The Kanji 束速整頼瀬疎勅必密秘蜜泌-(5)


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

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

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

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

  1. The kanji 速 “fast; swift”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. The kanji 疎 “coarse; not close”

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

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

  1. The kanji 勅 “imperial edict”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. The kanji 秘 “secret; to hide”

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

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

  1. The kanji蜜 “honey; nector”

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

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

  1. The kanji 泌 “to seep; ooze; run”

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

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

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

The Kanji 補捕浦舗哺博敷薄簿縛- (4)


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

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

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

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

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

  1. The kanji 捕 “to catch; seize”

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

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

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

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

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

  1. The kanji 舗 “shop”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. The kanji 薄 “thin; weak; watery”

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

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

  1. The kanji 簿 “register; bookkeeping record”

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

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

  1. The kanji 縛 “to restrain; bind”

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

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

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

The Kanji 専伝転団恵穂 – (3)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. 転 (轉) “to roll; fall; change”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. The kanji 種 “seed; kind; sort”

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

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

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

 4.The kanji 童 “young child”

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

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

  1. The kanji 動 “to move”

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

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

  1. The kanji 働 “to work; operate”

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

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

  1. The kanji 衝 “to collide; crash”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. The kanji 瞳 “pupil; eye”

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

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

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

The Kanji 声南琴喜樹膨鼓-musical instrument


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

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

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

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

  1. The kanji 南 “south”

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

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

  1. The kanji 琴 “harp”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Kanji 主注柱住筆律書粛津- “lamp” and “brush”


As one of the last categories of the origins of kanji we have been looking at things  around the living area. In this post we are going to look at the kanji that originated from “a burning lamp” (主) – 主注柱住 and “a writing brush” (聿) – 筆律書粛津.

  1. The kanji 主 “master; main; primary”

History of Kanji 主For the kanji 主 the oracle bone style writing, in brown, was “a flame” on top of 木 “wood,” signifying “a torch” (used outside). The bronze ware writing, in green, was “a flame” alone. In seal style, in red, it became “a burning oil wick on a long-stem oil lamp holder” inside a house. A fire was important and symbolized “the master of a house.” The kanji 主 means “master; main; primary.” [the composition of the kanji 主: 丶 and 王]

There are three different kun-yomi: 主 /a’ruji/ means “master; proprietor”; a second kun-yomi 主な /o’mo-na/ means “major; primary”; and a third kun-yomi /nu’shi/ is in 家主 (“landlord; owner of a house” /ya’nushi/), 飼い主 (“owner of a pet” /ka’inushi/) and 雇用主 (“employer” /koyo’onushu/). The on-yomi /shu/ is in 主人公 (“main character” /shuji’nkoo/), 主義 (“principle; ideology” /shu’gi/), 主観的な (“subjective” /shukanteki-na/), 主体的な (“independent; active” /shutaiteki-na/) and 主客転倒 (“mistaking the means for the end; putting the cart before the horse” /shu’kakutentoo). Another kun-yomi /zu/ comes from a go-on reading and is in 丸坊主 (“shaven head’ bald” /marubo’ozu/).

  1. The kanji 注 “to pour; pay (attention)”

History of Kanji 注For the kanji 注 the seal style writing comprised “water; liquid” and 主 used phonetically for /chuu/ to mean “staying in one place.” Together they meant “a manner in which one poured lamp oil very carefully.” The kanji 注 meant “to pour; pay (attention).” [the composition of the kanji 注: 氵and 主]

The kun-yomi 注ぐ /sosogu/ means “to pour.” The on-yomi /chuu/ is in 注意する “careful; to watch out; to give warning” /chu’ui/), 注目 (“attention; recognition” /chuumoku/), 注文 (“order” /chuumon/) and 外注(“outsoursing” /gaichuu/).

  1. The kanji 柱 “pillar; column; support”

History of Kanji 柱The seal style of the kanji 柱 comprised 木 “tree; wood” and 主 used phonetically for /chuu/ to mean “something that does not move; main.” Together “wood that stayed in one place supporting the rest of a house” was “column.” The kanji 柱 means “pillar; column; support.” [the composition of the kanji 柱: 木 and 主]

The kun-yomi 柱 /hashira’/ means “column.” /-Bashira/ is in 大黒柱 (“the central pillar of a house; breadwinner” /daikokuba’shira/). The on-yomi /chuu/ is in 電柱 (“utility pole” /denchuu/).

  1. The kanji 住 “to live; reside”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 住. The kanji 住 comprised イ, a bushu ninben “person; an act that one does,” and 主 used phonetically for /juu/ to mean “to stay in one place” like a lamp would. A place in which one stayed for a long time meant “to live; reside.” The kanji 住 means “to live; reside.” [the composition of the kanji 住: イand 主]

The kun-yomi 住む /su-mu/ means “to live,” and is in 住み込み (“a live-in” /sumikomi/). Another word to mean “to reside” is 住まう /suma’u/ and is in 住まい (“house; residence” /su’mai/). The on-yomi /juu/ is in 住所 (“address” /ju’usho/), 住民 (“resident” /juumin/), 住居 (“housing” /ju’ukyo/), 住宅地 (“residential area” /juuta’kuchi/) and 定住 (“long-term residency” /teejuu/).

