Is WaniKani using the wrong meaning for 修 (discipline)?

In English discipline as a noun has two meanings;

English Dictionary

Discipline - Noun

[1] The practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour, using punishment to correct disobedience.
“a lack of proper parental and school discipline”

[2] a branch of knowledge, typically one studied in higher education.
“sociology is a fairly new discipline”

The kanji entry on WaniKani seems to be basing the explanation of 修 on the punishment form of discipline in English. But from looking at the vocab on WK using 修, and a bit of searching around, it seems like it means the knowledge form of discipline. I could of course be misunderstanding this (first time to learn 修 after all) but I would love to hear your input @RachelG !

WaniKani: 修 (kanji)

A leader uses a stick in the winter made of hair to enforce discipline.
The leader uses the stick made of hair to discipline his followers. He hits them with it.

Imagine the leader disciplining his people with the hair stick in the winter. Imagine him yelling “DISCIPLINE!!” with each hit of the stick as you feel the cold winter air around you.

If the leader uses a stick to discipline his followers, eventually they’ll fight back. The disciplined masses start to take off their shoes (しゅう) and throw them at the leader!

Watch as the leader gets pelted with all sorts of types of shoes. Boots, high heels, baby slippers. They’re all colliding with him as the people shout, “Discipline solves nothing!”

WaniKani: 修 (vocabulary)

  • 修士 Master’s Degree
  • 修理 Repair
  • 修辞学 Rhetoric
  • 研修 Training
  • 研修生 Trainee


The kanji 修 (しゅう, shū) has several meanings, typically revolving around the concepts of “study,” “discipline,” “improvement,” or “cultivation.” It’s a common component in words that relate to education, self-improvement, or religious practice. Here are some examples where 修 is used:

  1. 修学 (しゅうがく, shūgaku): This refers to “studying” or “schooling.” It’s often used in terms related to educational pursuits.
  2. 修正 (しゅうせい, shūsei): Meaning “correction” or “revision.” It implies making improvements or adjustments.
  3. 修理 (しゅうり, shūri): This means “repair” or “mending.” It can be used for fixing objects, machines, etc.
  4. 修士 (しゅうし, shūshi): A “master’s degree” in the academic context.
  5. 修行 (しゅぎょう, shugyō): Refers to “training” or “spiritual discipline,” often used in religious or martial arts contexts.

The use of 修 often implies a process of learning, refining, or improving oneself or something else, whether in an academic, practical, or spiritual context.


Wouldn’t be the first time WaniKani’s taken a fairly loose grasp of the subtleties in English words to create a mnemonic.

But yeah, it certainly looks like you’re absolutely correct from here.


While personally I think the meaning is not too far off, I do think that perhaps it was stretched quite a bit for the sake of a better mnemonic.

Jisho points that this kanji can also mean discipline in the context of conduct or supervision, i.e. 修まる or 監修, but definitely not to the degree that WK seems to imply.


To be fair, sometimes using the wrong meaning to help with memorization can work too. Like, I finally managed to memorize 給 as salary when I made a mnemonic “just one thread of this suit costs more than my salary!”
As far, as I know, 合 is not “suit” as in “the suit you wear” but rather the “suit” as in “to suit, to fit”, but the mnemonic works nevertheless :sweat_smile:


The problem with that though is you need to know the other meaning. Otherwise… you’re just learning the word wrong :sweat_smile:


And this is why I always read the context sentences :sweat_smile:
And also because some of them are crazy and make great quotes trunky_rolling


I think you are correct and what I’ve learned from seeing several of these instances is that the mnemonic is really only there to help you understand the main idea (it being discipline) - while the context sentences give you a better picture as what their intended use should be.

Maybe the WK thought that creating a mnemonic here was easier to tie it back to the punishment definition of discipline versus the studying/learning/profession definition (due to them using radicals to create the mnemonic). And then we’ll have to do the work - once it’s been engrained in our mind - that this is actually the latter definition. Although I’m just speculating, here.

But I do agree with you, maybe having a mnemonic that points you to the more common/actual definition would cut down on time needed to memorize. Although I’m not creative enough to make these mnemonics, LOL.

For WK staff, how about “A leader uses a stick in the winter made of hair to create discipline. The leader uses this hairy stick every day to write down something in the snow. He keeps writing in the snow ‘using this stick is my discipline.’ over and over again.”

I don’t think it’s a good mnemonic, but it’s something at least. :rofl:

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And then we’ll have to do the work - once it’s been engrained in our mind - that this is actually the latter definition

Thanks for replying!

Personally, I don’t agree though. It seems pointless to learn something means one thing, and then have to work out that it means something else. For me, the whole point of paying for WK is that someone has done all the work for us, and is teaching us in the most efficient way possible. Also, after about L26 the context sentences drop to one per entry, which makes it even more important to be as clear as possible.

In this case it’s less about nuance between two similar concepts, punishment and knowledge/vocation are completely different. Tbh, it just seems like whoever wrote the original entry for 修 made a mistake. I don’t think this is a huge issue or anything, just want to highlight it to them to fix, if necessary :slight_smile:

@Mods, would love to hear your input!


Punishing is not the main point in the definition #1. From the same dictionary entry #1 we have this portion that was omitted “activity or experience that provides mental or physical training: the tariqa offered spiritual discipline | Kung fu is a discipline open to old and young.” which fits like a glove many of the meanings associated with 修.

No, I do agree with your criticism and really, I think WK should try their best in making the mnemonics be less in tune with other definitions of the same word in English. As Belthazar said “Wouldn’t be the first time WaniKani’s taken a fairly loose grasp of the subtleties in English words to create a mnemonic.”

But I wouldn’t necessarily go as far to call it pointless since the main function of the mnemonic is for us to recall the word “discipline” with Kanji " ". But to your point - I really do wish this was more versatile, or they had the mnemonic, but added further context as needed.

Also, I didn’t know they started to lower the amount of context sentences at the higher levels? That seems like it would be a GREAT improvement if they added close, if not the same, volume from the low levels i’m in now. I hope this is something they’re actively working on. That’s my favorite page when learning new vocabulary items, lol. I’m only level 7 and hope to hit 60.

Thanks for indulging my back and forth!

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I’ll ask the content team to take a look, but I think you raise a solid argument for revising the mnemonic!


Yeah, this has been a pretty disappointing discovery as I’ve gone higher. The more you need the context sentences to help you understand, the fewer there are :frowning:

Which is why I’ve taken to using Jisho + ChatGPT to help with context (and in turn found this issue). ChatGPT is great, but also suffers from complete hallucinations sometimes :laughing:


Ah, they didn’t reduce them, they just haven’t written them yet. They’re working on it.


Is this confirmed anywhere? It’s been like this for a couple of years. It’d be great to know there is an official plan!

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Having trouble finding the thread right now, but it’s definitely intended to be a long-term project. It’s gonna take time.

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Hey @cmoncrab ! I wanted to update you on your suggestion and let you know that we looked into it and agreed with you here! We have now made “mastering” the primary meaning for the 修 kanji. Thanks again for bringing it to our attention!