Monolingual dictionary corner

Glad I could be of help, that’s my goal with this thread :smile_cat: Best of luck and enjoy your new monolingual dictionary ^^


Monokakido has recently (October 5th) added a new dictionary to their 国語 section: Contemporary Japanese Style
Does anyone happen to have any experience with using it? It’s been a while since I got a new one and this one is on sale until November 4th :see_no_evil:


Sorry for the late response, I’ve been quite busy over the past month with other obligations, and have neglected this thread (and sadly will be neglecting it for a bit longer still) :bowing_man:

I’ve had a quick peruse of the Youjiyougo over the past few days during short breaks and the like, so I can give you a quick overview of my likes and dislikes with it, though you shouldn’t consider this a thorough review as I haven’t worked my way through it entirely yet.

But I’ll start out by saying that I wouldn’t really recommend people picking this one up if they are looking for a dictionary or the like, as it doesn’t really serve that function. It does however have some other stuff that I quite like personally, but I would still caution people to only purchase this if they either were to be interested in / professionally need something that could help them in a writing / proofreading capacity, or if they are just interested in lots of usage notes and the like.

Now, on to one of the first things that I really like, which you’ll access most easily by going to the appendix and choosing the コラム category, here you’ll find a list of all manner of words with use-cases, cautions, important cultural things to take into consideration with word use and the like. Is the list exhaustive and super long? Probably not, as it has only 53 entries, but it does provide some useful extra information in quite a few cases, I’ll include a few entries to demonstrate, there are other entries that provide some context for sure, but it seems that, unless I’ve missed others, only those here have a short article on context :

As for the rest of the entries, it mostly contains really short entries on people, companies, words and the like, often just the word as is, sometimes providing some extra information. A few entries as example (note : These are all full entries) :

エジソン(トーマス)[Thomas Alva Edison]

→ 広がる、波及 でんぱん

にくせい 肉声
△「○○の肉声を記録した歴史的資料」 *近年、「その人自身の発言」といった意味でも使われている。

In what aspects does this dictionary shine? Specificity in how words should / shouldn’t be used, and providing specific context if needed. This can be great to enrich your vocabulary, but I see it more as a resource to read through than a dictionary to consult on encountered terms personally. I do think it could potentially be a great language resource, but I don’t think it can be considered a good dictionary for how us language learners would consult it at least. (Though I do love the appendix entries quite a lot ^^)


Says they’re busy, proceeds to post an in-depth analysis :see_no_evil: Thanks for the detailed response, was very helpful :bowing_man:


On the strength of this post, I bought Meikyo and amazed to find I can actually look up words, and their various meanings. I have to work with dictionary as I use it, but I like being able to understand the nuanced meanings.
I like kanji and finding out their origins so at the same time I got the Shinjigen, which I find quite hard to use, do you have any advise? It takes me ages to get it to finally accept a kanji, when I draw it, so end up mainly pasting in from Meikyo. But I like knowing that whether kanji originated on turtle shell, bronze or phonetic.
Thank you for this whole great post.


Hi there, glad to see you’ve found your first foray into monolingual dictionaries to be going quite smoothly, happy to have played a part in your decision :smiling_face: . My apologies for the late response.

I do have to admit that the Kanji dictionaries are my personal least used dictionaries, and I mostly turn to those only after I already read some entries in an actual dictionary, so already have the word ready, and just need to switch dictionaries. (Bonus tip : You can easily switch between the same entry in different dictionaries by simply clicking the drop-down arrow next to the word (see images))

iPhone :

Desktop :

But I’ll see if I can give you any useful tips on how to use it effectively. The first “tip” I would give you is to consider switching to looking up kanji by stroke count and radicals (if you aren’t in a situation where you can just copy paste), as I feel that this is generally a faster, and - at least to me - way less frustrating way of looking things up. I’ll be using images for the desktop version of the dictionary, but the principle is the same for the iOs version.

How to search by stroke count

With the Shinjigen open, first you need to head to the index, for that, just click on the index button in the top right, a page like this one will appear :

Next, you need to navigate to the stroke count page, namely 総画 (the stroke-count of a kanji), the fourth option down on the right-hand side. This brings you to the following page :

Just click on the number of strokes in the Kanji, and this screen will appear :

Now, on the bottom (or on the right side of the columns) you can see a scroll wheel of radicals. In general I find the most annoying Kanji to be those where the kanji equals the radical, but you get used to and faster with this kind of lookup as you practice. (Addendum : Good article on the official radicals by Our overlords Tofugu )

Now, I totally understand if you don’t like / want to use this type of lookup. It can be quite bothersome, and especially in the beginning it will be slower than drawing the kanji out, but it’s quite a wortwhile exercise in my mind and will also enable you to use an actual physical dictionary for kanji lookup if you ever find yourself in such a situation (plus, it’s great bragging rights if you ask me :stuck_out_tongue: )