The next five kanji contain 聿 “a writing brush” -筆律書粛津

  1. The kanji 筆 “a writing brush”

History of Kanji 筆For the kanji 筆 (a), (b) and (c) had “a writing brush held by a hand.” It meant “a writing brush.” In (d) “bamboo” (竹) was added at the top to mean the brush itself, differentiating from act of writing. A writing brush usually had a bamboo handle. The kanji 筆 means “a writing brush.” [the composition of the kanji 筆: 竹かんむり and 聿]

The kun-yomi /hude/ means “writing brush” and is in 筆使い (“one’s handling of a brush; touch; technique” /udezu’kai/), 絵筆 (“paintbrush; an artist’s brush” /e’hude/), 筆まめな (“facile with the pen” /hudemame-na/), 筆が立つ (“good writer” /hude-ga-ta’tsu/). The on-yomi /hitsu/ means 筆記用具 (“writing materials” /hikkiyo‘ogu/) and 万年筆 (“fountain pen” /manne’nhitsu/). /-Pitsu/ is in 鉛筆 (“pencil” /enpitsu/), 達筆な (“skillful penmanship” /tappitsu-na/) and 執筆者 (‘the author; the writer” /shippitsu’sha)

  1. The kanji 律 “law; rules that one follows”

History of Kanji 律For the kanji 律 the oracle bone writing comprised “a crossroad” signifying “a way to go or to conduct oneself” and “a hand holding a writing brush straight up.” Together they meant “to conduct oneself in an upright manner as prescribed in a rule.” The kanji 律 means “law; rules that one follows.” [the composition of the kanji 律: 彳 and聿]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ritsu/ is in法律 (“law” /hooritsu/), 律する (“to measure; govern” /rissuru/), 戒律 (“religious percept” /kairitsu/) 一律に (“uniformly; across the board” /ichiritsu-ni/), 不文律 (“unwritten rule” /hubu’nritsu/) and 規律正しい (“disciplined; well-ordered” /kiritsutada’shii/). Another on-yomi /richi/ is a go-on reading and is in 律儀な (“upright; conscientious” /ri’chigi-na/).

  1. The kanji 書 “to write; writing; documents”

History of Kanji 書For the kanji 書in the bronze ware style and seal style writings the top was “a hand holding a writing brush upright” (聿). The bottom (者) was used phonetically for /sha/ to mean “to copy.” The kanji 書 means “to write; writing; scripture.” [the composition of the kanji 書: 聿 except the middle vertical line does not go through and 日]

The kun-yomi 書く /ka-ku/ means “to write” and is in 書留 (“registered mail” /kakitome/).  -/Ga/ is in 下書き (“draft” /shitagaki/), 横書き (“horizontal writing” /yokogaki/), 上書き (“overwriting” /uwagaki/) and 肩書き (“title of one’s position” /katagaki/). The on-yomi /sho/ is in 書類 (“documents” /shorui/) and 文書で (“in writing; on paper” /bu’nsho-de/), 聖書 (“the Bible” /se’esho/), 書記 (“secretary” /shoki/) and 白書 (“White paper –comprehensive report by the government” /ha’kusho/).

  1. The kanji 粛 “solemn; quiet; prudent”

History of Kanji 粛For the kanji 粛 (a) in oracle bone style had “a writing brush” and “a pair of compasses for drawing a circle.” Together they meant “drawing a picture on bronze ware.” In (b) and (c) in bronze ware style the brush was not present. (d) in Old style, in purple, comprised “a writing brush,” “a heart” and something else (possibly 勺 for phonetic use of /shaku/). Adding a picture to a bronze ware was serious work. From that the kanji 粛 meant “solemn; gravely harsh.” The kyuji, in blue, (f), reflected (e) in seal style. In kanji the bottom was replaced by 米, but had no relevance to the meaning “rice.” The kanji 粛 means “solemn; quiet; prudent.” [the composition of the kanji 粛: hard to describe]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /shuku/ is in 静粛に (“silently; in an orderly manner”  /seeshuku-ni/), 自粛 (“voluntary restraint” /jishuku/) and 粛清 (“purge; cleanup” /shukusee/).

  1. The kanji 津 “shoal; landing”

History of Kanji 津For the kanji 津 the bronze ware style and Old style comprised “water” “a bird” and “a boat.” A bird alighting on a boat in water signified “a boat landing area.” In seal style the right side became a writing brush dripping ink or liquid droplets on the lower left side signifying an area with little water, and it was used phonetically for /shin/. The kanji 津 means “shoal; landing.” [the composition of the kanji 津: 氵and聿]

The kun-yomi /tsu/ is in 津波 (“tidal wave; tsunami” /tsunami/). The on-yomi /shin/ is in 興味津々 (“of absorbing interest; having a keen interest” /kyo’omi shinshin/).

