an axe attached to a halberd. The short line below that was a decoration to mark the completion of making a new halberd. Thus, it meant “to complete.” In seal style the inside was the shape of a nail, which may have signified “pounding,” and in kanji it became a hooked shape.The kanji 成 meant “to complete; accomplish; comprise.”

The kun-yomi 成る /na’ru/ means “to complete; accomplish; become,” and is in 成し遂げる (“to carry out successfully” /nashitoge’ru/).  漢字の成り立ち /kanji-no-naritachi/  means “how kanji came to be what it is now” and it is what we are exploring in this blog. The on-yomi /se’e/ is in 成功する (“to succeed” /seekoo-suru/), 成果 (“result; accomplishment” /se’eka/) and 成長 (“one’s growth” /seechoo/). Another on-yomi /jo’o/ is a go-on and thus in Buddhist words such as 成仏する (“entering Nirvana; to die in peace” /jo’obutsu-suru/).

  1. The kanji 城 “caste; fortress”

history-of-kanji-%e5%9f%8eFor the kanji 城, we have two very different bronze ware style writings. The left one had a tall tower on the left and a halberd on the right. The second one had the soil (土) underneath a halberd. A tall structure or fortress on the ground that had weapons to protect it meant “castle; fortress.” In seal style, the soil moved to the left and became a bushu tsuchihen “soil; ground.” The right side had a halberd and something to pound (丁). The kanji 城 “castle” is comprised of a bushu tsuchihen and the kanji 成.

  1. The kanji 誠 “sincerity; loyalty”

history-of-kanji-%e8%aa%a0The seal style writing for 誠 had 言, a bushu gonben “word; language,” on the left. The right side 成 gave the sound /se’e/ to mean “to complete; become.” From the meaning of “one’s words becomes one’s deeds,” the kanji 誠 meant “sincerity, loyalty.”

The kun-yomi /makoto/ means “sincerity; loyalty,” and is in a phrase 誠にありがとうございました (“We sincerely thank you” /makotoni ari’gatoogozaimashita/).  The on-yomi /see/ is in 誠実な (“trustworthy; faithful” /seejitsu-na/), 忠誠心 (“loyalty” /chuuse’eshin/) and 誠意を込める (“to put good faith” /se’ei-o kome’ru/).

  1. The kanji 伐 “to cut down; attack”

history-of-kanji-%e4%bc%90When I first realized that the writings in oracle bone style and bronze ware style for the kanji 伐 were all a scene in which a halberd was crossing a person’s neck, I felt a little uneasy. This was no longer just a threat, but cutting someone’s head off!  Fortunately, the gruesome meaning was dropped, and in seal style a person (イ) was detached from a halberd. The kanji 伐 meant “to cut down; attack.”

The kun-yomi 伐る /ki’ru/ is used for cutting a tree. The on-yomi /ba’tsu/ is in (木を) 伐採する  (“to cut down a tree” /bassai-suru/) and 乱伐 (“reckless deforestation” /ranbatsu-suru/).

  1. The kanji 閥 “clique; faction”

history-of-kanji-%e9%96%a5The seal style of 閥 had 門 “two closed doors” and 伐 inside, which was used phonetically for /ba’tsu/ to mean “commendation; honoring.” Together they signified a house or family which received commendation, and from that it meant a group of people who band together exclusively. The kanji 閥 meant “clique; faction.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ba’tsu/ is in 軍閥 (“military faction; warlord clique” /gunbatsu/), 財閥 (“industrial/financial conglomerate” /zaibatsu/) and 学閥 (“academic clique” /gakubatsu/).

9. The kanji 我 “I; me”

history-of-kanji-%e6%88%91Here is another type of halberd. For the kanji 我, in bronze ware style the left side of a halberd had a three prong-like shape. It has been explained as a saw-like blade attached to a halberd or a saw. The origin of the kanji 義, which contains 我 at the bottom, was given as proof that a saw that was used to cut a sacrificial sheep [Shirakawa]. It was borrowed to mean “I, me; oneself” in oracle bone style time, and has no relevance to the origin being a halberd.

We will continue with this topic. Next Sunday being Christmas Day, I am going to take the day off from writing an article on kanji history. Thank you very much. –Noriko [December 18, 2016; revised on January 6, 2017]

The Kanji 召招紹詔昭照沼−召


katanahitoobsIn searching for clues about what kanji originated from, the oldest style, oracle bone style, is most important. Carving lines on a small piece of bone could create some ambiguous shapes. The shape for “person” (人) and “knife; sword” (刀) is in that category. To show you how difficult it is to interpret the two-stroke shapes for 人 and 刀, I scanned the pages in Akai (2010), as shown on the right. When it was used as a component in some kanji a longer line became shortened, and became even more ambiguous. Later style writing also has a similar problem. For instance, for the top of the two kanji 色 “color; amorous” and 絶 “to cease to exist; extreme” some scholars say that it is “person” and others say “knife.” The kanji 到 “to reach” had “person” on the right instead of “knife” in bronze ware style.

  1. The kanji 召 “to call for; summon; send for”

history-of-kanji-%e5%8f%acThere are two different views on how the top of 召 in oracle bone style came about. One view takes the top of 召as a knife, and explains that 刀 /to’o/ was used phonetically for /sho’o/ to mean “to call for.” With the bottom 口 “mouth” signifying “to speak” together they meant “to call; summon; send for.” Another view takes it as a “person,” and explains it as “a person (top) speaking (口) to send for someone.” Shirakawa (2004) took the latter view further. In his view the bottom was not a “mouth,” which is a prevalent view among kanji scholars, but a prayer vessel. So in this case, the top of oracle bone style writing signified a divine spirit descending in answer to a prayer. From calling for a divine spirit in prayer, it originally meant “to call for; summon.”

Whether we take Shirakawa’s heavily shamanic view or not, the kanji 召 is used for a superior sending for his servant, and therefore it has an authoritative connotation.

The kun-yomi 召す  /me’su/  is usually used in an honorific word. お召しになる /omeshi-ni-na’ru/ means “to send for; to wear clothes” [honorific style]; 召し上がる /meshiagaru/ means “to eat; drink,” [honorific style] and お召し列車 /omeshire’ssha/ means “royal train.” The on-yomi /shoo/ is in 国会の召集 (“call for Diet session” /kokkai no shooshuu/), 召集令 “draft notice; call of a military service” /shooshu’uree/).

  1. The kanji 招 “to invite”

history-of-kanji-%e6%8b%9bIn ten style the left side was 扌, a bushu tehen “an act that uses a hand.” The right side 召 was used phonetically for /shoo/. A tehen added a beckoning hand. Beckoning someone by hand meant “to invite.”

The kun-yomi /mane’ku/ means “to invite,” and is in 手招きする /tema’neki-suru/ means “to beckon.” The on-yomi /shoo/ is in 招待する (“to invite” /sho’otai-suru/).

