Inconsistencies between WK and uh... dictionary?


I’ve been reading on the forums that the radicals in WK are somewhat made up, so I got a full list of radicals from jisho, and have been comparing some of the kanji and their rads as I encounter them, and occasionally there are differences.

For example 画 in WK is leaf-rice paddy-box, whereas in jisho, it’s one-rice paddy-box (画 #kanji -

What’s the reason for this inconsistency? I’ve also noticed some radicals that WK uses that aren’t in the list of radicals on jisho.

Also I think you can look up kanji based on their radicals as well, though I’m not exactly sure how that would work, so would learning the non-proper list of radicals be a hindrance? Will I need to adjust the learned radicals once I’m at a sufficiently high level?


The WK radicals are “kanji parts” and their purpose is to break kanji into segments you can make memorable mnemonics from. In this sense, it doesn’t matter how you break them up. Japanese people don’t learn kanji this way, so there’s no “official” way to break up kanji into mnemonics.

The radicals for use in dictionaries work differently. Each kanji only has one radical and there’s a list of 214 that are used.

There are 3 reasons you might want to know those.

  1. You really want to use a paper kanji dictionary for some reason.
  2. You want to ask a Japanese person about a kanji and want to describe it instead of write it.
  3. You want to take the Kanji Kentei, a proficiency exam aimed at natives.

If one of those sounds like you, knock yourself out.


The “radicals” or kanji-parts are really whatever you want them to be in terms of WK and, according to this page there are no official names anyway. The WK team have decided that where it makes sense they have combined (or broken down) parts of kanji as an aid to remembering/understanding. So “fish stick” in WK is actually a variant of “heart”. It’s up to you whether you think “heart” is a better way to remember the kanji than “fish stick”. As the meaning of kanji aren’t necessarily based on the parts and some of the inferences are loose at best you simply have to decide on a per kanji basis on how to remember it - visually, by parts, mnemonic, similar to another etc.

I go with the WK “radical” unless I know for sure it also means something else in which case I look it up and add it as a synonym. If I don’t get the mnemonic I make up my own.

Whilst knowing the radicals properly would be great so would knowing the full history and development of radicals/kanji. At this stage I’ll take anything that helps me remember the kanji.

At some point I’d want to take the Kanji Kentei, so why not? :slight_smile: I’ve done that with English, all hope is not lost!

How do Japanese people learn kanji though?

That makes sense. Thank you :slight_smile: Also for the link to the radicals!

Ah, that’s cool. I’m actually taking level 5 of it next Sunday.

Japanese people learn by just writing them over and over at school. Over and over and over.

Throughout their (almost) entire school life, might I add. (To my understanding.)
The use of made up radicals, mnemonics, space repetition, etc. are all so that we can learn what they’ve learned without having to spend as much time as they have. We learn through very different methods than they do at school.

Have you taken any of the other levels yet? I want to make an attempt at the Kanji Kentei eventually as well. But that will be years from now for me, probably.

No, not yet. I picked level 5 since I already knew more than 1000 kanji from WK, so I figured that was about the right level to try for. Not too difficult, not too easy.

I’ve done loads of practice tests for it though.

And if you want to try it, don’t be intimidated. If you picked level 10 or 9 you could study up for it in a few days.

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Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.

If you don’t mind sharing your experience of level 5 afterwords, I’d be curious to hear about it. I think I’ve seen you mention somewhere else here on the forums that you’re fond of exams. I am too so I’d be interested to know how it goes for you.

Yeah, I have a topic devoted to kanken that I’m sure I’ll post in again after I take it on Sunday.

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Good luck on that 5級, @Leebo.

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