Monolingual dictionary corner

Another potentially confusing thing in dictionary entries if you’re not expecting it: historical kana spellings. These are usually given in katakana, sometimes in half-width katakana. For example Daijisen’s entry for 学校 has the heading:


Here ガクカウ is the historical kana spelling. Assuming you’re not trying to read or write(!) a pre-WW2 text you can simply ignore it.


I had already bookmarked this thread, but the symbols quick look gets its own bookmark. Thanks for wrtiting it up!

I’d love to know more about the ✦ dignity column ✧ haha (I will go look this up now)


Quick comment on electronic dictionaries. I use the Casio Ex-Word N9800 electronic dictionary. It is great but designed for Japanese people, so I sensed some search limitations for foreigners.

  • Better search may be offered by Sharp or newer Casio models (Casio had a minor upgrade 2015 and a big upgrade 2019).

  • Computer & phone apps have the potential to search ALL dictionary contents and provide more useful results. Performance is entirely dependent on the developer so YMMV.

The N9800 nits that bother me:

  1. Search via Japanese example sentence is not optimised
  • 例文検索 only permits English letter input
  • 「日本語例文検索」sentence search is available on some international Ex-Words (E-A10) but I don’t see it on Japanese Ex-Words, which have「日本語キーワードで英語の例文を探す」
  1. More irritating, search by “handwritten kanji” sometimes pulls just a few results. Workarounds:
    → My Japanese friends use 新漢語林. And maybe just use those definitions. One can also search from there
    → I also found selecting the kanji and using the JUMP function provided more results. That takes a few steps

I think “handwritten kanji” limitation is because Japanese people usually search by reading, not the kanji. Alternatively, might be related to CPU & database structure to speed searches/save battery. Or maybe legacy programing before touch screens.


It’s entries with a similar meaning that can be used in more formal settings. Think of it like a thesaurus function for a limited number of examples. For example if we are to look at the 行く entry, this would be the dignity column :


A Japanese article about the dignity column with some examples and the like : 「品格ある言葉遣い」へ 工夫凝らした明鏡 | 毎日ことば


this looks cool af matskye

ill eventually take the time to read through the whole thing and stuff but atm ill keep it on watching


Quick question regarding symbols from 三省堂:

Any idea why the first definition is enclosed in 〔〕brackets?


Sure! Those brackets indicate extra information about the word, etymology and the like, as can be read under “この辞書のきまり” in the appendix.

〔 〕
語源・原語・用字法・補足説明など、種々の注記。( )とは意味が違います。


Awesome, thanks so much. This whole thread has been a great resource. :smiley::+1:



First edition : 2002
Last edition : 2020 (third edition)
Publisher : 大修館書店
Number of words :
Number of pages : 1910 pages
ISBN-13 : ‎978-4469021226

The 明鏡国語辞典 is another small dictionary, but it is the one I would most recommend to people first getting their feet into monolingual dictionaries as there are a few things that in my eyes elevate it as a starter dictionary. Its greatest strength lies in it’s relatively simple and to the point explanations. Though I have read / heard people claim that many of their definitions are based on other dictionaries and changed just enough as to not be copyright infringement. This could very well be the case, I don’t really know either way, but the case remains that their definitions are often some of the simplest around to grasp (this is not to say that all their definitions are always the simplest ones among all dictionaries. Looking at multiple dictionaries can still pay of handsomely!). An example of definitions being based can be seen for example in the first definition of the entry under 肉. This is Meikyo’s definition (3rd edition) :


This is Sanseido’s (8th edition) definition (and my personal favourite from all dictionaries I have) :

①動物の からだの、皮の下にある、やわらかな部分。

And this is Shinmeikai’s definition :


As you can see, smash those two definitions right together and you pretty much end up with Meikyo’s, but while this may cause disinterest in the dictionary for some people I think it’s honestly one of it’s strongest aspects. Someone has gone through multiple dictionary entries and “distilled” it down, removing the need on your part to do this.

Entries aside, what is the other reason I would recommend this one? Though it is only to do with the digital one over the paper version, the option for full furigana! This is a real boon for people being discouraged from making the switch themselves, so a great extra to “take the plunge”.