In the next post we are going to look at kanji including those that originated from musical instruments.  Thank you very much for your reading.  -Noriko [March 17, 2018]

The Kanji 豆豊艶壱富福副幅 – “Container” (3)


In this post we continue to explore kanji that originated from a container. The kanji are豆豊艶壱 from 豆 “a tall stemmed container” and 富福副幅 from 畐 “a narrow-necked container with a lid which is filled with wealth at the bottom.” ­­

  1. The kanji 豆 “bean; miniature”

History of Kanji 豆For the kanji 豆 in the oracle bone style writing, in brown, the two bronze ware style writings, in green, and the seal style writing, in red, it was “a tall raised or stemmed bowl,” and was /too/ phonetically. Later it was borrowed to mean “bean.” [Composition of the kanji 豆: 一, a side-long 口, a truncated ソ and 一]

The kun-yomi /mame’/ means “bean; miniature,” and is in 豆電球 (“miniature light bulb” /mamede’nkyuu/) and 枝豆 (“boiled salted green beans in pods” /edamame/). The on-yomi /too/ is in 豆腐 (“bean curd” /toohu/) and 納豆 (“fermented soy beans; natto” /natto’o/). Another on-yomi /zu/ is in 大豆(“soy bean” /daizu/). In Japanese it is also used for 小豆 (“azuki bean” for sweets /azuki/).

History of Kanji 頭The kanji “head” has 豆 on the left side too. We have discussed this kanji in the post on November 15, 2014 in connection with the bushu oogai 頁 “head.” 豆 was used phonetically for /too/ and /zu/.

  1. The kanji 豊 “abundance; affluent; plentiful; rich”

History of Kanji 豊For the kanji 豊 on (a) in oracle bone style, (b) in bronze ware style and (c) and (d) in seal style one view is that it was “a tall stemmed bowl with millet stalks,” which signified “abundance of harvest.” It meant “abundance.” Another view is that the top was strands of jewels, rather than mille stalks, and it signified “wealth.” In either view the bottom was a tall stemmed bowl that was used phonetically for /too/. The kyuji 豐, (e) in blue, reflected (d), but in shinji, the top became simplified to 曲. The kanji 豊 means “abundance; affluent; plentiful; rich.”  [Composition of the kanji 豊: 曲 and 豆]

The kun-yomi 豊か /yu’taka/ means “rich; abundance; plentiful” and is in  心豊かな (“fertile mind; spiritually rich” /kokoroyu’taka-na/). The on-yomi /hoo/ is in 豊富な (“abundant; rich; plentiful” /hoohu-na/), 豊作 (“good harvest” /hoosaku/), 豊年 (“year of good harvest” /hoonen/) and 豊満な (“plump” /hooman-na/).

  1. The kanji 艶 “glossy; women’s charm; attractiveness; enchanting”

History of Kanji 艶The seal style writing of the kanji 艶, (a) comprised 豊 “plentiful; abundant” and the right side that signified “a lid (去) over a vessel (皿).” Plentiful food or offerings in a vessel was “desirable,” which further meant “enchanting; attractive” in appearance. (b) 豔 reflected (a). (c) was an informal writing of (b), in which 色 suggested “attractiveness.” The top of (c) still reflected (a). In the shinji 艷 the top became 曲. The kanji 艶 means “glossy; (women’s) enchanting.” [Composition of the kanji 艶: 豊 and 色]

The kun-yomi /tsuya/ means “luster” and is in 艶のある (“shiny; glossy” /tsuya-no-a’ru/) and 色艶のいい (“of good glossy color” /iro’tsuya-no i’i/). Another kun-yomi艶やかな (“glamorous; charming” /ade’yakana/ is not in the Joyo kanji reading. The on-yomi /en/ is 妖艶な (“bewitching” /yooen-na/) and 艶聞 (“rumor of love-affair” /enbun/).

  1. The kanji 壱 “one”

History of Kanji 壱For the kanji 壱 in bronze ware style and seal style it was “a pot or crock that had a secure lid.” A tightly closed pot was filled with fermented air. The bottom of 4 in kyuji, 壹, was 豆, reflecting the original meaning. It was borrowed to mean “one” and is used to avoid misreading the kanji 一 in an important receipt, draft or check. One can easily imagine that it is very easy to add another line or two to 一 to tamper the original number. The kanji 二 and 三 also had a formal writing — the kanji 貮弐 for 二 and 参 for 三. The kanji 壱 means “one; single.”  [Composition of the kanji 壱: 士, 冖 and ヒ]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ichi/ is in 金壱万円 (“10,000 yen” in formal receipt and check  /ki’n ichiman-en/).

