Japanese dictionary "formatting chart"

As a complete beginner, consulting a Japanese-Japanese dictionary tends to be a formidable translation challenge on its own, but I nevertheless like to look things up in the スーパー大辞林 (Super Daijirin) dictionary shipped with macOS from time to time, e.g. just for the pitch accent information, or to find different homonyms. The entries are clearly formatted according to some conventions – many of them quite obvious, but some of them still rather nebulous.

Back in school, I think the physical German and English dictionaries used to have an annotated description of the entry format e.g. on the inside of the covers, clarifying the various formatting clues and annotations used. Is there a something similar for the formatting in Japanese dictionaries – e.g. some online guide, as it appears to be reasonably consistent across different dictionaries?

To clarify what I mean, here is a random example from just now:

しけん [2]【試験】
① 物事の性質・能力などを知るために,ためし調べてみること。テスト。「新車の性能を―する」「生理学が生物を―するやうに小説も事実を実験し」〈文芸上の自然主義•抱月〉
② 人の性質・能力や学習の成果などを種々の問題に対する解答を通して調べること。「司法―」「入学―」「―問題」

I think the (名)スル means that it is a noun that can be used as a する verb, that ― in the examples always referes to the word, and that enclosed in〈…〉is the source text for the second quotation. Having the various formatting conventions wirten down somewhere would be helpful for me, though, especially for those weird details about use in literary Japanese that some other entries have (which I mostly ignore, but am still curious about).


Unfortunately there is no universal convention for Japanese dictionaries, so you have to check at the actual dictionary. It’s usually at the very beginning, but most famous ones will be available on internet too. Since you mentioned 大辞林 I’ve got theirs just for curiosity. Feel free to ask about anything you don’t understand.


Great, thanks – close enough! The symbology seems to be slightly different in the macOS Dictionary.app version, but unfortunately, I didn’t find any of the “front matter” pages when I tried looking up 凡例, 記号一覧 and a few terms like that. Interestingly, the pitch accent explanation page that is linked from the individual entries shows up as “アクセントの型” when opening it, but can’t be found when directly searching that term. I guess this might just be a limitation of Dictionary.app…