  1. The kanji 紹 “to introduce”

history-of-kanji-%e7%b4%b9The bronze ware style writing, in green, is hard to make out. Setsumon explained that 紹 meant “to connect.” It also said it was to twist strings or ropes together. With that explanation in mind, I wonder if the middle of the bronze ware style writing was a skein of threads with the ends of three threads or ropes sticking out at the bottom. In ten style, the left side 糸 “thread” (with three loose ends of a skein at the bottom) was placed on the left, and the right side was the kanji 召 for /sho’o/. Together they meant “to connect people; introduce.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /shoo/ is in 紹介する “to introduce,” 紹介状 (“letter of introduction” /shookaijoo/) and 自己紹介 (“self-introduction” /jikosho’okai/).

  1. The kanji 詔 “imperial edict”

The bronze writing had 言 “word; language; speak” on the left. The right side had 刀 and 口, which made召 and was used phonetically for /shoo/ “to call for; summon.” From “word that was spoken by a superior.” The kanji 詔 meant “imperial edict.”

The kun-yomi /mikotonori/ means “imperial edict.” The on-yomi /shoo/ is in 詔書 “imperial edict.”

  1. The kanji 昭 “bright”

history-of-kanji-%e6%98%adrIn bronze ware style 召 was used phonetically for /shoo/ to mean “bright” on the left, and on the right was 卩“person.” In ten style 日 “sun” replaced a “person.” The kanji 昭 meant “bright.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /shoo/ is used for the Showa era, 昭和 /sho’owa; shoowa/.

6. The kanji 照 “to shine”

history-of-kanji-%e7%85%a7In ten style, the left side had 日 “sun” and 火 “fire,” both signifying “bright light.” The right side 召 was used phonetically for /sho’o/. Together they meant “to shine brightly.”  In kanji, 火 was moved to the bottom and became another shape for “fire” that was used at the bottom , a bushu renga. The kanji 照 meant “to shine; illuminate.”

The kun-yomi /terasu/ means “to shine,” and is in 照らし合わす “to cross-check” /terashiawa’su/), 日照り (“dry weather; draught” /hideri/). The on-yomi /shoo/ is in 照明 (“illumination” /shoomee/) and 照会状 (“letter of reference” /shookaijoo/).

7. The kanji 沼 “marsh”

history-of-kanji-%e6%b2%bcIn ten style, the left side was a stream of water, which will become a bushu sanzui “water.” The right side 召 was used only phonetically for 少 “little.”  Together from “a little water pool” the kanji 沼 meant “marsh.”

The kun-yomi /numa’/ means “marsh.” There is no on-yomi in Joyo kanji.

From the next post, I would like to start discussing 戈 “halberd.” Surprisingly a great many kanji contain 戈. Thank you very much for your reading.  – Noriko  [December 11, 2016]

The Kanji 垂睡郵・不否杯倍培陪剖部—垂 and 不 


In this last post on kanji that originated from a plant we are going to explore two groups: 垂睡郵 from “leaves drooping down to the ground” (垂) and 不否杯倍培陪剖部 from “calyx of a flower” (不).

  1. The kanji 埀 “to hang down; dangle; vertical”

history-of-kanji-%e5%9e%82For the kanji 垂 in ten style, in red, the top was leaves or branches hanging down low, which by itself signified “to droop.” The bottom was 土 “ground,” adding the sense that hanging leaves touched the ground. Together they meant “to hang down; dangle; droop.” Something that was hanging down also meant “vertical; at a right angle.” (In kyujitai, in blue, the top was similar to the non-joyo kanji 乖 /ka’i/, as in 乖離 “estrangement; separation.”I suspect that it came from a different origin and just happened to use the shape.)

The kun-yomi /tare’ru/ means “to hang down; droop,” and is in 垂れ幕 “hanging banner; curtain” and 雨垂れ (“rain dripping from eaves”/amadare/). The on-yomi /su’i/ is in 垂直 (“vertical; at right angle” /suichoku/), 懸垂 (“suspension; ‘pull-up’ in the horizontal bar” /kensui/) and 胃下垂 (“gasrtic ptosis” /ika’sui/).

  1. The kanji 郵 “post; postal service”

history-of-kanji-%e9%83%b5In ten style of the kanji 郵, 垂 on the left meant “frontier; outlying district” from something that stretched away from the center. The right side had an “area” and a “person,” signifying “village,” which is our familia bushu oozato. A village along the roads leading to an outlying area had a post station where messengers pass through. From that it meant “post; postal service.” (This kanji was in The Kanji 都者郡君群部郵郷–おおざと on November 8, 2015)

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /yu’u/ is in 郵便 (“postal service; post; mail” /yuubin/) and 郵送する (“to send by postal service” /yuusoo-suru/).

  1. The kanji 睡 ”to sleep”

history-of-kanji-%e7%9d%a1In ten style of the kanji 睡, 目 “eye” was added to 垂 “to droop,” which was also used phonetically for /su’i/. Eyelids drooping meant “to sleep.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /su’i/ is in 睡眠 (“sleep” /suimin/), 熟睡する (“to sleep soundly; fall into a deep sleep” /jukusui-suru/) and 睡魔におそわれる (“to get overcome by drowsiness” /su’ima-ni osowareru/).

The next group of kanji comes from a calyx of a flower. A calyx in Japanese is 花の萼 /ga’ku; gaku’/. It became the kanji 不.

  1. The kanji 不 “negation; not”

history-of-kanji-%e4%b8%8dIn oracle bone style, in brown, bronze ware style, in green, and ten style, it was a pictograph of a calyx of a flower – the top was an enclosed fruit or seed and the bottom was a leaf-like support, usually green. The shape was borrowed to mean “negation; not ~.” 不 is used as prefix to signify “negation; not.”

The kun-yomi is /zu/ but is rarely used. Words that have the on-yomi /hu; bu/ are numerous. They often have an counterpart to which 不 gives the meaning “not.” 不安定な (“unstable” /hur’antee-na/) and 安定 (“stable” /antee/), 不利な (“disadvantageous” /hu’ri-na/) and 有利な (“advantageous” /yu’uri-na/), 不便な (“inconvenient” /hu’ben-na/) and 便利な (“be’nri-na” /convenient?), and 不可能 (“impossible” /huka’noo-na/) and 可能な (“possible; able” /kanoo-na/).

  1. The kanji 否 “to deny”

history-of-kanji-%e5%90%a6In ten style of the kanji 否, what we see in ten style of 不 had 口 “mouth” or “speaking.” Together they meant “to deny.”

The kun-yomi 否む /ina’mu/ means “to deny,” used in writing. The on-yomi /hi/ is in 否定 (“negation” /hitee/), 否決する (“to vote down” /hiketsu-suru/) and /-pi/ is in 安否を問う (“to inquire about the safety of someone” /a’npi-o to’u/).