  1. The kanji 富 “wealth”

History of Kanji 富For the kanji 富 in bronze ware style the top was “a house” and the inside was “a narrow neck container with a lid whose bottom was swelled in the middle.” A house that had a container that was filled with treasure or things signified “wealth; wealthy; fortune.” Inside of the seal style the container shape became 畐 — a lid, an opening and a full container itself. The kanji 富 means “wealth; fortune.” [Composition of the kanji 富 : 宀, 一, 口 and 田]

The kun-yomi /to’mi/ is “wealth.” The on-yomi /hu/ is in 富豪 (“person of great wealth; millionaire” /hugoo/), 富国 (“national wealth” /hukoku/) and 富裕層 (“the well-off; wealthy class” /huyu’usoo/). /Huu/ is in 富貴 (“wealth and honor” /hu’uki/). /-Pu/ is in 貧富の差 (“disparity of wealth” /hi’npu-no-sa/.)

  1. The kanji 福 “good luck; bliss; blessing; fortune”

History of Kanji 福For the kanji 福 in oracle bone style (a) had “a wine cask filled with a lid with wine that was raised by two hands” and “an altar table with offering” on the top left, while 2 did not have hands. By placing a cask full of stuff on an altar table, one prayed for blessing from a god. It meant “bliss; good luck; happiness.” In (c) and (d) in bronze ware style an altar table with offering began to take the shape 示. In (e) in seal style a full container with a lid became 畐, which is reflected in the kyuji 福, (f). In shinji 福, the left side became ネ, a bushu shimesuhen “religious matter.” The kanji 福 means “good luck; bliss; blessing; fortune.”   [Composition of the kanji 福: ネ and 畐]

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /huku/ means “good luck; blessing,” and is in 幸福な (“happy; blissful” /koohuku-n/), 祝福 (“blessing” /shukuhuku/), 福々しい (“plump and happy looking” /hukubukushi’i/), 福祉 (“welfare; well-being” /huku’shi/), ルカによる福音書 (“the Gospel according to Luke” /ru’kaniyoru hukuinsho/) and 冥福を祈る (“to pray its soul may rest in peace” /meehuku-o ino’ru/), as in ご冥福をお祈りいたします “May his soul rest in peace.”

  1. The kanji 副 “to accompany; assisting; copy”

History of Kanji 副For the kanji 副 in Large seal style, in purple, it had two “full narrow-neck containers” and “a knife” in between. They signified that a knife dividing wealth in two parts, a main part and an accompanying part. The meaning of the writing focused on the accompanying part, and it meant “to accompany; assisting; copy.” The seal style writing comprised 畐 and 刀 “knife” which was replaced by 刂, a bushu rittoo “knife on the right side” in the shinji 副. The kanji 副 means “to accompany; assisting; copy.” [Composition of the kanji 副: 畐 and 刂]

There is no kun-yomi in the Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /huku/ is in 副社長 (“vice president” /hukusha’choo/), 副本 (“duplicate” /hukuhon/), 正副二通 (“original and duplicate” /se’ehuku ni’tsuu/), 副産物 (“by product” /hukusa’nbutsu/), 副作用 (“side effect; adverse reaction” /hukusa’yoo/) and 副詞 (“adverb” /hukushi/).

  1. The kanji 幅 “width; counter of scroll”

History of Kanji 幅The seal style writing of the kanji 幅 comprised 巾 “cloth; lap robe” and 畐, which was used phonetically for /huku/ to mean something spreading sideways like a barrel. For a lap robe, fabric was used as it was woven with its width intact. It is also used as a counter for a scroll. The kanji 幅 means “width; counter of scroll.”  [Composition of the kanji 幅: 巾 and 畐]

The kun-yomi 幅 /haba/ means “width” and is in 横幅 (“width; wingspan” /yokohaba/). The on-yomi /-puku/ is in 振幅 (“amplitude” /shinpuku/) and 一幅 (“a scroll” /ippuku/), as in the expression 一幅の絵になる (“picturesque; pretty as a hanging scroll” /ippuku’no e’-ni naru/).

We shall continue with “container” in the next post. Since I am travelling next weekend I am afraid that it will have to be two weeks later. Thank you very much for your understanding. — Noriko [January 27, 2018]

The Kanji 吉結詰缶陶去却脚法–Container (2)


This is the second post on kanji that originated from a container with a lid.  We are going to look at three types of containers with a lid–吉缶去. The kanji we explore are 吉結詰, 缶陶 and 去却脚法.

