Being able to search a kanji meaning

Hi everyone !
As I encountered an unknown kanji in a word, I began to wonder how one does to get the word meaning. Nowadays, I know that there are some tools like with Google translate which offer us the ability to search for a kanji with a simple picture but what happen if we take this solution apart ? For example, if I wanted to know what the picture above means, I searched for something beginning with “mu…” but couldn’t find the other part…

What are your methods ? :smiley: Just curious

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I use the radical search feature of sites like Japandict or Jisho to find the kanji if I don’t know their reading. This is from

4 Likes has a hand drawn kanji search. I’ve been able to use it from my phone, so it seems quite forgiving, though I suppose it could gets messed up if you varied the stroke order too much.


@athomasm Really cool to search with this :smiley:
@apinkpanther Thank you for your method, it’s really interesting to see all the ways there are to get to the solution aha

Anyone has an idea how people did that before the Internet ? I mean without an encyclopedia and many hours left :smile:

When the image you find is digital (for example, when reading manga), my favorite solution is capture2text, which is an OCR project with japanese support (among other languages)

With the press of a couple keys you can select a part of a picture and it will capture the kanji and kana, copying it to your clipboard so that you can paste it into your dictionary of choice. It even recognizes text direction (vertical or horizontal).

It struggles a bit when the font is very tiny or the image quality is terrible, but it’s helped me a lot and saved me tons of work trying to decipher kanji. Keep in mind that it won’t work with handwritten stuff, though.

I ran it over the image you posted and it easily returned the text.

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Didn’t know about this, thank you :smiley:

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Google has a service that does ocr.

Here is an app, iText, that runs on OSX (Macs) which uses this service. It’s free for a small amount of conversions (20/month), and a pretty cheap subscription ($1.49/month or $14.99/year) will let you do unlimited conversions. I have used it to great effect to read manga that I had downloaded, so I could use the screen grab feature of OSX to paste the kanji image into iText.

You’d use a kanji dictionary and I would expect the book would either allow you to search by stroke order and/or radical.


As athomasm already said, there are Kanji Dictionaries.
In fact they are firstly ordered by radicals, usually with an index of those radicals in the front, and secondly by the number of strokes. Since a Kanji may contain more than one radical, one kanji is listed under all radicals it has.

Though, the radicals in those books are the “real”/official radicals, so do not get confused if you cant find a specific WK radical there.

Edit: Forgot to mention… of course there are dictionaries with stroke order index and/or reading index, too, too.


Didn’t know about that, but it is way clearer now. Thanks :smiley:

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