  1. The kanji 杯 “wine cup; cupful”

history-of-kanji-%e6%9d%afFor the kanji 杯 in ten style 木 “tree/wood” was added to 不 “calyx.” Together they signified a calyx-shape wine cup made of wood. From that it meant “wine cup; cupful of.” It is also used as a counter for “cupful.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ha/ is in 祝杯 (“celebratory drink” /shukuhai/), and /-pai/ is in 乾杯 (“bottom-up; cheers” /kanpai/). As a counter, the consonant has the usual variations of /ha; pu; ba/ that a beginning student goes through memorizing–一杯 /i’ppai/, 二杯 /ni’hai/, 三杯 /sa’nbai/, 四杯 /yo’nhai/ 五杯 /gohai/ and so on.

In the next five kanji, 倍培陪剖部, the ten style shape that we saw in 否 were seen in their ten style, but they became a different shape, 咅, in kanji.

  1. The kanji 倍 “to become doubled; double”

history-of-kanji-%e5%80%8dFor the kanji 倍 in ten style, a bushu ninben “person” was added to the left. The right side meant a ripe fruit or seed that was about to split. 咅 was used phonetically for /bu/ tmeaning “to divide.” Together they signified two people splitting something. From that it meant “to become doubled; double.” For sample words please see the earlier post. For word samples, please refer to the earlier post.

  1. The kanji 培 “culture; to cultivate”

history-of-kanji-%e5%9f%b9The kanji 培 had a bushu tsuchihen “soil; dirt’ ground.” A mature calyx swelled and signified something “swelling; bulging.” Together they meant a hilly land or raised ground. When you grow a plant you add soil around it. The kanji 培 means “to cultivate.”

The kun-yomi /tsuchika’u/ means “ to cultivate; nurture. The on-yomi /ba’i/ is 栽培する “to grow” and 培養 “culture.”

  1. The kanji 陪 “to accompany”

history-of-kanji-%e9%99%aaThe kanji 陪 had a bushu kozatohen “pile of dirt.” The right side 咅 was used phonetically.It means “to attend; accompany” in an official capacity. The connection with “officially” is explained in Shirakawa as coming from a kozatohen as a ladder for the god.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /bai/ is in 陪審員 (“juror” /baishi’n-in/), 陪食する (“to have a meal accompanying someone superior” /baishoku-suru/) –not a useful word for us–,  and 陪席 (“sitting with a superior” /baiseki/). For us “sitting in a company of someone” would be 同席する /dooseki-suru/.

  1. The kanji 剖 “to divide; cut”

history-of-kanji-%e5%89%96The kanji 剖 had a bushu rittoo “knife” on the right side. On the left the top part of a matured calyx would split. Together they meant “to divide; cut.” There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /bo’o/ is in 解剖する (“to dissect” /kaiboo-suru/).

  1. The kanji 部 “part”

history-of-kanji-%e9%83%a8If you only look at the kanji 部 and 陪, they look as if the components were just swiched. However, as we already know from the earlier posts, the bushu kosatohen and oozato had entirely different origins. This pair would be a good reminder for us about different origins. For the kanji 部 in ten style the right side was “village.” The left side 咅, meaning “splitting into two,” and the right side “village” meant “a part of a village or other entirety.” The kanji 部 meant “to divide a village into parts.” From that it meant “part; portion” of a whole or “department; section” of a larger organization. For word samples please refer to the earlier post. (The Kanji 都者郡君群部郵郷–おおざとon November 8, 2015)

We have looked at eight kanji 不否杯倍培陪剖部 that originated from 不. Kanji shapes developed differently even though their ten style writings had the same shape. Even though the original image of calyx was primarily used phonetically we could also see a part of a plant hidden in the origin of the meaning of 不. I hope some readers find this connection interesting. My next posting will be in two weeks. Thank you very much for your interest. –Noriko [October 9, 2016]

The Kanji 私種程稲稿称香和歴暦-のぎへん (2)


In this post we continue exploring kanji that contain a nogihen 禾 “rice plant” with a drooping head because of a full crop — 私種程稲稿称香. After that we are going to look at kanji with a different view of the origin of nogihen, “military gate sign,”–和歴暦.

  1. The kanji 私 “I; private; personal”

History of Kanji 私For the kanji 私 in ten style, in red, the left side was a “rice plant.” The right side was a hoe or plow of a peasant who worked on a private field owned by a landowner. From a private land peasant, it meant “private” and was extended to mean “I.” Another view of the right side is that a person was bending his arm to claim crops that belonged to him. In kanji the right side is in the katakana ムshape.

The kun-yomi 私 /watakushi/ means “I.” The on-yomi /shi/ is in 私的な (“private” /shiteki-na/), 私物 (“private property; personal belongings” /shibutsu/), 公私の別 (“distinction between public and private” /ko’oshi-no betu/), 私立 (“private; non-govermental” /shi’ritsu/), 私用 (“personal errand” /shiyoo/) and 私服 (“plain clothes; not in uniform” /shihuku/).

  1. The kanji 種 “seed; kind”

History of Kanji 種For the kanji 種 in ten style the right side meant “heavy.” (Please refer to the earlier post on 重 “heavy.” [The Kanji 東動働重童-力 “power” (3) on January 5, 2015] The grains that were full and heavy made good seeds and were kept for the next seeding time. Seeds are also of different kinds. The kanji 種 meant “seed; kind.”

The kun-yomi 種 /ta’ne/ means “seed,” and /-dane/ is in 火種 (“kindling; the cause of fire” /hida’ne/) in the phrase 火種となる (“to cause a dispute” /hida’ne-to naru/) . The on-yomi /shu/ is in 種子 (“seed” /shu’shi/), 種類 (“kind” /shurui/), 人種 (“race” /jinshu/), 各種 (“various kind of” /ka’kushu/), 品種 (“sort; kind; variety; breed” /hinshu/) and 種々様々 (“all sorts of; all manner of” /shu’ju sama’zama/).

  1. The kanji 程 “degree; extent”

History of Kanji 程For the kanji 程 in ten style the right side had a person with a short line at the shin, and was used phonetically to mean “to present; submit.” Together with the left side “rice plant,” they meant the neatly piled rice plants that were measured. Measuring gave the meaning “extent; degree.” In kanji the right side became 呈 (“to present; submit” /te’e/) with the bottom changing to 王 from the shape 壬 that was kept in other kanji such as 廷庭.

The kun-yomi 程 /hodo/ means “degree,” and is in 程よい (“good; temperate” /hodoyo’i/), 程々にする (“do things in moderation” /hodohodo-ni-suru/). It may also be used in the verbal phrase 〜すればする程 “the more you do, the more it becomes” and the adjectival phrase 〜ければ〜い程, even though it is often written in hiragana. The on-yomi /te’e/ is in 程度 (“degree; extent” /te’edo/) and 日程 (“schedule; schedule of the day” /nittee/) and 旅程 (“itinerary; distance” /ryotee/).

