Learning to read radicals as they're said in Japanese

Recently I’ve been trying to pick up Japanese again so I remembered WaniKani and wanted to retry it out, and I’m curious if there’s a way to show how the radicals are pronounced in hiragana? I feel that it isn’t entirely useful to only know what they would mean in English. For example telling me ⼇ means lid is helpful but also knowing it would be read なべぶた seems like it’s necessary, is there a way for me to add hiragana readings to my lessons?

Welcome to the site!

There’s no way to take kana input for the English input fields, as far as I’m aware, so I don’t believe it would be possible to actually ever enter kana for radical names.

You can add synonyms in romaji if knowing the Japanese names is something you want to do, but just be aware that not all items listed on WaniKani as radicals are “official radicals” that you’ll find names for. The WaniKani radicals are chosen for making mnemonics, and so sometimes they don’t correspond to the lists you can find for “official” radicals. The purpose of the “official” radicals is to categorize kanji in dictionaries. As a result, they aren’t a one-to-one corresponding thing.

On that same note, the names of WaniKani radicals are just names, not necessarily meanings. Often they match what the radicals mean, but in many cases they are just memorable names for mnemonics.

But at the same time, the Japanese names for official radicals often aren’t meanings either. Frequently they just describe the shape, or are based on a particular kanji that uses that element.

For instance 广 is called まだれ in Japanese, because it’s the たれ (over-hanging element in a kanji) that is used in 麻 (which has the reading ま). Knowing that name doesn’t tell you what it originally meant in that character, where it was basically supposed to look like a cliff.

Lastly… knowing the Japanese names is undeniably helpful, but it’s not critical either. Japanese people often forget them. It’s common to just say “the left side of [insert character that pops into their head as an example]” when they absolutely have to name a radical they don’t remember the name of. It’s seen as trivia beyond the most basic batch of them.


The radicals used by WK don’t mean anything. They’re just there as visual cues to help you remember the actual meaning of the kanji, and the associated vocab.


Thank you for much for welcoming me to the site as well as the useful information! I very much appreciate the explanation and I’ll be sure to remember this as I continue my studies! Thank you again for all your help!

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While it is not possible to type kana/kanji for “radical meaning”; you can still put them as aliases, so you see them when reviewing, and put a romaji entry.

For example, for 単 “radical” I put those 3 user synonyms:

  • 簡単の単
  • かんたんのたん
  • kantannotan

so, while only “kantannotan” would be typeable, in case I miss it, I can see what I should have done.

For “real” radicals (that is, as traditionally used in dictionaries for classification) I took their names from here:

The 214 traditional kanji radicals and their meanings
There are no official Japanese names for radicals . … person, にんべん , a variant of ⼈(ひと)

for the other various components I made up some names;

For example, for the “radical” 「易」I called it “yasuinoi” (やすいの), 「単」as “kantannotan” (簡単の単)
and for the top part of 「拳」, I called it “kobusinoue” (こぶしの上), etc.

If I have to link those components to a naming, I prefer to link it to a Japanese naming rather than English (which isn’t my language, so it confuses me a bit)

And 疒 is やまいだれ (病垂れ), for example.

The nice thing if you know the names actually used in Japanese for those, is that you can type them!
That is, if you type やまいだれ then 疒 is among the proposed choices; same for まだれ ー> 广, がんだれ ー> 厂, にんべん ー> 亻, れっか ー> 灬 , etc.


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