Can someone help me understand and remember 以?

With several associated ideas, all fairly abstract, I’m having trouble packing this up as an easily digested and recalled concept. Anyone have any advice or better mnemonics etc?

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Have you tried looking at the list of vocab it appears in? You can find the list near the bottom of the kanji’s page. It’s an abstract idea but I think you’ll get it once you see the examples.

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Honestly, I don’t really have an idea for this one in my head. It’s just kinda the 以 kanji in my head. I’m not sure the concept you recall it as is even important in this case. After years of learning I still don’t have one which tells my my brain really hasn’t needed one or noticed one that would be helpful.


It’s a prefix for words that mean something’s somehow different than something else. The way in which it’s different is depicted by the kanji that follows. So when you see this kanji, you can expect one of these words.

It’s like English prefixes like un- (for example in unneeded), mis- (in misdirected), a- (in amoral), though there is no direct counterpart. Do you need a concept for these in English to be able to use them as well?

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You could think of it as a story from left to right:

  1. you start with an upside-down Y
  2. the dot in the middle is removed from the left side of the Y
  3. you end up with the broken Y on the left (you accidentally bent it a bit in the process), and the dot in the middle is from the Y.
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Well, as for memorizing, for me it helped to memorize the mnemonic “Lion dropped person from… what?”

As for understanding – I second @Escalus さん’s advice about looking at words that have 以。