  1. The kanji 稲 “rice plant”

History of Kanji 稲For the kanji 稲 in bronze ware style, in green, the right side of (a) had “a hand reaching from above” and “a mortar” at the bottom. It was also used phonetically to mean “a scooping.” With the left side a rice plant with crop, together they meant a hand handling rice in a mortar. In (b) the rice plant and a hand were placed at the top, and the bottom had “water” on the left, and rice grains and a mortar on the right side. Rice is grown in paddies immersed in water at earlier stage, unlike other grains. From a hand handling rice in a mortar the kanji 稲 meant “rice plant.”

The kun-yomi 稲 /i’ne/ means “rice plant,” and /ina-/ is in 稲穂 (“ear of rice plant” /inaho/) and 稲荷 (“the god of harvests” /i’nari/). The on-yomi /to’o/ is in 水稲 (“rice grown in rice paddies” /suitoo/).

  1. The kanji 稿 “manuscript”

History of Kanji 稿For the kanji 稿 in ten style the top was a tower, and was used phonetically to mean “dry.” Inside the tower was rice plants. Together they originally signified dry rice plants or “straw.” In shinjitai the two components 禾 “rice plants” and 高 were placed side by side. Straws scattered were similar to scattered scribbles or notes for manuscripts. From that it meant “manuscripts.” The original meaning of “straw” is written as 藁 (a bushu kusakanmuri, 高 and 木) pronounced as /wa’ra/, which is not included among Joyo kanji.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 原稿 (“manuscripts” /genkoo/), 原稿用紙 (“writing section paper for manuscripts” /genkooyo’oshi/) and 投稿する (“to submit an article” /tookoo-suru/).

  1. The kanji 称 “to praise; title; name”

History of Kanji 称For the kanji 称 the oracle bone style writings, in brown, had a hand from above at the top holding a pair of scales. From “lifting two things to weigh” it meant “to raise someone up with praise.” In ten style, the left side had a rice plant and the right side was a hand and a well-balanced structure, signifying lifting a weigh scale. The kyujitai, in blue, reflected the ten style writing. In shinjitai, the right side was replaced by 尓.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /sho’o/ is in 名称 (“name” /meeshoo/), 称号 (“title” /shoogoo/), 自称 (“self-proclaimed; self-described” /jishoo/) and 愛称 (“nickname” /aishoo/).

  1. The kanji 香 “fragrance”

History of Kanji 香For the kanji 香, the oracle bone style writings were millet in a bowl. That became the top of the ten style writing. History of Kanji 黍It is not easy to see the transition, but if we look at the history of the kanji 黍 /ki’bi/ “millet” shown on the right, we can see that the ten style of 黍 became the top of the ten style of 香. Millet has a fragrance. (I do not know how millet smells.) With 曰, it meant one tasting in one’s mouth millet that is fragrant. So in 香, 禾 at the top was not from “rice plant” but “rice-like plant.” The kanji 香 meant “pleasant smell; fragrance.”

The kun-yomi 香り /kaori/ means “fragrance.” The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 香水 (“perfume” /koosui/), 香料 (“fragrance” /kooryo’o/) and  香辛料 (“spice” /kooshi’nryoo/).

The prevalent view of the origin of the bushu 禾 is “rice plants” as we have seen. There is another view on the origin when 禾 appeared in some kanji. The next three kanji, 和歴暦, are explained in Shirakawa to have originated as “military gate.” We have touched upon this when we looked at the bronze ware style writings of the kanji 休 in the earlier post just a while ago. This is what I wrote:

“(Shirakawa) said that the right side was not 木 but 禾. 禾 was explained as a sign placed on the gate of a military installation where a cease-fire ceremony was held (related to the kanji 和 “peace; harmony”). From this the writing 休 meant to conduct a peace-keeping negotiation at this gate.”[The Kanji 木休本体末抹朱株—”tree” (1) on July 10, 2016]

So, let us look at these kanji in two different views of 禾.

  1. The kanji 和 “peaceful; harmony; Japanese”

History of Kanji 和For the kanji 和 in bronze ware style the left side had a wooden sign on a gate of a military installation. The right side was a box to contain documents. Together they signified a military truce agreement for peace, and from that it meant “peace; harmony.” That is View A. The more prevalent view, View B, is that it was used phonetically: 禾 was a drooping head of a millet plant, was used phonetically to mean “rounded” (Kanjigen) and signified “not having a conflict”; or, the writing consisted of a mouth and 禾 /ka/, which signified phonetically “to add,” as in 加 /ka/. Together they meant people talk harmoniously (Kadokawa). 和 also meant “Japanese.”

The kun-yomi 和らぐ /yawara’gu/ means “to become mild; soften,” as in 痛みが和らぐ (“pain is eased” /itami’-ga yawara’gu/). Another kun-yomi 和やかな /nago’yaka-na/ means “congenial; friendly.” The on-yomi /wa/ is in 平和 (“peace” /heewa/), 和服 (“Japanese-style clothes” /wahuku/), 和気あいあいと (“congenially; friendly atmosphere” /wa’ki aiai-to/), 和紙 (“Japanese rice paper” /wa’shi/), 和風 (“Japanese style” /wahuu/) and 大和 (“old name of Japan” /ya’mato/).

The next two kanji 歴 and 暦 share a common component at the top. Different views on the origin of 禾 naturally result in having different views on what this shape meant; View A “field military headquarters” and view B “dry rice plants placed neatly in a row under the eave.”

  1. The kanji 歴 “history; path”

History of Kanji 歴For the kanji 歴 in oracle bone style (a) had two piecs of wood or rice plants and a footprint. In bronze ware style, (b) and (c), cliff or roof was added. (c) did not have a footprint. In ten style 禾 was 木, but in kyujitai kanji it became 禾, and further changed back to 木 in shinjitai kanji. View A: the top signified military signs under a cliff and the footprint signified an army touring a number of places one by one. Because army moved from one place to another, it meant “path; history.” View B: Many seasons of rice harvests counted one by one. The kanji 歴 meant “history; path.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /reki/ is in 歴史 (“history” /rekishi/), 略歴 (“brief history” /ryakureki/), 履歴書 (”resume;curriculum votar” /rirekisho/), 経歴 (“work experiences” /keereki/) and 学歴 (“educational background” /gakureki/) and 歴訪する (“to tour; successive visits” /rekihoo-suru/).

  1. The kanji 暦 “calendar; almanac”

History of Kanji 暦View A: a military field headquarters and a box of documents. It originally meant a recognition ceremony for distinguished war service at the gate. Later on the bottom was mistakenly interpreted as the sun, and it was used as a calendar. View B: Rice plants laid in a row and the sun together signified “the sun taking its path.” From that it meant “calendar.”