  1. The kanji 吉 “good luck; joy; auspicious”

History of Kanji 吉Various interpretations on the origin of the kanji 吉 are found in references, including (1) “a heap of food for celebratory feast,” – thus “joyous”; (2) “a warrior’s weapon” placed the blade side down in a ceremony and “a prayer box to confine evils” – “benediction” and (3) and “a container that is full inside which was securely plugged with a double lid,” and being full was “good.” When we look at the ancient writing all of those interpretations may make sense — (a) in oracle bone style, in brown, could be a heap of food for a feast; The top of (b) and (c) in bronze ware style, in green, and (d) in seal style, in red, appear to correspond with 士 “warrior; man” from a warrior’s axe, particularly (c) in which the thick blade at the bottom was thicker; and perhaps (e) could be viewed as (3), a container with a secure double plug at the top. Which account makes sense to us best?  It does not matter to me but in this blog I just pick one “a container with a tight lid” to move on. The kanji 吉 means “good luck; joy; auspicious.” [Composition of the kanji 吉: 士 and 口]

There is no kun-yomi in the Joyo-kanji. The on-yomi /kichi/ is in 吉日 (“lucky day” /kichijitsu; kitsujitsu/), 大吉 (“great good luck” in omikuji, an oracle on a strip of paper at a temple and shrine /daikichi/), and /kip-/ is in 吉報 (“good news” /kippoo/). Another on-yomi /kitsu/ is in 不吉な (“ominous” /hukitsu/-na).

  1. The kanji 結 “to tie; end; congregate into one”

History of Kanji 結The seal style writing of the kanji 結 had 糸, a bushu itohen “a skein of threads.” The right side 吉 was used phonetically for /kitsu; ketsu/ to mean “to be tightly contained in a jar.” The kanji 結 means “to tie; end; congregate into one.” [Composition of the kanji 結: 糸, 士 and 口]

The kun-yomi /musubu/ means “to tie a knot; conclude.” Another kun-yomi結う /yuu/ is in 髪を結う or 髪を結わえる (“to dress up one’s hair” /kami’-o yuu; kami’-o yuwae’ru/) and is in 結納 (“betrothal present; engagement gifts” /yuinoo/). The on-yomi /ketsu/ is in 結論 (“conclusion” /ketsuron/), 結果 (“result; outcome” /kekka/), 凍結する (“to freeze up” /tooketsu-suru/) and in the phrase 一致団結 (“solidarity” /i’tchi danketsu/).

  1. The kanji 詰 “to pack; full; rebuke; blame; squeeze; stand by”

History of Kanji 詰The seal style writing of the kanji 詰 comprised 言, a bushu gonben “word; language; to speak” and 吉 used phonetically for /kitsu/ to mean “containment.” Together pressing someone with accusing words meant “to blame; rebuke; criticize.” In Japanese it is also used to mean “to pack; cram; full” and “to stand by” from a room where on-duty gurds stays. The kanji 詰 means “to pack; full; rebuke; blame; squeeze; stand by.”[Composition of the kanji 詰: 言, 士 and 口]

The kun-yomi /tsume’ru/ means “to pack; stand by” and is in 詰め物 (“packed things; packing” /tsumemono/), 詰所 (“guard station; crew room” /tsume’sho/) and 詰まる (“to clog up; conjest” /tsuma’ru/). The on-yomi /kitsu/ is in 詰問する (“to rebuke; cross-examine /kitsumon-suru/).

  1. The kanji 缶 “can; tin”

History of Kanji 缶For the kanji 缶 in (a), (b) and (d) it was “a teraccotta container with a secure double lid to hold water and wine.” In (c) had the addition of 金 “metal” suggested a metal or bronze ware container that appeared later. In (f) 罐, in kyuji in blue, 雚 was added for /kan/ phonetically. From the writing (c) with a “metal” component, in Japanese it meant “metal container; can.” The kanji 缶 means “can; tin.” [Composition of the kanji 缶: 午 and 凵]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /kan/ is 缶 (“tin container; can” /ka’n/), 缶詰 (“canned food” /kanzu’me/) and 缶入りコーヒー (“canned coffee” /kan-iri-ko’ohii/) and アルミ缶 (“aluminum can” /arumikan/).

  1. The kanji 陶 “ceramic; to educate”

History of Kanji 陶For the kanji 陶 in the two bronze ware style writings the left side was “a hill-like mound of dirt” placed vertically. The right side had double images of “a person bending his back, kneading clay.” Together they meant people making pottery near an ascending kiln. 3 in seal style comprised a bushu kozatohen “hill” and 缶 “a clay container” wrapped in 勹  that signified “ceramics.” Together they meant “making ceramic in a kiln.” It also meant “to educate” from “kneading.” The knaji 陶 means “ceramic; to educate.” [Composition of the kanji 陶: 阝, 勹and 缶]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /too/ is in 陶器 (“pottery; earthenware” /to’oki/), 薫陶を受ける(“under someone’s tutelege; be taught by” /kuntoo-o uke’ru/) and 陶酔する (“to be fascinated; be intoxinated” /toosui-suru/).

