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How to find the kanjis by meaning

Posted: August 29th, 2008 4:40 am
by ktnagel
Hello all,
konnichiwa minasan,

as i started to (try) learning kanjis and bought me a book showing all ~2000 standardized kanjis,
i was asking myself if there is a list sorted by meaning in english (or even german).

Does anybody know maybe?

Thanks in advance,
Arrigato gazaimasu,

Regards from germany


Posted: August 31st, 2008 8:11 am
by sashimidimsum7250
You'll probably not have much luck finding such as a list, as it's actually of very little value. Kanji are mostly used in compounds or as part of a kanji-kana tail combinations, which alter their most basic meanings. While it is good to know the core meaning of Kanji, a list of the manner that you are requesting won't do you much good when are actually reading real-world examples.

You should just get yourself a really good dictionary...that's my suggestion.

Posted: August 31st, 2008 3:30 pm
by Javizy
Heisig's Remembering the Kanji makes it easy for you to associate each character with a core English meaning, although primarily a fantastic mnemonic system is the focus of the book. Some people would argue this is a weakness, but after learning to easily write and recognise 2042 characters over the course of about 7 months, I'd disagree with any criticism to the death.

However, as a means of looking up words or something other than learning the characters, a list of English meanings is, as said above, pretty useless.

only a short question back: how to find unknown kanji's ?

Posted: August 31st, 2008 5:57 pm
by ktnagel
konnichiwa ochazuke and javizy,
thanks for your kind replies, arrigato gozaimasu.

i see your point.
it is better to learn them, i agree, but that takes time.
currently i use a program JWPce to look up kanji,
but isn't there a way to do it without a computer?

only one question then left to me:
how would you find a kanji that is written somewhere and you dont know?
they aren't sorted in any way that i understand.

kind regards,
thomas nagel

Posted: August 31st, 2008 6:45 pm
by Belton
You seem to be asking how a paper kanji dictionary is indexed.

They are usually ordered by radical and stroke count.
This is one reason why the ability to count strokes is important

A radical is a particular type of sub component that makes up a kanji. There are 214 radicals, many (most?) of them characters in their own right. A number of them are written in several ways.
for instance radical 86 火 hi also appears as 灬 rekka and hihen (the right hand side of 灯)
so the kanji 照 in 照明[しょうめい] is indexed under 火 and has 4 strokes(the radical) plus 9strokes (the rest). This should be enough to find it in a dictionary.
(Although if you don't realise that 火 is the radical you might mistakenly try to search under 日. recognising radicals is another skill in using a dictionary)

Some dictionaries also have on and kun indexes to allow you to find a kanji you know the reading for (beware the many homonyms )

Although it isn't ordered by radical and has its own quirky system The Kodansha Kanji Learners Dictionary is worth a look.
Also for how kanji work Lets Learn Kanji by Mitamura & Mitamura is interesting.

Personally I find computer based searches quicker and more useful. Either stand alone solutions like JEDict or online solutions like
And there are also solutions that allow kanji handwriting recognition such as a NintendoDS kanji dictionary, or iPhone/iPodTouch Chinese Character recognition (for fingerpainters), or the later models of Wordtanks

(PS In lists of kanji they are usually ordered by Onyomi in あいうえお order.)

Posted: August 31st, 2008 9:36 pm
by sashimidimsum7250
only one question then left to me:
how would you find a kanji that is written somewhere and you dont know?
they aren't sorted in any way that i understand.

If you can afford it (they can get quite pricey), get yourself an electronic dictionary that has touch a touch screen for jotting down kanji. Usually stroke order doesn't matter and they're quite good at guessing if you don't write it down perfectly.

There are a few topic on models , here's one discussion: ... php?t=2871