The kun-yomi 暦 /koyomi’/ means “calendar.” The on-yomi /re’ki/ is in 太陽暦 (“solar calendar” /taiyo’oreki/), 西暦 (“Christian era; A.D.” /seereki/) and 還暦 (“the sixtieth anniversary of one’s birth” /kanreki/).

In the next post, we are moving to another component from a plant. Thank  you very much for your reading. [September 4, 2916]

The Kanji 業乗楽薬林森条査染机案極 – 木 “tree” (3)


In the last two posts, we explored kanji that originated from “tree.” In all of these kanji (休本体末抹朱株 and 未妹味昧制製果課裸菓, except 休) the shape 木 for “tree” was sort of hidden in a different shape. I would like to add a couple more to this group–業乗. We then start exploring kanji in which 木 appears as it is as a bottom or left component –楽薬林森条査染机案極.

  1. The kanji 業 “work; skills; deed; act”

History of Kanji 業For the kanji 業, the top of (a) in bronze ware style, in green, and ten style (c), in red, had notches to hang a number of musical instruments, and the bottom was its stand. This view came from Setsumon and is the prevalent view in references. The fact that such a stand became writing suggests the importance of musical instruments in a ceremony and religious rite in ancient times. It came to be used to mean “skills; work; one’s deed.” On the other hand Shirakawa takes the view that it was wooden frames that were used to ram dirt down to make a strong foundation or wall, and that from those boards in construction 業 came to mean “work” in general. In Buddhism it is used for “karma” from the Sanskrit word that meant “deed; act.”

The kun-yomi 業 /waza’/ means “work; deed; act,” and is in 仕業 (“one’s doing; act” /shiwaza/). The on-yomi /gyo’o/ is in 工業 (“manufacturing industry” /ko’ogyoo/), 産業 (“industry” /sangyoo/), 業務 (“work; service” /gyo’omu/), 授業 (“class; lecture” /ju’gyoo/). Another on-yomi 業 /goo/ means (“karma; inevitable retribution”).

  1. The kanji 乗 “to climb; ride”

History of Kanji 乗(frame)We looked at the kanji 乗 exactly two years ago in connection with “foot.” [One Foot at a Time (3) 無舞乗 on July 20, 2014.] The oracle bone style, in brown, and bronze ware style writings was a man standing on top of a tree with his two feet anchored outward for a sure foothold. It meant “to ride, to get aboard.” There is another interpretation for the two feet in the ten style writing – two people (ヒ) were sitting on a tree. The kyujitai writing, in blue, reflected ten style. In shinjitai, the two feet, or people, lost their shape and became short lines. For sample words, please refer to the earlier post.

  1. The kanji 楽 “music; pleasant; enjoyable; comfortable”

History of Kanji 楽There are different views on what the top of the kanji 楽 originated from — a swing drum on a stand (Setsumon); bells with a handle which had ornamental threads on both sides (Shirakawa); a string instrument, from a fingernail (白) plucking two strings of threads (幺) (Kadokawa); and acorns on a kunugi tree that were used phonetically to mean “fun; to enjoy.” A musical instrument making pleasant rhythmic sounds meant “music; pleasant; enjoyable; comfortable.” The kyujitai writing 樂 reflected ten style but it was simplified to 楽 in shinjitai.

The kun-yomi 楽しい /tanoshi’i/ means “enjoyable,” and is in 楽しみにする (“to look forward to” /tanoshi’mi-ni-suru/). The on-yomi /ga’ku/ is in 音楽 (“music” /o’ngaku/). Another on-yomi /raku/ is in 気楽な (“carefree; easygoing” /kiraku-na/) and 楽々と (“with great ease” /rakura’ku-to/).

  1. The kanji 薬 “medicine; pharmaceutical”

History of Kanji 薬The kanji 薬 has a bushu kusakanmuri “plant; plant life; vegetation” on top of the kanji 楽. The bottom 楽 was used phonetically for /raku/ to mean “medicinal herb.” Together they meant “medicine; pharmaceutical.” Just like 樂, 薬 was simplified to 薬

The kun-yomi /kusuri/ means “medicine; herbal medicine,” and is in 薬屋 (“pharmacy; drug store” /kusuriya/). /-Gusuri/ is in 飲み薬 (“internal medicine” /nomigu’suri/) and 目薬 (“eye drop” /megu’suri/). The on-yomi /yaku/ is in 薬品 (“medicine; chemicals” /yakuhin/).

The next two kanji are self-explanatory –林森.

  1. The kanji 林 “wooded area”

History of Kanji 林In all the ancient writings in three styles shown on the left, it had two trees side by side. They meant “woods; grove.” When 木 is placed on the left side of a kanji, it is a bushu kihen, and the fourth stroke becomes short.

The kun-yomi /hayashi/ means “wooded area; grove.” The on-yomi /ri’n/ is in 林立する (“to stand close together”/rinritsu-suru/), as in 高層ビルが林立する (“crowded with high-rise buildings” /koosoobi’ru-ga rinritsu-suru/).

  1. The kanji 森 “forest”

History of Kanji 森In oracle bone style the kanji 森 had three trees, either in a triangle shape or side by side. A lot of trees meant “forest.” Deep in a forest also gave the meaning “mystic.”

The kun-yomi /mori/ means “forest.” The on-yomi /shi’n/ is in 森林 (“forest” /shinrin/). The phrase 森羅万象 /shi’nra banshoo/ means “all things in nature.”

  1.  The kanji 条 “line; streak”

History of Kanji 条The kanji 条 had the kyujitai 條. The ten style writing had quite a few discrete items– the left side was a person; the middle vertical line was water trickling down; and the right side had a hand holding a stick at the top and (a branch of) a tree. In an earlier post on the bushu bokuzukuri/bokunyoo [Kanji Bushu ぼくづくり攵・攴(1) 改攻枚教 on October 18, 2014], we saw that “a hand holding a stick” became a bushu bokuzukuri/bokubyoo (攴・攵) and meant “action; to cause an action.” In ten style all the components together made up the meaning of “a standing person being purified with water sprinkled  by shaking a twig of a tree.” From “trickle of water” it meant a long thin lines or a sentence line in a document such as a section or article of law. In shinjitai, curiously the line for water trickling down that meant “line” disappeared together with a person. Only the right side remained, but even then 攵 changed to 夂 “backward.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /jo’o/ is in 条件 (“condition” /jooke’n/), 条約 (‘treaty” /jooyaku.), 条例 (“ordinance; regulations” /jooree/), 一条の光 (“a ray of light” /ichi’joo-no hikari/) 憲法九条 (article 9 of the Japanese Constitution) and the phrase 金科玉条 (“golden rule” /ki’nka gyokujoo/).

