Exact synonyms of Kanji

When doing Kanji reviews do you think it’s important to type the exact synonym?
for instance the kanji 魅 on Wanikani is listed as alluring. would it be acceptable to simply type allure?
Would I be better served in the long run to keep typing the exact synonym?
What are your thoughts?

also sometimes I will type a synonym not listed by wanikani, but maybe listed on Jisho.
Is there much value in using the exact synonym listed on wanikani rather than an external ones? ie
would it make learning words on wanikani easier to use the in house synonyms?

Thanks :slight_smile:


I think in some cases it’s important to not mix up nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs with each other. So for example ‘separate’ can be 別 and 別の but not 別に because in the last case it should be an adverb, so ‘separately’ works, but ‘separate’ doesn’t.


Wouldn’t that only be a problem when learning words tho? as opposed to learning just the reading of the kanji?
I hope that makes sense? For example the reding of just the kanji has more words listed then the readingg of the word 別 - separate, branch off, diverge, fork, another, extra, specially

Seems like it. But I’ve just started, relatively, so to some extent I’m just trusting the crabigator and chalking it up to “I’ll understand why later”.

At work I often tell beginners things that aren’t strictly true, but sufficient for their purposes. But some things I have to insist on even if they can’t understand why yet, because it will give them trouble later. I can’t say the crabigator is doing it intentionally (vs. just an oversight), but it could be intentional, so I’m hesitant to second-guess at this point.

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I feel like with kanji, as opposed to vocabulary, as long as you get the general idea of what it means, then you’re pretty good, because as we know, the actually translation of the kanji into english changes from vocab word to vocab word. Of course its probably a good habit to stay as close as possible to the words given. I usually check Jisho or some other source to see if my alternatives or variations are within acceptable limits.


This applies more to kanji than vocabulary, but I’m definitely with you on not worrying about being exact.

After all, kanji don’t really have meanings, per se, They are building blocks for vocabulary, which do. So if you type allure for the alluring kanji, you’re really not doing yourself any favors or enhancing your Japanese language study by letting it be marked wrong. I’d recommend being somewhat stricter with vocabulary though.

But even then, a lot depends on what you’re using WK for. If you’re trying to pass a strict, formalized test then being very specific about slight nuances is more important than if you’re just looking to intake as much kanji and vocab as possible in order to reach a good foundation that’ll let you read things (I’m the latter). Because once you’re reading in the real world, context is hugely important and will generally convey the necessary nuance.

Trust WK’s overall approach, and certainly trust that the people behind it know Japanese better than you or I do at this stage. But it’s not taboo to also trust yourself. I understand why people caution against a “well that was close enough…” approach, because used in excess, that can lead to self-delusion. But often close enough really is close enough, because “correct” is a spectrum (albeit a narrow one), not a binary.


I don’t think it matters much for kanji if you learn the noun or adjective version of the meaning (e.g. thirst vs. thirsty).


I feel like you’re on the right path by not worrying whether 魅 is allure or alluring. First because kanji per se aren’t associated with any particular part of speech. Second because WK is terribly inconsistent with parts of speech. Most kanji that could be shown as a verb are, but a few are shown as adjectives or nouns. Finally, quite often, parts of speech don’t map exactly between English and Japanese. So I believe there’s wiggle room even with vocabulary items.

I also do this dance of checking Jisho.org to see if the word I inputted is an acceptable synonym.

I think the ultimate test is whether you’ll understand what the word means in context when you see it in writing. Actually many times it may be confusing because words have several meanings and are often used metaphorically.

Short answer: translation is by necessity inexact, so don’t be too strict with yourself for no good reason.


I’ve had good success guessing the form it wants for the kanji if I drop “to” off of the verb form. i.e., [to] eat, [to] run… In this case though, it would have to be [to be] alluring, I guess.

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Personally, the very few times I’ve put in a synonym, I’ll use the same part of speech as the vocabulary word. Ex., noun for noun, verb for verb, adjective for adjective. For me, that works better, and I suspect it will work better down the line with harder kanji and vocabulary. But that’s just me.

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When it comes to kanji, I think the most important thing is to remember the concept that it’s associated with, rather than the exact word. That’s what you want to be able to recall when you’re learning new vocab words that contain it, after all. So if a kanji’s meaning is listed as “improve”, I’ll add “improvement” as a synonym because it would be pointless to repeatedly get the kanji wrong in reviews over that distinction.


You can also check a Japanese resource.

Well, I’m not sure I agree entirely with that. Japanese resources will list things under the 意味 for a kanji. Then they give examples of words where that kanji has that meaning.

For instance, for 魅, in the word 魑魅 (ちみ a type of demon that lives in the mountains) it merely means ばけもの or もののけ.

Then the “charm,” “allure,” meaning came from that. So in words like 魅力 (みりょく) it only means “to attract the heart of a person” with no need for demons to be involved.


We have many words for “attracting the heart of a person” in English, so anything that covers that meaning is fine in my book, whether WK or any other resource chooses to list it.


Is it important to understand the exact meaning of the kanji? As for stuff like shown in your example, no it doesn’t matter so long as that doesn’t interfere with your ability to learn vocab words. Which, for me, it hasn’t.

Just make sure you dont make that mistake for the vocab word.


I was probably having “per se” do too much heavy lifting in that sentence, but no I don’t mean to imply that kanji have literally no meaning. If they meant nothing, then vocabulary built from them couldn’t mean anything either.

But kanji’s meaning is much fuzzier than the vocabulary words they form, and therefore should be treated more as concepts/suggestions than a dictionary definition. WK has to specify one or two meanings for a kanji out of necessity. But I don’t think it’s productive for WK users to get bogged down in exactly replicating any given kanji meaning when they’re almost guaranteed to see it used with a significantly different connotation in a vocabulary word a couple days later.

For example, I’ve found that a lot of the vocabulary readings i have trouble with are ones where the kanji is being used with a significantly different nuance than I’d expect from the initial meaning WK chose. I often have to break that reliance on the WK meaning to really grasp how it’s being used in vocabulary.

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I guess I would just frame that as “kanji often have many meanings.” And that extends beyond just having many synonyms for one core meaning. The meanings often seem to share no logical connection.

The meaning of the kanji is more of a mnemonic in itself, unless they’re used stand-alone, then they become full vocab items (proper words). They represent concepts, and they’re not made with English as the way to formulate them in mind, and “alluring, allure, allured” don’t matter.

You could try to standardize your input by having them all in the same grammatical format, or you just add more alternatives to them - it doesn’t matter in the long run.

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