  1. The kanji 去 “to leave; remove; past”

History of Kanji 去For the kanji 去 the oracle bone style and bronze ware style writings had “a person” above “an area; box” 口. Together “a person’s legs crossing over an area” signified “leaving and going far away.” The kanji 去 meant “to leave; remove.” In seal style the bottom became 凵 “receptacle”. In kanji 大 “a person” became 土 and the bottom ム. The kanji 去 means “to leave; remove; past.” [Composition of the kanji 去: 土 and ム]

The kun-yomi /saru/ means “to leave,” and is in 立ち去る (“to leave; go away” /tachisa’ru/). The on-yomi /kyo/ is in 去年 (“last year” /kyo’nen/) and 除去する (“to remove” /jo’kyo-suru/).

  1. The kanji 却 “to withdraw; retreat; on the contrary”

History of Kanji 却The seal style writing of the kanji 却 comprised 去 “to leave” and 卩 “a person kneeling down” signifying “receding.”  Together they meant “to make a retreat; withdraw.” It is also used to mean “on the contrary; all the more” in a phrase 却って. The kanji 却 means “to withdraw; retreat; on the contrary.” [Composition of the kanji 却: 土 ,  ム and 卩]

The kun-yomi /ka’ette/ means “on the contrary; all the more.” The on-yomi /kyaku/ is in 返却する (“to return (something)” /henkyaku-suru/), 退却する (“to retreat” /taikyaku-suru/), 売却する (“to sell; sell off” /baikyaku-suru/). /kyak-/ is in 却下する (“to dismiss; reject” /kyak’ka-suru/).

  1. The kanji 脚 “leg; foot”

History of Kanji 脚The seal style writing of the kanji 脚 comprised 月, a bushu nikuzuki  “a part of one’s body” and 却 “to retreat” used phonetically for /kyaku/. From the posture of legs knelt down one one backing down, it signified “leg; foot.” The kanji 脚 means “leg; foot.” [Composition of the kanji 脚: 月, 土 , ム and 卩]

The kun-yomi /ashi’/ means “leg; foot,” and is in 椅子の脚 (“chair leg” /isu-no-ashi/). The on-yomi /kyaku/ is in 三脚 (“tripod (for camera)” /sankyaku/), 脚色する (“to dramatize” /kyakushoku-suru/) and 脚本 (“play script; scenario” /kyakuhon/). Another on-yomi, which is a go-on /kya/ is in 脚立 (“stepladder” /kyatasu/) and 行脚 (“pilgrimage; travel around on foot” /a’ngya/).

  1. The kanji 法 “law; legal; court of law; method”

History of Kanji 法The kanji 法had a history of complex writings. One view of (a) and (b) is that the left side had 去 “to remove” and “water” and that the right side was “an imaginary animal that was believed to be used for divine judgment.” Together they meant “fair judgment; justice.” From that it meant “law.” In seal style in (c) 去 became more prominent, whereas in 4 an imaginary animal for justice was totally dropped. 灋 in 5 in Correct style is the kanji that reflected 3. The current kanji 法 reflects 4. The kanji 法 means “law; legal; court of law; method.” [Composition of the kanji 法: 氵, 土 and ム]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /hoo/ is in 法 (“law” /hoo/), 法律 (“law” /hooritsu/), 方法 (“method” /hoohoo/), 司法 (“judiciary” /shiho’o) and 違法行為 (“illegal act” /ihooko-oii/).  /-Poo/ is in文法 (“grammar” /bunpoo/) and 立法 (“legislation; law making” /rippoo/) and 民法 (“Civil law” /mi’npoo/) and 憲法 (“constitutional law” /ke’npoo/). Another on-yomi /hat-/ is in ご法度 (“prohibition” /gohatto/).

Together with the last post, we have picked up five shapes 合今吉缶 and 去 that originated from a container with a lid. It is quite surprising. In fact there are more to be looked at. I expect that we may have a couple of more posts to cover the remaining kanji. Thank you very much for your reading.  -Noriko [January 20, 2018]

The Kanji 酌釣的約是堤提題卓悼卑碑 Food (9)


A couple of months have passed since our last post on kanji that originated from an item related to food. (Thank you very much for your patience.) There is one more post I would like to add –“a ladle” or “a spoon” in a smaller size. A ladle is a long-handled utensil to scoop up food or liquid in a shallow cup on one end. I find it rather peculiar to think that such a domestic utensil created different shapes that survived in many kanji. But here they are, in the shapes of 勺是卓 and 卑.

History of Kanji 勺We begin our exploration with 勺 “ladle; dipper.” The shape 勺 in seal style shown on the right was a ladle with its cup filled with food or liquid – the short line in the middle was what was scooped up. It meant “a ladle” or “to scoop up or out.” As the shape came to be used phonetically in various kanji, a bushu 木 “wooden” was added to keep the original meaning – 杓. The kanji 杓 is a non-Joyo kanji, and is used in the word 柄杓 (“dipper; ladle” /hishaku/). A hishaku was indispensable to scoop up water in kitchen and at a water fountain, but it has become less used in the age of tap water. The kanji that contains 勺 we discuss here are 酌釣的約.