  1. The kanji 査 “to inspect”

査(kanji)査 was not discussed in Setsumon. In kanji, the bottom 且 was used phonetically for /sa/. The use of 査 to mean “to examine” was said to have come from a dialectal use or borrowing.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /sa/ is in 検査 (“inspection” /ke’nsa/), 査定 (“assessment” /satee/), 査証 (“visa” /sashoo/), 審査 (“examination; investigation” /shi’nsa/), 調査 (“survey; investigation” /cho’osa/) and 巡査 (“police constable” /junsa/).

  1. The kanji 染 “to dye”

History of Kanji 染The ten style of the kanji 染 had “water; liquid” on the left side. The right side was wilted leaves and a tree, signifying tree extract to dye. Together soaking fabric in tree extract liquid meant “to dye.” The kanji 染 meant “to dye.”

The kun-yomi 染める /someru/ means “to dye.” In Japan it is also used for 染みる (“to soak; permeate” /shimiru/, as in 心に染みる (“to sink into one’s heart” /kokoro’-ni shimiru/). The on-yomi /se’n/ is in 染色 (“dyeing” /se’nshoku/), 染料 (“dye” /senryo’o/), 感染 (“infection” /kansen/) and 汚染 (“contamination; pollution” /osen/).

  1. The kanji 机 “desk”

History of Kanji 机In ten style, the left writing was a low stand with a leg on two sides. It was also used as a stool to sit on or an armrest. The right ten style writing had “wood” on the left. A wooden low table became the kanji 机 “desk; writing table.”

The kun-yomi /tsukue/ means “desk,” and is in 文机 (“low writing table” /huzu’kue/). The on-yomi /ki/ is in the expression 机上の空論 (“a mere theory; an academic theory that cannot be put into practice” /kijoo-no-kuuron/).

  1. The kanji 案 “plan; proposal; to worry”

History of Kanji 案For the kanji 案, the top 安 was used phonetically for /a’n/. The bottom 木 “wood” signified a wooden table. (For the discussion of the kanji 安, please read the previous post [Kanji Radical 女 おんなへん – 女好妹要妻安 on November 23, 2014].) One thought about a matter in order to make a proposal at a desk. From that, it meant “plan; proposal; idea.” Sitting at a desk pondering for a long time also gave the meaning “anxious; to be worried.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /a’n/ is in 案を練る (“to work out a plan” /a’n-o ne’ru/), 立案する (“to make a proposal” /ritsuan-suru/), 案内 (“guide; showing around a place” /an-na’i/) and 案じる (“anxious; to worry” /anjiru/).

  1. The kanji 極 “extreme”

History of Kanji 極In bronze ware style, it was a person standing in a constricted space. In ten style, a tree was added on the left side. Setsumon treated 極 and 棟 as the “ridge beam” of a house. The room between the ridge beam and roof is very small. In ten style,  “wood” and a hand of another person pushing the standing person into a tight corner, and was used phonetically for /kyoku/ to mean “extreme.” Together they meant “extreme.”

The kun-yomi 極める /kiwame’ru/ means “to reach the end; go to the extreme,” and is in 極めて (“extremely; very” /kiwa’mete/). The on-yomi /kyo’ku/ is in 究極 (“extreme; limit” /kyuukyoku/), 極限 (“utmost limit” /kyokugen/), 極端に (“extremely” /kyokuta’n-ni/) and 南極 (“the Antarctic” /nankyoku/).

There are many more kanji that contain 木 “tree; wooden” in various positions of kanji. We will have one more posting on kanji with 木 next week.  Thank you very much. [July 30, 2016]

The Kanji 未妹味昧制製果課裸菓–“tree” (2)


This is the second post on kanji that originated from “tree.” The kanji we are going to look at are 未妹味昧・制製・果課裸菓.

In the last post, we looked at 末, which had a long horizontal stroke at the top that came from just a marking bulge called hiten pointing out the top of a tree. In contrast the kanji we are going to look at here first is 未, which had a short stroke at the top, but it actually came from a real line rather than just a symbol.

  1. The kanji 未 “not yet; still”

History of Kanji 未rIn the oracle bone style writings of 未 (a), in brown, there was an upward-facing U-shape line placed on a tree. It signified that the tree was growing with rigor and the limbs were even outgrowing the trunk. It originally meant “a tree growing strong.” In the second oracle bone sample (b), bronze ware style, (c) in green, and ten style, (d) in red, the top limbs were in a more well-formed shape. The original meaning “a tree growing strong” was borrowed, or came, to mean something that had not been completed. The writing 未 meant “not yet; still.”

The kun-yomi 未だ /mada/ means “not yet; still.” Another kun-yomi 未だに /imada-ni/ means “not yet; still.” The on-yomi /mi/ is in 未来 (“future” /mi’rai/), 未明 (“early morning; dawn” /mimee/), 未然に防ぐ (“to prevent beforehand” /mizen-ni huse’gu/).

  1. The kanji 妹 “younger sister”

History of Kanji 妹(frame)A long-time reader of this blog may recall reading such a story given in 1 above before in the kanji 妹 in the context of a bushu onnahen “woman; female.” [Kanji Radical おんなへん-女好妹要妻安 on November 23, 2914.]  A female member of a family who was still growing meant “younger sister.” The history is shown on the right in a green box. For sample words, please refer to the previous post.

  1. The kanji 味 “taste”

History of Kanji 味For the kanji 味, in ten style the left side 口 was a mouth and the right side 未 was used phonetically for /mi/ to mean “not yet; still.” Tasting something in the mouth is the process of trying to figure out what it is. It meant “taste.”

The kun-yomi /aji/ means “taste,” and is in 味見する “to taste for a try,” 塩味 (“salty taste” /shio’aji/), 後味の悪い (“leaving a bad aftertaste; feeling an unpleasant effect” /atoaji-no-waru’i/). The on-yomi /mi/ is in 味覚 (“taste bud” /mikaku/) and 賞味期限 (“best before” date; food expiration date” /shoomiki’gen/). It is also used for other than food, such as 味方する (“to take someone’s side” /mikata-suru/), 興味ある (“interesting” /kyoomia’ru/) and 趣味 (“hobby; pastime” /shu’mi/).

  1. The kanji 昧 “self-absorption in something”

History of Kanji 昧The two kanji 味 and 昧 are easy to be confused in isolation. The kanji 昧 has a bushu hihen “sun” instead of a bushu kuchihen “mouth.” For the kanji 昧, (a) and (b) in bronze ware style, the top was 未 “not yet,” and the bottom was “the sun.” The time before the sun rose was dark, and from that it meant “not clear.” When one is self-absorbed in something, he cannot see other things. In ten style (c), 日 and 未 were placed side by side. The kanji 昧 means “self-absorption; indulge.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ma’i/ is in 曖昧な (“ambiguous; vague” /aimai-na/). 三昧 /za’nmai/ means “being self-absorbed in doing somethingor indulgence,” and is always used with other words such as 読書三昧 (“indulgence in reading books” /dokushoz’nmai/) and 釣り三昧 (“self-indulgence in fishing” /tsuriza’nmai/).

