Afraid of learning unofficial radicals

Hello everyone !

WaniKani seems good and i’m willing to pay a subscription, but i’m afraid of burning radicals in my memory that are not the official ones.
Why would i learn that the radical “𠂉” means “gun” when it has nothing to do with “guns” and it means “person” in reality ? Is it possible to learn standard radicals name instead of these ones ?

Or should i focus only on learning Kanji here and learn the real radicals names elsewhere ?

Thanks for reading :slight_smile: Happy learning everybody !


Learning the proper names of radicals isnt considered necessary. I would focus on the Kanji.

Edit: Additionally, the mnemonics on here for kanji use these incorrect radicals. So you would be really doubling up on learning if you wanted to learn the correct radical names elsewhere


Thanks a lot for your perfect answer !


I finished wanikani more than a year ago, and believe me, you don’t actually “burn” anything in your memory. I have already forgotten what most of those fake (or real) radicals were called. These are used by wanikani as memory aids for the kanji mnemonics, and as such, if you skip them you won’t be able to make full use of the wanikani method of learning (you’d need to make your own mnemonics). But the brain only keeps relevant information after a while, so you definitely won’t remember those radical names forever. They’re just scaffolding that gets dismantled once the building is done, so to speak.


memorising radical names is honestly not that important
the reason WK uses it’s own names sometimes is
A) easier creation of mnemonic stories (there’s a bunch of radicals that are like ‘box in direction’ which isn’t super catchy)
B) many real radicals have conflicting names that change depending which source you look at
C) several radicals share the same name, there’s at least 3 different grass radicals

I’ve seen people on reddits say that WK’s radical names would ‘lock you into the system for 3 years’ but that’s not really true, if I left tomorrow to learn kanji unassisted, I’d still be taking the skill of breaking down complex kanji into smaller parts with me, regardless of what I call those parts

also if it really bothers you, you can just add the ‘real’ name as a user synomym and create a new mnemonic whenever it appears in a kanji


No problem. Look into using Kame Same and Torii SRS for supplemental study programs if you haven’t already heard. They are free.

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yeah when I encounter a new kanji I don’t look at it as ‘radical X’ and ‘radical Y’ and think carefully about what the names mean
the names are just helpful for getting that shape into long term memory quicker because its more concrete to say ‘triceratops’ than it is ⺌
eventually you just recognise the shape so stuff like 消 can become easily digested/remembered shapes too rather than a Complex Blob of Things


To that I would add that more than radical names, the more meaningful ones are kanji meanings. So even if one struggles with radicals and/or doesn’t find the mnemonics based on these radicals practical/useful, it’s still possible to leverage kanji meanings in vocabulary.

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Most native Japanese speakers don’t know the names of radicals.


Thanks everyone for you replies, you are all very kind !

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i wouldn’t worry too much about the names of radicals. WK might seem to be a little random, but as far as i can tell the “official” radicals are also a bit all over the place.

and for the most part the WK radicals aren’t completely off. WK’s “finger” is a variant of “hand”, “leader” a variant of “person”, “boil” of “fire”, and so on.

for looking up kanji by radicals it’s much more helpful to know how many strokes a radical has, something which i think one just has to catch on to by oneself.

what i find more annoying is that WK sometimes fudges two different radicals together. if you just want to read, that’s probably not a problem. but if you want to learn to write by hand, that can really throw one off…

and what’s much more useful than radicals is the Keisei Semantic/Phonetic userscript. seeing how the sounds and meanings of kanji built out of other kanji come together in a (sometimes) systematic way is really really helpful


I would not worry about this. Even some of the “official” radicals don’t really make sense by their names. For example, “月” is the “moon” radical, but very often it appears in kanji that have nothing to do with moons or months, and often refers to bodily parts / functions like 肺 (lungs) or 肌 (skin).

In my case, I eventually started to see these patterns and don’t really think about the radicals by name themselves, and tend to think about what other kanji with similar radicals meant.

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Wait, aren’t those like perfect examples of the japanese radical making sense but the non-official one not making sense?

Those aren’t moon, they’re にくづき im pretty sure which makes perfect sense why they are there. @Leebo can correct me if im wrong since he knows more about the technical stuff when it comes to kanji


Yes, the radical in something like 肺 or 肌 is not つき in Japanese, but にくづき or にく (or other minor variations), so yes, they don’t call those the moon radical.

Here’s 服 on the site mojinavi

部首 > 月部

And here’s 肌

部首 > 肉部