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

History of Kanji 酌We looked at the kanji 酌 quite recently in connection with the bushu 酉 “fermented liquid container.” In bronze ware style, in green, and seal style, in red, it comprised 酉 “a wine cask; fermented liquid container,” and 勺 “a ladle to scoop up,” which was also used phonetically for /shaku/. Together they meant “a ladle scooping up wine.” The kanji 酌 means “to serve wine; scoop up sake.”

The kun-yomi 酌む /kumu/ means “to pour,” and is in 酒を酌む “to have a drink (together)” /sake-o-kumu/) and 事情を酌む (to consider circumstances” /jijoo-o-kumu/). The on-yomi /shaku/ is in お酌する (“to pour sake; fill someone’s cup with sake” /o-shaku-suru/).

  1. The kanji 釣 “to fish; lure”

History of Kanji 釣The seal style writing had 金 “metal,” and the right side 勺 “a ladle” was used phonetically for /choo/. Together they meant “a fishing hook” to catch a fish and lift up. It is also used to mean “to lure.” The kanji 釣 means “to fish; lure.” <The composition of the kanji 釣: 金 and 勺>

The kun-yomi 釣り /tsuri/ means “angling; fishing“ and is in 釣り銭 (“change” /tsurisen/) and 釣り合い (“equilibrium; compatibility” /tsuriai/). The verb 釣る/tsuru/ also means “to allure; entice.” For the on-yomi /choo/, I cannot think of any useful word. The only time when I heard it in the on-yomi was in my college time, a very long time ago I must add, when a classmate of mine said that she was a member of 釣魚会 /choogyokai/ “anglers’ club.”

  1. The kanji 的 “accurate; target; having a characteristic of”

History of Kanji 的The seal style writing had 日 “the sun,” and 勺 was used phonetically for /teki/ to mean “bright.” Together they meant “bright.” Something bright stands out and becomes a precise target. The kanji 的 means “accurate; target; pertinent.” Adding 的 to a noun as an affix makes an adjective “having a characteristic of.” <The composition of the kanji 的: 白 and 勺>

The kun-yomi 的 /mato/ means “target.” The on-yomi /teki/ is in 日本的 (“having a characteristic of Japanese culture” /nihonteki-na/, 的確な (“accurate” /tekikaku-na/)  and 的中する (“to hit the mark” /tekichuu-suru/).

  1. The kanji 約 “to promise; cut back; summarize; about”

History of Kanji 約For the kanji 約 in seal style 糸 “a skein of threads” signified “to tie” and 勺 was used phonetically for /yaku/. Together tying something with a thread meant “to bind; promise.” Bundling things into one also gave the meaning “to summarize” and “about.” The kanji 約 means “to promise; cut back; summarize; about.” <The composition of the kanji 約: 糸 and 勺>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /yaku/ is in 約束する (“to promise” /yakusoku-suru/), 公約 (“campaign pledge” /kooyaku/), 約百メートル (“approximately 100 meter” /ya’ku hyakume’etoru/), 節約 (“economy; saving; thrift” /setsuyaku/) and 要約 (“summary; abstract” /yooyaku/).

The next shape for a ladle is 是. This shape too came to be used in other kanji phonetically. So a new kanji was created for its original meaning “ladle” by adding another “spoon” ヒ. The kanji 匙 (“spoon” /sa’ji/) is non-Joyo kanji, even though the word saji is a daily word, as in 小匙 (“teaspoon“ /kosaji/) and 大匙 (“tablespoon” /oosaji/). The expression 匙を投げる /sa’ji-o-nageru/ means “to give up in despair; throw in the towel.” The shape 是 is used phonetically in kanji 堤提題.

  1. The kanji 是 “this; right”

History of Kanji 是I must admit that the old writing (a), (b) and (c) in bronze was style does not appeal to me as a spoon, but many scholars agree that it was a spoon. So, I try. The top was a cup part of a dipper and the bottom was a decorative handle. It was borrowed to mean “this,” pointing the correct thing, thus “right.” The kanji 是 means “this; right.” <The composition of the kanji 是: 日 and the bottom of 定>

The kun-yomi /kore/ “this” is not a Joyo kanji reading. The on-yomi /ze/ is in 是非 in two different accents and meanings– When pronounced as an unaccented word /zehi/), it means “right and wrong,” as in 是非を問う (“to question the propriety” /zehi-o-to’u/), whereas an accented word /ze’hi/ means “by some means or other.” It is also in 是非もなく (“unavoidable; inevitable” /zehimona’ku/) and 社是 (“motto of a company; guiding precepts of a company” /sha’ze/).