Overgrown limbs (the origin of 未) have to be trimmed back neatly. That is what happened to the next two kanji, 制 and 製.

  1. The kanji 制 “to control; regulate”

History of Kanji 制In ten style for 制 the left side was exactly the same as that of 未, whose original meaning was “a tree growing strong.” The right side was “knife.” Together “trimming overgrowing limbs at the top with a knife or a pair of shears” meant “to put in order; control; regulate.” In kanji an extra short stroke was added to emphasize pruning. (In the last post in 朱 and 株, we saw a similar device of adding an extra short stroke on top left of a tree.) The right side became a bushu rittoo “vertical knife,” which is a bushu shape when 刀 “knife; sword” was placed on the right side of kanji. The kanji 制 means “to put in order; control; regulate.”

  1. The kanji 製

History of Kanji 製For the kanji 製, in ten style the top was pruning a tree with a pair of shears, which became the kanji 制 “to regulate.” A well-maintained tree signified something well-made. The bottom was “clothes” from “collar.” Together they signified “to make clothes.” The meaning extended to mean manufacturing a well-made product with precision. The kanji 製 means “to manufacture products of even quality; product; made in.”

The next four kanji 果課裸菓 share the same shape 果.

  1. The kanji 果 “fruit; end; to perish”

History of Kanji 果rIn bronze ware style, it was a tree with berries or fruits on top.The oddly elongated wtiting (b) may be due to a particular stylistic effect. It meant “nut; fruit; berry.” It also meant something that came to fruition, thus, “results.” In ten style (c) the dots were lost. In Japan this writing also meant “to perish; end.” Could it be because fruits and berries perish very quickly?  The kanji means “fruit; result; outcome; to perish; end; carry out.”

The kun-yomi /kuda/ is in 果物 (“fruit” /kuda’mono/). Another kun-yomi 果て /hate/ means “end; result,” and in the verb 果てる (“to perish; die; be exhausted ” /hate’ru/). The on-yomi /ka/ is in 果実 (“fruit; fruition” /ka’jitsu/) and 結果 (“result” /kekka/).

  1. The kanji 課 “to impose; section; study subject”

History of Kanji 課 copyFor the kanji 課, in ten style the left side 言 was a bushu gonben “word; language.” The right side 果 was used phonetically for /ka/ to mean “to use; try.” Together they originally signified administering an employment exam. An applicant studied the materials and the examiner gave the test. An official examined the fee or levy, so it also extended to mean “charge.” The kanji 課 means  “section of study; lesson; to charge; impose.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ka/ is in 課する (“to levy; impose; assess” /kasu’ru/), 課目 (“subject of study” /kamoku/), 第三課 (“lesson 3” /da’i sa’nka/), 課題 (“assignment; question; problem” /kadai/), 課税 (“taxation”/kazee/) and 課長 (“section manager” /kachoo/).

  1. The kanji 裸 “bare; naked”

History of Kanji 裸For the kanji 裸, in the ten style writing 果 was phonetically used for /ka/, which was placed inside 衣 “clothes.” In the development of kanji, the shape of a component stayed in tact, not splitting up to allow other shape in between. There are some exceptions. 衣belonged to those exceptions, showing the back and front of a collar separately in some kanji. (The kanji 裏 “back; wrong side” is another example.) The role of 果 is not very clear in 裸 but some scholars think that smooth skin of a fruit and a body could be the connection. A body without clothes meant “bare; naked.”

The kun-yomi /hadaka/ means “naked; bare.” The on-yomi /ra/ is in 裸体 (“bare body” /ratai/), 全裸 (“completely naked” /zenra/) and 赤裸々な (“unvarnished; frank” /sekirara-na/).

  1. The kanji 菓 “sweets”

There is no ancient writing sample for the kanji 菓. Fruit was eaten as something sweet. The original writing for fruit, 果, came to have a wider meaning as discussed in 10, and a new kanji was created to mean “sweets” by adding a bushu kusakanmuri “plant; grass.” In Japan it originally meant “fruit processed with sugar,” and came to mean sweets that were made with bean or rice powder and sugar. The kanji 菓 means “sweets.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ka/ is in お菓子 (“snack; sweets” /oka’shi/). /-Ga/ is in 和菓子 (“Japanese-style sweets” /waga’shi/) and 洋菓子 (“western-style sweets” /yooga’shi/) and 生菓子 (“Japanese unbaked sweets” /namaga’shi/).

There are more kanji that contain a shape that originated from a tree. We will look at those before we start looking at kanji with a bushu kihen “tree; wooden” in the next post. [July 17, 2016]

The Kanji 金全銅同銀鉄鋼針銭-かねへん(1)


In this and next posts we are going to look at kanji that contain 金 the bushu kanehen “metal.” There are quite a large number of kanji with a kanehen among the Joyo kanji. There seem to be no oracle bone style samples of any kanji for the shape 金.

  1. The kanji 金 “metal; gold; money”

History of Kanji 金The generally accepted explanation of the kanji 金 is the Setsumon’s explanation that the top originated with 今, which was used phonetically for /kin/, and that the bottom was glistening metal nuggets in soil. I imagined a scene in nature or a mine with a roof. (In this blog, oracle bone style writing is shown in brown, bronze style writing is in green, and ten style writing is in red.) I would like to add another explanation (proposed by Shirakawa) – it was the composite of another kanji 全 and pieces of copper for casting. To understand this, the history of the kanji 全 is useful. So let us make a detour to look at the origin of the kanji 全.

The kanji 全 “complete; to fulfill”

History of Kanji 全For the kanji 全, the Setsumon’s explanation for (c) was that it consisted of a bushu hitoyane and 工. It also explained it earlier shapes, (a) and (b), as flawless perfect jewels or gems (王 is the same as 玉 “jewel; gem”). From that the kanji 全 meant “complete; perfect; to fulfill.” Shirakawa explained (a) as 佩玉 /haigyoku/ “gems strung together worn by a noble on the waist in a ceremony.” In this view the whole kanji was a single image of the jewelry rather than a composite of two components.

The kun-yomi 全く/mattaku/ means “completely; entirely.” 全うする /mattoo-suru/ means “to fulfill one’s mission; accomplish one’s purpose.” The on-yomi /ze’n/ is in 全部 (“whole; all” /ze’nbu/), 全体 (“the whole; entirely” /zentai/), 完全に (“completely; perfectly” /kanzen-ni/).

Now back to the kanji 金. In ancient times in China “metal” referred to bronze. It makes sense that the term 金文 is translated as “bronze ware style writing” in kanji history. Five kinds of metal were named by their color —黄金, from “yellow metal,” meant gold [金]: 黒金, from “black metal,” meant iron [鉄] ; 白金, from “white metal,” meant silver [銀]; 赤金, from “red metal,” meant copper [銅]; and 青金, from “blue metal,” meant lead [鉛].

