Annoyed at radicals where the kanji differs in meaning


I’m quite sure no one has ever complained about this. Very astute observation.

You probably can’t read a less irritated response from me in another iteration of this topic by searching for “radical” because this is the first one.


Yeah, I can see why it can be confusing, but I think there’s supposed to be some long-term merit to it in that the radical meaning will apply to future, more difficult, kanji.

Using little radicals piece by piece certainly helps me to build a stronger mental image and a story for the kanji, so if it works, then I’m willing to take it.


We’re going to be fixing most of these pretty soon!

WaniKani Updates June 28, 2017

@lorymecs - I’m not annoyed, but like Kumirei said, I make synonyms. All the time. Although sometimes if the kanji that is identical to the radical is excessively far away, I might use WK’s meaning or my own idea of what I think it looks like.

Not bothered by this. Just make synonyms ASAP after your lessons.

It’s all for WK’s mnemonics.


Oh, that’s the first I’ve heard of this. Can I ask how long that’s been in the pipeline? That’s pretty exciting! : D


Quite a few months. We have some pretty big content changes coming up, I just have to finish rewriting about 3000 more mnemonics before they can go live.

WK non-radical radicals
Radicals in wrong order
Mnemonics appreciation thread

Yikes that’s so many! O.O
Good luck!

Can’t wait to see the release notes/announcement about all the coming changes. Thanks, Kristen!


My GOD. 3000 or more mnemonics it is a herculean job. Thank you for making such an effort!


I’m stuck in the radicals. I don’t understand how to level up. Like, I’ve been reviewing the same 26 radicals for three days streak.
I want to study kanji right now so bad.
I understand the meaning, but not the romaji (because I’m learning mandarin at my school).

Lol Lol Lol


If you’ve guru’d the radicals and haven’t gotten any kanji to learn send an email explaining the issue to


The beginning can seem a bit slow, it’ll pick up. The beginner levels try to make sure you have a good base moving forward for when you start to learn the kanji. Then all those weird radical names start to become important, since they help you develop stories to remember the kanji.


You get radicals. After a streak of 4-5 correct answer you get them to ‘Guru’ level, when a radical is in ‘guru’ level they unlock kanji lessons. After ‘guru’ is reached on the kanjis, vocabulary is unlocked. First level is always slow so you have time to learn hiragana/katakana.


Pretty helpful. Ty ppl


The radicals are a visual representation of kanji/it’s parts. The kanji are the literal representation of itself. 母 really does look like drawers but doesn’t really look like my mother. “I saw my mother’s「母」drawers so I laughed 「はは」”.

But 人 happens to look like a person and also means person.

You don’t have to follow the radicals, they’re just guidelines that can be incredibly helpful for harder kanji. Nobody is stopping you from substituting 母 with mother, you don’t have to follow wanikani’s rules, it just helps to because they have laid the guidelines out already.

Knowing a kanji that has a radical equivalent is much more crucial than knowing a radical but not the kanji of the radical.

but you still should probably try to remember them it might be useful one day


Yeah I pretty much have to add synonyms. I realized that early on when I’d forget the radical’s original (made up) name and only remember its actual kanji name and type that in and get it wrong.

I can see both points, of doing the actual kanji name and a mnemonic to help you remember the kanji.

That’s one of the things I like about Henshall’s “A Guide To Remembering Japanese Characters”. It talks about assumed or certain, old (assumption) and current (belief or knowledge) of etymology as well. If I remember correctly, for mother it talked about how it was supposed to represent breasts, such as with a mother breastfeeding.


Great to hear. I’m level 5 but I’ve been living in Japan for three years and my actual level is much higher, I’m using wanikani to refresh/solidify my basic knowledge and then level up my kanji ability once I reach the higher levels. I really like the program, but I’m just at the point now where I’m getting quizzed for master level radicals and getting a bunch wrong when I type in the “correct” meaning and it tells me it’s actually something inane like “raptor cage”. I’m 100% in favor of the radicals when they have the same meaning as the kanji, but sometimes they detour in ways that make zero sense and actively complicate the learning process (drawer, two face, wolverine, etc).


It’s not that the “inane” radical names exist that is the problem. That’s totally fine, since WK wants to make memorable mnemonics out of them. It’s just that the radicals never have synonyms added by default. So even ones where the radical does have a meaning that is shared with the kanji, it can trip you up. Take 本 for instance. Its radical name is “real”, which is a meaning of that kanji, but anyone entering any of the other meanings will also get marked wrong. The radicals just need more synonyms.

It’s an exaggeration to say that the unique names WK gives them make “zero sense.” Just because you’re not learning kanji from scratch doesn’t mean WK wasn’t designed for people learning kanji from scratch.


Yes, Gary, yes.


If that’s the case, I’ll be very pleased. I want to at least distinguish between radicals (according to the dictionary) and graphemes that are distinct concepts but still useful. “Leaf” already bugs the crap out of me: I memorized it as “fake radical” == leaf in the graph theory sense of not leading to anything else. If nonstandard meanings are retained, I would prefer to have the option to substitute my own for testing purposes.


WaniKani uses the word radical differently from the sense of radicals in a kanji dictionary. They’re basically just kanji parts. You’re going to encounter hundreds of kanji parts (“fake radicals”) in WK that are all under the category of radicals, and that’s not going to change.

I’m studying official radicals now because I’m taking Kanken in June, but there’s almost no reason to care about the official ones other than that. You can do any kanji searching you want with an electronic dictionary, so the only useful element of radicals left is their role as general kanji parts for mnemonics.

1 Like