  1. The kanji 提 “to carry; put forward something (by hand)”

History of Kanji 提The seal style writing comprised “hand,” which became , a bushu tehen “an act that one does using a hand,” and 是, used phonetically for /tee/. Together they meant “to carry in hand; put forward something (by hand).” <The composition of the kanji 提: 扌 and 是>

The kun-yomi /sage‘ru/ means “to carry in hand” and 手提げ (“handbag” /tesage’/). The on-yomi /tee/ is in 提出物 (“work to be submitted” /teeshutsu’butsu/) and 問題提起 する (“to institute; start; raise” /mondaite’eki-suru/).

  1. The kanji 堤 “bank; dike”

History of Kanji 堤The seal style writing comprised 土 “soil; ground,” and 是, which was used phonetically for /tee/ to mean “to stagnate.” Together they meant “a pile of dirt that stayed; dike; bank.” The kanji 堤 means “bank; dike.”  <The composition of the kanji 堤: 土 and 是>

The kun-yomi 堤 /tsutsumi’/ means “bank,” and is in 川堤 (“riverbank; riverside” /kawazu’tsumi/). The on-yomi /tee/ is in 堤防 (“bank; dike; levee” /teeboo/) and 防波堤 (“breakwater; seawall” /boohatee/).

  1. The kanji 題 “title; topic; theme; question”

History of Kanji 題The left side of the seal style writing (是) was used phonetically for /dai/ to mean “to put forward.” The right side (頁) originally meant “the head of an official with a formal hat.” One would put “title or topic” at the very beginning at the top, thus it also meant “topic; title; question.” The kanji 題 means “title; topic; theme; question.” <The composition of the kanji 題: 是 and 頁>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /da’i/ is in 題 and 題名 (“title; name” /da’i/ and /daimee/) and 課題 (“subject; topic” /kadai/).

Two more 卓 and 卑 are below.

  1. The kanji 卓 “table; to stand out; table”

History of Kanji 卓The origin of the kanji 卓 is obscure. But some scholars explain that the top of the writing in bronze ware style and Old style, in purple, and seal style was ヒ “a spoon” and that below that was “a large spoon.” A large spoon stood out and meant “to stand out.” Another view takes the top to be “a person” and 早 “early; to lead,” together signifying a person leading “to stand out.” It is also used to mean “a table.” The kanji 卓 means “to stand out; table.”  <The composition of the kanji 卓: ト and 早>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /taku/ is in 食卓 (“dining table” /shokutaku/), 卓上扇風機 (“table-top fan” /takujoo-senpu’uki/) and 卓越する (“to excel in; surpass” /takuetsu-suru/).

  1. The kanji 悼 “to grieve; mourn”

History of Kanji 悼The seal style writing comprised 忄 “heart” and 卓, which was used phonetically for /too/. The kanji 悼 means “to grieve; mourn.” <The composition of the kanji 悼: 忄 and 卓>

The kun-yomi 悼む /ita’mu/ means “to grieve; mourn.” The on-yomi /too/ is in 哀悼 (“grief; mourning” /aitoo/) and 追悼演説 (“memorial address; funeral oration” /tsuitooe’nzetsu/).

  1. The kanji 卑 “lowly; humble; crude; abject”

History of Kanji 卑The top of the writing in bronze ware style and seal style was “a spoon with a handle,” and the bottom was “a left hand.” One view is that a left hand holding a spoon somehow meant “someone who did lowly work.” The kanji 卑 means “lowly; humble; crude; abject.” If you compare the kyuji, in blue, and the shinji closely, there is a difference – In the kyuji the vertical line in the center goes through bending toward left, reflecting the handle of a spoon bending in seal style. In kanji it became separated as a short stroke.

The kun-yomi 卑しい /iyashi’i/ means “crude; vulgar; low.” The on-yomi /hi/ is in 卑屈な (“servile; lack of moral courage” /hikkutsu-na/), 卑下する (“to deprecate oneself; have a low opinion on” /hi’ga-suru/), 卑近な例 (“familiar example” /hikin-na-re’e/) and 卑怯な (“coward; mean” /hi’kyoo-na/).

  1. The kanji 碑 “stone monument; stone stele”

History of Kanji 碑The seal style comprised 石 “rock; stone,” and 卑, used phonetically for /hi/ to mean “upright.” Together they meant “a stone that stood straight up.” The kanji 碑 means “stone monument; stone stele.” <The composition of the kanji 碑: 石 and 卑>

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /hi/ is in 石碑 (“stone monument; stela” /sekihi/) and 碑銘 (“monument inscription” /himee/).

We have had nine posts on kanji that originated from food preparation. It included food on a raised bowl with a lid (食), a steamer (曽), a pot on a kitchen stove (甚), a three-legged clay grain storage (鬲), a fermented liquid container (酉), various scales to measure grain (量料升良), a bowl or vessel (皿), and a ladle and a spoon (勺是卓卑). For the next area of kanji origin I am thinking about tools and containers. Thank you very much for your reading.  — Noriko  [December 3, 2017]

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 endure; 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]