Tokyo Damage Report

database of same-radical compound words

download the whole database  here.

Check out these common compound words, which have the same radical on the left side of each kanji:

喧嘩:けんか: (fight). both kanji have mouths, so it's easy to picture two mouths insulting each other.

嫉妬:しっと: (jealousy): both kanji have the "woman" radical on the left. Don't blame me!!!!!


Anyway, these common words got me thinking – did ALL compound words with the same left-side radicals have meanings which had to do with the radicals? 


Of course not.


But I didn't let that stop me. I was bored and had just moved to the suburbs. So I changed the question to, "What PERCENT of compound words with same left-side radicals have meanings which had to do with the radicals?" And to that end, spent my suddenly huge commute hours riffing through my electro-dictionary and copying down all the same-rad-having compounds. 1,200 in all!

So, you say, what's the answer? What percent of all samerad-having compounds have meanings which reflect the rads?



The ratio depends on if you count compounds which include hiragana, if you include words with one radical and one big kanji-which-is-the-same-as-the-radical (the wonderfully uselesss word 立ち籠める (to enshroud) is an example of both). Also it depends on if the word has more than one samerad, or if there's only one samerad but there's 4 instances of it in a 2-kanji word. And of course mainly it depends on which radical: some radicals (魚、虫、 鳥, 心 and 水 in particular) are much more likely to have-to-do-with the compound meaning than other radicals.

My solution: make a database and let YOU all grab your calculators and have a crack at it. Use this as a resource for your phd or whatever. You can use the database to filter out certain variables (like if you think that words like 立ち籠める shouldn't count).

Anyway, the process of making the DB was not an entire waste of time.

I found some absolute gems: (the "Y" and "N"s in the rightmost column answer the question "does the radical have to do with the meaning of the compound?")


傀儡 かいらい puppet person, rice field left y
魑魅魍魎 ちみもうりょう evil spirits of rivers and mountains demon left y
琵琶 びわ biwa (lute) king top n
明朝 みんちょう tomorrow morning sun, moon left y
訳語 やくご translational equivalent say, mouth left y
轆轤 ろくろ potter's wheel car, cliff, net left y
髑髏 されこうべ cranium bone left y
鷦鷯 みそさざい winter wren bird, animal legs right y
掃き掃除 はきそうじ sweeping and cleaning a sort of "t" thing o y
津々浦々 つつうらうら all over the country water left ?
茉莉花 まつりか Arabian jasmine flower top y
躑躅 つつじ azalea foot, mouth left n
実家 じっか one's parents' house thick pie   top ?
大丈夫 だいじょうぶ no problem ???   all n
濡れ鼠 ぬれねずみ soaked to the skin 4 dots   o ?
撒き散らす まきちらす to scatter scatter o y
真っ直ぐ まっすぐ straight-ahead, straightforward eye, ten o n
韃靼 だったん north china Tartar tribes leather left n
豊艶 ほうえん fascinating plentiful   left ?
鼯鼠 むささび giant flying squirrel crazy thing top n
表裏 おもてうら two sides kick in the nuts bottom n
栄光 えいこう glory, prosperity cutest baby birds top ?
蹲踞 そんきょ stone-wash basin mouth x n
損害倍賞 そんがいばいしょう compensation for damages mouth x ?
操短 そうたん curtailed operations mouth x ?
魚鱗 ぎょりんせん ichthyosis (disease) fish bottom y
黙想 もくそう meditation, silent contemplation ???   bottom n
箪笥 たんす chest of drawers bamboo top y
娑婆 しゃば this corrupt world water, woman left ?
良民 りょうみん law-abiding citizens ???   all n
襤褸 ぼろ rags ducky   left ?
禍福 かふく fortune and woe necro left ?

Fuck! Were those some crazy words? Drop those on your japanese friends and watch them get baffled.


But of course, that's just the tip of the iceberg. The whole database is 1,200 kanji long.

at 1,200 rows, it's too big to put in wordpress, but you can download the whole thing  here.


Here is the structure of what the columns in the DB mean.

A: kanji

B: hiragana

C: English meaning

D: the meaning of the radical which they have in common (hereafter "samerad")

E: a picture of that radical

F: the location of the samerad (top, bottom, left ,etc.) "X" means "the samerad  is not in the same position in both kanji"

G (the big one!): does the meaning of the radical connect to the meaning of the compound word?

H: nothing!

I:  does the compound include okurigana (okurigana are hiragana which are appended to kanji)? "O" means, "Yes, there are OOOOkurigana". blank spot means "this is a purely kanji compound word."

J: "X" means that one of the kanji is NOT a radical but in fact the "regular" form of the kanji . i.e. 樹木 doesn't have 2 tree radicals, it has one kanji with a tree radical and the other kanji which IS tree, so maybe it doesn't "count".

K: is the compound more than 2 kanji long?

L: is this compound word especially preposterous, and if so, why?

M: are there more instances of samerad than there are kanji in the compound word? (i.e.

N: "f" means,  is this basically the same compound as another compound but with a different pronunciation / nuance?


Anyway, have fun with that.

7 comments Tags:

7 Comments so far

  1. uzaigaijin December 29th, 2010 5:30 am

    Wow, you're my hero… somehow.

  2. HWP January 3rd, 2011 8:52 am


  3. François January 4th, 2011 4:55 am

    Just a quick one:
    BTW, the "a sort of 't' thing" is called 手偏, it's the left radical (偏) that's a hand (手), so it is or should be used for things related to the hand 指, manual shit 掴む、握る or movement 打つ、扱う、投げる. Of course, it is not so simple, or where would be the fun.

  4. Steve January 4th, 2011 8:38 am

    Sweet database, it's fun trying to figure out why the compounds that don't have a meaning with their shared radical exist.
    One thing about 賠責 though, I learned that 貝 meant money or property in addition to shell. You know, because they used to use shells for money (I also like to pretend that that's where the words sand-dollar and loan-shark came from).

  5. Nils von Barth June 1st, 2011 6:55 pm

    Thanks Damage!
    Some more examples:
    One of the most interesting is biwa – originally written 批把 (with hand radical, referring to the down and up strokes when playing this instrument) for the strokes, then changed to 枇杷 (which is currently used for the fruit), which was then changed to 琵琶 for the instrument to distinguish it.
    This is the explanation given here:
    Another interesting example is 醗酵 はっこう, fermentation, which shares the wine bottle radical 酉 (due to obvious connection with fermentation), though in Japanese this is usually written 発酵.

  6. Nils von Barth June 2nd, 2011 7:46 am

    Here are some more examples, one of which you’ve seen many times:
    * 麒麟 キリン – Chinese unicorn, or giraffe – also Kirin beer (yes, it’s on the label), which shares the 鹿 (しか deer) radical.
    * 駱駝 ラクダ – camel, which share the 馬 (うま horse) radical
    I suspect that there are numerous nature words of this form, generally using little-used kanji; I’ve seen the above two in actual use.
    (Here's another one: 珊瑚, サンゴ, coral.)

  7. admin June 2nd, 2011 11:54 am

    nils : awesome and thanks!

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