The kun-yomi 金 /kane/ means “metal,” and is in お金 /okane/ meaning “money,” 金持ち “rich; wealthy” /kanemo’chi/). /-Gane/ is in 有り金 (“money left” /arigane/), and 黄金 (“golden; gold” /kogane/). /Kana-/ is in 金物 (“metal” /kanamono/). The on-yomi 金 /ki’n/ is a kan-on and means “gold,” and is in 借金 (“debt; borrowing money” /shakki’n/), 金属 (“metal” /ki’nzoku/), 金髪 (“blond hair” /kinpatsu/). Another on-yomi /kon or gon/ is a go-on and is in 黄金 (“golden” /oogon/). The word 金色 is read in two way — /kin-iro/ “golden” in kan-on reading; and /konjiki/ “golden” in go-on reading.

  1. The kanji 銅 “copper”

History of Kanji 銅For the kanji 銅, the bronze ware style writing had “metal” on the left side, and the right side was used phonetically for /do’o/ to mean “red.” Together they meant “red metal” (赤金), which is “copper.” The kanji 銅 means “copper.” When 金 is used on the left side it is called a bushu kanehen. Bronze is 青銅, which is a yellowish brown color but when rusted 銅 becomes greenish blue (緑青 “verdigris” /rokusho’o/).

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /do’o/ means “cupper” and is in 赤銅色 (“reddish dark color” /shakudooiro/), 青銅器 (“bronze ware” /seedo’oki/), 銅像 (“bronze statue” /doozoo/).

The kanji 同 “same; identical”

History of Kanji 同The right side of the kanji 銅 is the kanji 同 “same.” In oracle bone style and bronze ware style, it had a piece of board at the top and a hole at the bottom. A hole that went through boards enabled them to become one, which signified “the same.” In ten style, a part of the board became a line inside. The kanji 同 means “same; identical.”

  1. The kanji 銀 “silver”

History of Kanji 銀(frame)This kanji has been discussed over two years ago in the post Eyes Wide Open (4) 限, 眼, 根, 恨, 痕, 銀 and 退 on April 7, 2014. The ten style writing of the kanji 銀 had “metal” on the left. The right side was used phonetically to mean “white.” “White metal” (白金) meant “silver.” (In modern use, 白金 means platinum.) For sample words, please refer to the earlier post.

  1. The kanji 鉄 “iron”

History of Kanji 鉄黒金 “black metal” meant “iron.” The kanji 鉄 had a kyujitai 鐵, which came from ten style. In ten style the left side was metal; the center and right side together were used phonetically to mean “reddish black.” Together they meant “metal that becomes red when rusted,” which was “iron.” In shinjitai, the right side became the kanji 失, which resembled the pre-ten style writing, in purple.

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /tetsu/ means “iron.” It is in 鉄道 (“railroad; railway” /tetsudoo/), 私鉄 (“private railway” /shitetsu/), as in the nationally owned railway (国有鉄道 or 国鉄), which is now called JR (/jeea’aru/) after privatization in 1987, 地下鉄 (“subway; underground railway” /chikatetsu/), 鉄則 (“iron rule” /tessoku/), 鉄砲 (“gun; firearms” /teppoo/), 鉄火巻き (“sushi roll with pieces of raw tuna inside” /tekkamaki/), from the red color of heated iron and tuna.

  1. The kanji 鉛 “lead”

History of Kanji 鉛For the kanji 鉛, the left side was “metal,” and the right side was used phonetically for /e’n/ to mean “to flow along” (as in the kanji 沿 “to go along; follow”). Lead melts at a low temperature and runs quickly. From that the kanji 鉛 meant “lead.”

The kun-yomi /namari/ means “lead.” The on-yomi /e’n/ is in 鉛筆 (“pencil” /enpitsu/), 亜鉛 (“zinc” /a’en/), 無鉛ガソリン (“unleaded gasoline” /muenga’sorin/).

  1. The kanji 鋼 “steel”

The kanji 鋼There is no ancient writing for the kanji 鋼. The left side 金 was “metal.” The right side 岡 meant “a hardy mold that had been baked at a high temperature.” Together “hard and strong metal/iron” meant “steel.“ Steel, a hard, strong, gray alloy of iron with carbon is used extensively as a structural and fabricating material.

The kun-yomi 鋼 /hagane/ means “steel.” The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 鉄鋼業 (“steel industry” /tekko’ogyoo/).

7. The kanji 針 “needle”

History of Kanji 針The orthodox writing (正字) for the kanji 針 was 鍼. The ten style writing of 鍼 had “metal” on the left, and the right side 咸 was used phonetically. History of Kanji 十This kanji is now used to mean “acupuncture,” an alternative pain treatment using needles. In shinjitai kanji 針, the 十 shape on the right side came from a needle with a bulge in the middle, as in the kanji 十 shown on the right. The kanji 針 means “needle.”

The kun-yomi /ha’ri/ means “needle,” and is 時計の針 (“clock hand” /tokee-no-ha’ri/) and 針金 (“thin wire” /harigane/). /-Bari/ is in 縫い針 (“sewing needle” /nuiba’ri/). The on-yomi /shi’n/ is in 方針 (“guideline” /hooshin/), 秒針 (“second hand” /byooshin/) and メーター検針 (“inspection/reading of a meter” /meetaake’nshin/).

  1. The kanji 鐘 “bell”

History of Kanji 鐘The kanji 鐘 consists of a bushu kanehen and the kanji 童. We have looked at the unusual origin of the kanji 童 in the previous post [The Kanji 東動働重童 on January 6, 2015.] Here it was used phonetically for /do’o/ only. The bronze ware style writings (a) and (b) became (c) in ten style. Another ten style writing (d) was also given in Setsumon as an alternative. The kanji 鐘 means “bell.”

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

  1. The kanji 銭 “money”

History of Kanji 銭For the kanji 銭, the left side in ten style was “metal.” The right side had two halberds, 戔, giving the sound /se’n/ and also meant “shaving something thinner.” Together they originally meant a plough that had thin blades. There were plough-shaped coins. From that it meant “money.” The kyujitai 錢, in blue, reflected ten style. The shinjitai simplified the right side, and it means “money; small change; coin.”

The kun-yomi 銭 /ze’ni/ means “money,” and is in 小銭 (“small change” /kozeni/) and 身銭を切る (“to pay for from one’s own pocket” /mizeni-to-ki’ru/). The on-yomi /se’n/ is in 金銭 (“money” /ki’nsen/), 一銭 (“one-hundredth of a yen” /isse’n/), 守銭奴 (“miser; scrooge” /shuse’ndo/).

There are many more kanji with a bushu kanehen. We will continue with them in the next post. [June 25, 2016]