How does one 'search by radical' effectively?

Many a time I find myself reading some physical book, seeing a unknown kanji, and having to spend way too much time looking for it in a sea of radicals. What I’m wondering is, how can one master this search system? At times I can search the radical here on WK by it’s ‘name’, but sometimes I’m not so lucky, as WK doesn’t have as many kanji in it’s system as the typical dictionary would. I was thinking of learning the concept behind the way kanji are written, and then somehow SRSing each radical into my head. Is that a good option? Or do y’all have a better way?

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I tend to use Jisho’s functionality for this, it lists the radicals by number of strokes.

It takes a while at first, but as you learn more you get a feel for how kanji are divided into radicals (also Jisho allows for quite a bit of leeway with similar/partial radicals on occasion)


I do use as well. I have found it becoming slightly less time consuming, but I still feel like there has to be a way to get it down by heart so that it’s a real quick process.

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Quickest might be learning how kanji tend to be written and using something like

It lets you ignore stroke order too, which can be useful sometimes, but most kanji follow a set of default rules for stroke order.


Can you give us an example of something you wanted to search and how it went?

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Y’know, I can never get those damn handwritten systems to work lol. EVERY time I draw a kanji out, it literally cannot find it. But as you mentioned, I might need to study up on the composition of kanji a bit more. Thanks for the link and replies.


I have a fair bit of trouble with many of them, but that particular one has yet to let me down

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When I want to search by WK radical I tend to use this site: Multi-Radical Kanji Search (WTK-Search). It allows you to enter a list of WK radical names to look up kanji.


Pretty much any search-by-radical method is going to be slow. If you’re going to be reading physical media I’d recommend working out a dictionary lookup setup that avoids it, ie either handwriting recognition on smartphone or a dedicated electronic dictionary, or else a point-phone-camera-at-text lookup that somebody mentioned in a different thread recently.


Ohhh, I thought something like this only existed in my imagination! Thank you!

1 Like has a really cool search-by-radical feature.

First, it has a search box for narrowing down radicals, so if you know any kanji with that radical/part it will find the part you want. I find this is much faster than looking for the right radical by scanning a long list of them. (You can of course also search by the radical name or by scanning through the last manually.)

Second, it’s contextually aware. Let’s say you see the word 困難, but you don’t know the second kanji. If you put the first kanji in the regular search box, the radical search suggestions are automatically restricted to characters that can appear after 困. In this case, it actually gives 困難 as the second suggestion even without selecting a single radical.

But of course if you select a radical (in my case I chose ⺾) it narrows further.


Thanks. I had this dictionary bookmarked but never used it. I think I will now that I know of this feature.

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I find handwriting recognition usually the fastest way to search. The time you spend searching for the radicals you could have already written the kanji in like 5 seconds. This is if you are familiar with the parts of the kanji. At least Shirabe Jisho on iOS works reasonably well.


If it isn’t obvious, you can write Kanji on Windows (probably with touchscreen, Microsoft IME). On Android, I use Google Keyboard with 手書き layout.

If you have a good idea of radicals, it would probably work better than OCR.

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Yomiwa on iOS also does a decent job of doing this sort of narrowing of choices when searching by radical. That’s definitely my go-to method if I can’t guess the reading.

It also has a pretty awesome camera-detection capability as someone pointed out to me recently (blowing my mind).

Lastly, it also supports handwriting recognition, of course, but I’ve yet to become very good at that. My handwriting is terrible (poor sense of proportion and comically bad basic drawing skills). Even with correct stroke order my poor phone has a hard time trying to figure out what I’m writing.