Kanji order in a jukugo

Sometimes, I make mistakes on jukugo (especially in KaniWani) because I get the order of the kanji wrong.

Example: I got a hard time with 女王 (queen) vs. 王女 (princess), but it’s not the only one.

I can’t find any kind of logic that holds for most jukugo. Is there something I’m missing?

I think it sometimes just comes down to finding a way to remember them. For 女王 and 王女 I always think “What’s a woman-king? A queen,” and through the process of elimination, I know that 王女 is princess since “king-woman” sounds off to me. You’ll get there, though. The SRS will definitely help you to remember it.

Back or Front first seems to be random. I remember by EN->JP, that is by pronunciation alone, ignoring the Kanji.

There were topics about this: Not palindromes, 材木 vs. 木材 [Vocab meaning question]

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Nice. couldn’t find it with the search, unfortunately. :frowning:

About differentiating 女王 and 王女, think

王子 and 王女: prince and princess
女王: 女の王: female king

More can frequently be seen in Leech Squashing

My question isn’t really about learning these words. I know I can get by with mnemonics and such. But what is the reason/etymology behind this, if there is such a thing?

Remember that a language is first and foremost a spoken thing, and that the word is not 女王, but [jòóꜜò], and 王女 is not the word, but [óꜜòjò]. (You could say that I’m switching one way of describing the sound with another. What I mean is that the sound of the word comes first.)

Why do we call a fireman a fireman and not a man of fire? There may be answers to these questions, but in the end, you will find that language is not always logical (especially when you get down to the morphological level), even one structured as strictly as Japanese. The words in question are imported from Chinese, and if you are interested in linguistics, you can probably find some explanation.

If you merely want to learn to use Japanese: There is a reason rote learning is used so frequently when learning words. It is effective.

On the Kanji Kentei, there is a section where they ask you to categorize jukugo into 4 basic categories, though I’m not sure that’s intended to be an exhaustive list of all the possible types.

They are

  1. two kanji that share the same meaning (進行, progress)
  2. two kanji with opposite meanings (強弱, strength and weakness, degree of strength)
  3. the first kanji explains which category the second kanji falls into (国旗, i.e. 国の旗, national flag)
  4. the second kanji acts like an object for the first kanji’s verb form (消火, i.e 火を消す, fire fighting, fire extinguishing)

Now, as I said, I’m not sure if every jukugo can be matched to one of these, but it’s an interesting way to think about many of them.


In the case with that example, I think of it like this…

The in 女王 the woman goes before the king… Only the Queen could drag the King around to do things he doesn’t want. (Wife-husband relationship in a royal setting.)
But with 王女, the princess follows the king, because she’s Daddy’s little girl.

(I have no idea how close to the actual mnemonics I might/might not be… however that’s how I figured it out at first.)

So, 王女 does not appear to be a word in Chinese. It seems to be formed in Japanese. So we can talk about word formation but the best I could say here is that the two aren’t related in the sense of how they were formulated other than the Japanese tried to emulate Chinese “word-creation” principals.

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