Starting from radicals

This is the way to look up that I personally pretty much never use (only on a rare curious foray to see what kind of kanji use a certain radical), but it’s also in general not a bad way to look up Kanji. The difference is simply that here you start with the radical (and the number of strokes in said radical), and then you get a list of kanji with that radical + x number of additional strokes. For this, you first go back to the index and then click on the 部首 on the right. The first page that shows up is this one :

On the bottom and on the right side you see the sorting by the number of strokes. It’s important to note that this is the number of strokes in the radical as opposed to the number of strokes in the kanji that we used in the previous lookup method. From here you can click on the radical in question, and a page like this one will show up :

On the right you see the 部首解説, followed by a list of kanji using the radical + the number of additional strokes past the radical. It’s quite a nifty way to look at all manner of kanji that use the radical. One thing I should note here though, because I use the 肉 radical for my explanation, you might be confused why you are seeing so many entries that seemingly use the 月 radical. This quick wiktionary entry should help clear up any confusion on that front (and also be an excellent showcase on why radical lookups can still be a confusing mess on some occasions, though you do learn the common pitfalls after a while :stuck_out_tongue: )

Besides these tips, the only thing I can really recommend is to keep plugging away at it and using the dictionary. It really is a skill in and on itself and you WILL get better and faster at it eventually, I promise :smile:

My apologies that I don’t have any better / more useful tips, btw :bowing_man:


I would never have got there without you:)
I tested it out on a kanji that I liked I found browsing in my kanji dictionary, なまぐさい, smelling like a wet sheep, since I used to have sheep, I could really relate, so thanks to you I found where to find stroke count 19, then I found sheep radical, and within minutes, I found 羶.:sweat_smile::joy::grin:
Thank you for taking the time to help me out, so I can actually use shinjigen!


Glad I could be of help :smile_cat: Feel free to drop in whenever with your experiences or any problems / questions ^^


Okay, so, this is just a super quick post, and you all might be more technologically literate than me and already know this, but it got pointed out to me by a friend today and for me this is an absolute game changer.

Did you all know you can select text when you take a picture with your cellphone? I normally spent like around a minute or so (and every so often a lot more) having to search up a kanji on stroke order and radical if I don’t know the reading in a physical book. But I can just take a picture, long press on the piece of text I want to select and hit copy. It is relatively reliable, and if it does miss a stroke in a compound word you can just use a wildcard (*) in place of the wrongly scanned kanji. This is absolutely wild, and an absolute game changer ^^(Though I still think the skill of looking things up by radical and stroke order are quite useful to have)


If you are using an iPhone, then welcome to iOS 16 :grin:


Thank you so much for this post! I’m just barely at where I can start using J-J dictionaries and I just bought the 明鏡国語辞典 from Kinokuniya. I love learning Japanese!


I mean, its significantly quicker to look up a word that I am familiar with an associating it with the one I am looking at. The monolingual approach is cool and has a lot of merit but sometimes I just need the answer.


Look at you digging up old comments :b
From conversations I’ve had with other people since, I very much know that my perspective on this is very different from some. What I’ve come to understand since is that, for people that aren’t yet fully used to monolingual dictionaries, it is hard to see where I’m coming from. On top of that, since it’s been such a long time for me and I got handholding in the start, I think I’m not at all qualified to judge how hard/easy monolingual dictionaries are for others.
Consider that I am someone that has been using almost exclusively monolingual dictionaries for close to two years, having read thousands of pages without using bilingual dictionaries, having studied over 5000 words with monolingual definitions.
I don’t mean to say this to brag or anything, maybe I would be far more advanced by now had I stuck with bilingual dictionaries. I just genuinely mean that when perspectives are so different, it’s hard to understand each other.
Sorry for the rambling :see_no_evil:

With that in mind, I think people tend to underestimate how much of a difference it makes if you are used to monolingual dictionaries. For most words I look up while reading, using a monolingual dictionary barely slows me down. At roughly an N2 level, I genuinely believe that what is slowing one down isn’t lack of Japanese abilities, but not being used to using monolingual dictionaries. I don’t think this fully goes away, even at N1 and beyond.
Personally I think getting used to them is worth the time it takes, and I think this might be what some people are actually disagreeing with. Either that they don’t think they will get significantly faster, or that they don’t believe the initial time investment is worth the gains.

Assuming one does indeed get quite a bit faster using them, and the benefits one gets from using them are worth the time it takes to get there, I very much stand by my old comment. That’s the perspective I am talking from.
Yes, glancing at the monolingual definition first, seeing if you know all the words, then seeing if you can figure it out, and if you can’t moving on to an English definition will slow you down a bit (even though I feel like it wouldn’t be that much), but I think it’s a good first step in getting used to them.

One might disagree with those assumptions, and maybe they are right, but then the discussion is an entirely different one :man_shrugging:


@GrumpyPanda Thank you for detailing how you use dictionaries. Visualising the path of other language learners is helpful and motivating.

I use monolingual dictionaries in other languages and they are so much better than bilingual dictionaries. Just need to make the leap in Japanese. . .


