All the new radicals you always wanted

I love Wanikani’s radical system. It is what makes learning kanji effective and fun. But I think we can make it even better. In general, I find three main points with room for improvement:

  • Sometimes the use of radicals is somewhat sloppy. For example the radicals are kind of distorted in the kanji, or some dots or strokes are not included in the kanji. Did you you ever notice 達 has one more stroke than the happiness radical it is composed from; or that 僕 has one less stroke than the business radical? Though I understand it is in some cases helpful to be not too precise about the exact radical composition, in other cases it can lead to confusion later and should therefore be avoided.

  • Kanji are broken down in many radicals, when really part of the kanji is a different kanji. For some cases the kanji are introduced as radicals later, but for many they are not. There are several threads about this, so if you are interested you should read them.

  • Kanji are broken down in many radicals, when really part of the kanji can be invented as a new radical, because it appears in several kanji, but is not a kanji of its own (at least not in the wanikani database). This is closely related to the matter of overly complex radical compositions. If I see four or five radicals, well, it simply does not work for my brain. Three is good, two is better.

For the last point I realized there was a huge overlap between these kanji and my leeches, so I decided to make this my project. Now go crazy kids, because I

  1. went through all the kanji there are in wanikani
  2. checked for all of them if there can be a new radical introduced that appears in at least one other kanji
  3. invented names for all the radicals
  4. invented mnemonics for all the radicals
  5. invented mnemonics for all the kanji with the new radicals (meaning only)
  6. made svg graphics for all the radicals (countour)
  7. composed everything in a spreadsheet for you

In total this means over 100 new radicals for over 250 kanji!
So with new radicals like kendo, shrink ray, magician, aurora, telekinesis, pyramid, Madagascar, granny and many more you should get excited! (づ。◕‿‿◕。)づ ワクワク

Not all radicals are super useful, e.g. some are not so easy to see in a kanji, but I listed them for the sake of completeness. Also I am pretty sure there are still some potential radicals I overlooked.

Hopefully the new names and mnemonics do not offend anyone. I tried to make all of them usable for many people and without any evil intent. If you do not like some of them, feel free to reinvent.

Apart from grammar and spelling mistakes, the mnemonics could be surely much more polished, but to do so would mean a lot of work for me without much gain. Personally I consider this project to be finished. It already took quite some time.

Instead, I encourage the wanikani team to look into this and decide if they want to incorporate some of the new radicals into wanikani.
In the meantime, feel free to print this out or put it into your favorite srs program.

This contains an ods file and an additional zip file with the radical svg files (which are already in the ods file):
download me
(I couldn’t upload an ods/zip file directly here. If an admin could do that, it would be nice to know this can be downloaded several years from now too)


I completely agree with this. I’ve made lots of mnemonics on my own based around 2 radicals when possible.

As for how I managed to notice the bigger radical-combos, I used the Keisei-script:

This makes certain you recognize the radical-combos in kanji when present and their relation to on’yomi readings shared with other kanji.

So, it’s certainly possible to rewamp some WK mnemonics to acknowledge the larger radical-combos in kanji (given a new single WK radical name*) as they also help you realize the likely on’yomi readings of that kanji.

It makes pedagogical sense to me. :slight_smile:

*of course, the Keisei-script already names these radical combos. So, it’s not like they are nameless.


At first glance, you have some nice memorable radicals here. :slight_smile:

I think WaniKani should change their system to allow Kanji to be made up of “radicals” and Kanji. Kanji that are used in other Kanji EITHER

  • have to be re-introduced as radicals even though there’s no real need, except that the software requires Kanji to be made of radicals
  • aren’t re-introduced and as a result, it’s much more difficult to remember Kanji that use a Kanji that you already know.

Often you learn simple Kanji that are part of more complex Kanji much, much later. And as a result, the earlier, more complex Kanji does not reference the later, much simpler Kanji at all (no mention the other way around either). I thought the WaniKani system was about learning simpler characters first, even if they are not the most useful? Not saying we should learn archaic Kanji that refer to chinese cauldrons that haven’t been in use for 2000 years, but at least the ones we learn should be in order and reference each other.

I noticed that today when I realized that 院 is just 完 on the right side. Remembering “A PERFECT BUILDING? That’s an Institution!” is much easier than “This BUILDING has a ROOF and will teach you about the ORIGIN of many things. It’s an institution!” where I only ever remember the Mnemonic if I already know the Kanji because of how far fetched it is.
The farther apart the radicals are in the mnemonic, the less likely I am to remember it. It’s the short, to the point ones like the one for 験 that really work.


Wow sorry to bump an old thread but the resource OP created is so awesome, and I couldn’t agree with the above more. I just got 割, and although I also recently learned the kanji 害, the neumonic for 割 is “Under the roof of life a mouth with a knife divides cells to create life.” I mean damage + knife = divide is SO much more intuitive. Why make us do that mental gymnastics just to avoid using previously learned kanji as “radicals” or because we haven’t been formally taught it as a “radical?”


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