Can different word forms be added as kanji meanings?

I’ve noticed that in general, WaniKani uses the verb form of a word if possible to describe the meaning of a kanji…unless it doesn’t. For example, 献 has “offer” as its meaning, but “offering” is considered wrong. However, if you write “remain” for 残, you will be told that no, it’s actually “remainder.” Sometimes they accept multiple forms of the same word, sometimes they don’t. I’d love to see this added, since unless I am mistaken, a kanji’s English meaning is more just a label to represent the kinds of roles it plays in shaping the meanings of other words. After all, in the explanation for 残る literally says “to remainder” doesn’t make sense, so the verb means “to remain (behind).” I feel like I run into this problem a fair bit–I write a meaning of a kanji that clearly demonstrates that I understand the concept it represents, only for myself to be told that no, the noun form happened to be written down as the meaning this time, so I actually don’t understand this kanji.


WK definitely needs more accepted meanings for kanji, and this is just part of it. (If they teach a meaning thru vocab that applies to the kanji, it should by default be accepted for the kanji, but there are many I have to add myself.) I guess they don’t want to overwhelm and so just pick one or maybe two, but I feel like having multiple forms of the same word wouldn’t be overwhelming. Remain, remaining, remainder… at their heart, they’re all the same word. For now, the only solution is user synonyms (and/or double-check) if you don’t wanna get marked wrong on items you absolutely know just because you didn’t remember the exact, arbitrary gloss WK wants.

(For that matter, they’re not consistent about whether, for nouns that can be する verbs, they want the noun form, the verb form, or both. Both should be accepted by default.)

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Do you have an example of this inconsistency? I am under the impression that they always want the verb form when する is included in the word and always want the noun form when する is omitted.

I think they always want the infinitive (“to [verb]”) form when する is included in the vocabulary card, but there are times when する is omitted that the answer they want is not a straight noun but instead a gerund/participle (that is, a verb with an -ing ending that’s acting as a noun or an adjective). A couple examples:

I understand that gerunds function as nouns in English, and sometimes it doesn’t ping me as awkward (cleaning’s a good example of this), but I find some of them kind of odd choices, and they do trip me up on occasion. Questioning, for example–I got that wrong often enough that I added a synonym (interrogation).


And when there’s both a normal noun form and a gerund form, they’re not always consistent about which one they want or if both are accepted by default

Of course, they’re usually close enough to be caught by the typo allowance, but then you still get the “close but no cigar” message when it is cigar. And if you actually typo it, there’s no guarantee that will be within allowance and not marked wrong if you don’t already have it as a synonym.


In this case, by “verb form,” I meant a form that is a verb, whether gerund or otherwise, but not the infinitive. WK never asks for the infinitive unless the item is in its unconjugated verbal form. (So, to use the example above, that would be “remaining,” “remain,” and “to remain,” respectively, while the noun form would be “remainder.”)

Some examples:

Accepts noun form, verb form (gerund), and verb form (non-gerund):

Accepts verb form (gerund) but not verb form (non-gerund) (in this case, there is no regular noun form I lied, there’s also “fundraiser”):

Accepts noun form but not verb form (gerund or non-):

Here’s one where they accept different forms, but not of the same gloss (“collapse” is both a regular noun and a non-gerund verb, while the other two are only listed in gerund form):

(I get not accepting “collapsing” for this, since that’s one of the ones that does sound kinda off, but “crumble” and “break down”? I still feel it should be included on principle though.)


Got it. Thanks.

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This one could also be “fundraiser”.

To give some context, some of these synonyms were added because people requested them so at this point there is no consistency to them.

Regarding kanji, I think they wanted to make the system more streamlined to align better with mnemonics where it would be that 1 English word representing a kanji being fit into a story. However, in practice that doesn’t really work, as you demonstrated and after a while when one is exposed to a lot of vocabulary with the given kanji, that 1 meaning just blurs out into an approximate meaning.

What I think would be a good idea in general is cutting down on radical and kanji SRS stages so one doesn’t run into this problem as often. The process should stack from radicals, through kanji to vocabulary and not work linearly. The learning stages (first clearing radicals, then clearing kanji, etc.) become less meaningful the more time passes.


this 100% has happened to me. Like how 検 is examine but NOT inspect (or examination, for that matter), and 査 is inspect (or inspection), but NOT examine. Because you learn them on the same level, it’s easier to remember the difference, but later when you just kind of know them from the words their in, not only does it become harder to remember which is which, it becomes less important in the grand scheme of things.
Sometimes it feels less like “what idea does this kanji represent?” and more like “what word did we happen to use to describe this kanji?”
Overall I don’t run into these problems as much as I’m sure I could, but it doesn’t make things any less frustrating.


This is a really interesting point

Like how 検 is examine but NOT inspect (or examination, for that matter), and 査 is inspect (or inspection), but NOT examine. Because you learn them on the same level, it’s easier to remember the difference

The way I think about it is like this: an examination is to check for an unknown or something general, an inspection is looking for a specific thing or to scrutinize a detail. Generally (not all the time though, it’s quite inconsistent) these kanji appear in a similar way. When looking for something general, 検 is more common (検尿、検便、探検、生検), when looking for something specific 査 is more common (査定、査察、照査、捜査). It’s not a very accurate rule of thumb… Maybe I’m just talking complete nonsense…

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Unfortunately I don’t have enough knowledge myself to confirm whether or not your are correct as a whole lol, but
I would love for WaniKani to have more explanations as to why certain meanings are a certain way/what nuances there are. Like how you learn 負け犬 first before 敗者, but it doesn’t mention that the former is in insult and the latter is more of a statement of fact. I kinda figured it was, so I made sure before trying to use it here in Japan, but I have run situations where someone says “that’s close, but you might want to use another meaning with a different nuance for this situation…” and I wish WaniKani would point that out more.


Yeah, these 2 are a pretty good example, because you have words like 検査 which contain both and surprise, the word means “inspection”. The disambiguation between these kanji is not needed in WaniKani and ends up being misleading. There is a slight difference in meaning in the sense that 査 is more related to assessing something and 検 more to just studying something, however one would need to read a lot to grasp that, otherwise it’s not obvious at all.

The problem with WaniKani is that it forces the learner to remember the different meanings, but is A) inconsistent about it and B) fails to explain through the explanations or context sentences how is the disambiguation relevant.

I am kind of on the fence on this, to be honest. On one hand it would be nice, on the other hand it flies into WaniKani’s general attitude of trying to be funny in the way it teaches kanji. Also, English as a language is an extremely poor proxy to highlighting such nuances, because unlike German or French it is prone to overloading words with multiple nuanced meanings. This is especially obvious when you look something up in Jisho and you get 5-6 different Japanese words for 1 English word - and in Japanese they can mean slightly different things or be used in different contexts.


You also get the reverse, though, where you look up a Japanese word and get 5-6 different English words that can be used in different contexts…

PS it’s also worth remembering that Jisho’s English word search is not a true E-J dictionary – it’s only searching for the word in all the definitions in the J-E dictionary and returning all the results. So it’s inevitable that the results will feel more scattershot than those for the J-E lookup or for what you’d get if you used an E-J dictionary.