So I am not a beginner, not super advanced. I do kind of a hybrid of monolingual now since a lot of the more common words just come to me. I think when it comes to your base or foundational level words a monolingual dictionary is only gonna slow you down because the simpler the word, the more complex the explanation is. The same goes for the reverse which is why I think once you get to those N2/N1 vocab you’re better served going monolingual. I don’t do 100% one or the other because sometimes I am just forgetful and need that quick reminder. For newer more nuanced words/phrases nothing beats monolingual if you have the vocab to tackle it.


Okay, so I have been terrible at managing this thread, as life has been busy and Japanese has taken a bit of a back seat, but seeing as I have some free time next week, would there be anything specific I could write on, are there any dictionaries you all are interested in, or anything of that ilk? If so, feel free to comment and I’ll see what I can whip up.

If there aren’t any specific requests I’ll see if I had backed up my list of things I still wanted to write up, as I didn’t properly back up my old macbook, not expecting it to give the ghost after a few months of ownership :sweat_smile:

I’m very much of the same opninion as you on this matter ^^ Using monolingual dictionaries (heck, using dictionaries in any form) effectively is a skill in and on itself. Is it worth the added trouble of doing this relatively early in your journey vs waiting 'til you are quite advanced? As you said, we have our views on this, and they might not be correct, but I also believe it is definitely worth it (by a whole lot). Always enjoy reading your thoughts on the matter!

You make some very good points, and I have to say I agree on most everything, the only addendum I really wanted to make to this is to consider revisiting basic vocabulary once you reach a relatively comfortable level (I’m bad at judging whether this would be an N2 / N1 point though, as I never did any JLPT specific studying :sweat_smile: ), at least, to me in my situation I feel like I’ve managed to learn a whole lot by seeing how they attempt to explain simple concepts like right or left, a circle or bike, words, … (also why if I do comparisons or whatever you’ll see me default to 肉 a lot in my write-ups :stuck_out_tongue: )


That’s right! I agree with you there.

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First edition:1982
Last edition:2016 (fifth edition)
Number of words:71.000 words
Number of pages : 1685 pages
ISBN-13 : 978-4095010359

The one thing I found most interesting about this dictionary is that when reading online reviews the first thing that pops out is that it has earned a reputation as “the dictionary most chosen by Japanese language teachers”, which I would take as quite a good sign. Though, a dictionary that is good for native teachers isn’t automatically also a dictionary that is good for language learners of course.

The fifth edition of this dictionary is the first Japanese-language dictionary that makes full use of the Japanese corpus of the 国立国語研究所 (National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics or “NINJAL”). This allows for a deep explanation of ‘modern Japanese’ use with abundant examples.

The one feature that really sets this dictionary apart is the 「類語対比表」(Quasi-Synonym Comparison Table) which illustrates the different use cases of Quasi-Synonyms (Note : A Quasi-Synonym is a word that has a similar meaning to another, but can not be used interchangeably), similar things can be found in thesauruses, but it’s a very useful feature, one that greatly surpasses the dignity column of the Meikyo in my eyes.

Another useful feature is the 『現国例』 (modern Japanese example), it helps distinguish between the standard notation of a word and other forms of notation that have been used in the past, are still used in the present and have a “high degree of social custom” (such as fixed expressions and such ilk).

Note : This dictionary is seemingly also available on the DONGRI platform, though I haven’t purchased it myself on the grounds of it being a subscription service, though the app offers some functions that some of you might indeed appreciate, such as MS Word integration for example.




First edition:1985
Last edition:2000 (second edition)
Number of words:79.000 words
Number of pages : 1824 pages
ISBN-13 : 978-4107302144
Note : Out of print

While there are some merits to this dictionary, most specifically the examples given for words being from actual usage (mostly from literary sources from the end of the Edo period up to the 20th year of the Showa period 1867 – 1946), and it can be seen as a quite nifty index of literature in that respect, it’s uses as a dictionary, especially for language learners are quite a lot more minimal. One somewhat interesting thing for some people might be that any words linked in the 和英語林集成 are marked with a 〔ヘボン〕, meaning this word was certainly used during the Meiji period.

The biggest downside in my eyes though is that it hasn’t been revised for over two decades now, and is becoming more outdated by the day.




First edition:1988
Last edition:2018 (sixth edition)
Number of words:77.500 words
Number of pages : 1632 pages
ISBN-13 : 978-4385140636

The little brother to the 『三国』, this dictionary is aimed right at high school students, it is a specialized version with the sole intention of being used for school study. Though it is claimed to be useable “up to the general public”. The selection criteria of the words in this dictionary are made by inspecting the text books in use in high schools for both the Japanese language courses as well as textbooks of other subjects. This results in this dictionary picking up quite a few words that other small dictionaries, and even some medium-sized ones wouldn’t include. If you are intending to enroll in any studies in Japan itself, or if you are interested in studying a subject in Japanese this dictionary would definitely be a great addition to your arsenal.

Some other good things about this dictionary are that it includes the names of major people and works related to literature, it provides detailed comparisons of words with similar meanings and lends itself well as dictionary of expressions.