Normal Ruby :

Full Ruby :

How to activate “full ruby” mode? Just click on the three lines for the options and select “Show Full Ruby”

The Meikyo is also quite heavy on the “caution” section regarding wrongful use of words. However, it is noted in several blog posts I’ve read that they are overly cautious and will note a certain use of some words as wrong even though it is an accepted use in certain cases. So if you encounter a caution of this sort it is best to keep in mind that you should also look at other sources to confirm this.

The appendix and dignity column also deserve a brief mention. The appendix has some fun stuff, such as “seasonal words” which are great fun to just read through and look up (and invaluable if you are interested in Haiku I’ve heard). And the dignity column which acts like a sort of thesaurus that offers a plethora of more formal words and terms.

Seasonal words :

Dignity column of 行く :


Hi everyone! It’s been a while since I posted here! I am honestly mostly still trying to wrap my head around an article on dictionary specific vocabulary and the like, but thought I would quickly post a “rough draft” I have made of an article on what I’ll call deep dives into dictionaries. This might be of less interest to all of you as it’s less about monolingual dictionaries specifically than it is on looking deeper into the language, but still, I decided to post it at this point in time because if I didn’t make it now it would probably never get written out. Now, I might shorten / change certain parts, there are still some parts I need to polish because I started this out from a bunch of quick notes and stuff, it is also quite long, so just to make it slightly less monotone I have included some GIFs, feel free to tell me if I used too many, or if you rather have articles without them or anything :smile_cat:

Anyway, I will get back on writing out information on the last few dictionaries next weekend probably, if I still haven’t managed to find a (to me personally) satisfying way of writing the article on dictionary specific vocab, but we’ll see ^^

A quick look at the benefits of diving deep in dictionaries

Today we are taking a (not so) quick look at how to go about using monolingual dictionaries to get the most out of your time. There are a few key steps that in my eyes will help pay of the best, and there are a few “adaptations” that I would suggest to someone who is just starting out with monolingual dictionaries to get over the initial hump of difficulty. As with all my posts on this subject (or any other subject for that matter) this is purely my own opinion, and please do take everything you read here with a big grain of salt, but it is what I have found to be the most useful both through making the transition and now that I have gone fully monolingual to get the most out of it all.

NOTE : One important note that I would like to make before we continue is that while I think flashcards and SRS software are absolutely fantastic, and I would highly recommend you to use some form of this software (whether Anki, Jpdb, … ), I myself have stopped using it a while ago, just relying on repeated encounters in the wild, and if a certain turn of phrases captures my attention jotting it down in my notes. Still, throughout this article I will on several occasions mention flashcards and how to potentially set them up, as it’s how I used to do things back when I first got my feet wet with monolingual dictionaries.

1. Making the transition to monolingual dictionaries

1.1 The “Full plunge” option

There is something to be said about just instantly diving head first into monolingual dictionaries and completely ditching any bilingual ones. Relying on your own inference, lots and lots of looking things up as well as a healthy dose of confusion. Is it the way I would personally advice people to go? And if so, should you start immediately, or at what level would this option make sense?

This is an option I wouldn’t advice to most people, especially those relatively new to the Japanese language. However, if you are somewhat of a veteran of the language, have already mastered let’s say all N3 grammar and working your way up to N2 grammar, you know thousands upon thousands of Japanese words, and you can feel out the meaning of any random sentence quite well, this method would be perfect for you. That is because you DO NOT need the “training wheels” that I will be discussing in 1.2, you know your way around the Japanese language well enough that this step won’t leave you too confused. Sure, there will probably still be some confusion, and especially some time getting used to dictionary language and the different flow of the language, but these problems will resolve themselves quite quickly. You will probably not need to dive deeper than maybe two or three levels in a definition to get the gist anytime, and there will be relatively few word lookups that you need to make just to make sense of the definitions.

However, if you aren’t a “veteran” of the language, this is not an option I would recommend. Instead of that I would advice the following :

1.2 The “Gentle dip” option

It works like this. Whenever you encounter a word that you do not understand in the wild, I want you to look up the definition in a Japanese monolingual dictionary first. However, the chances are quite big that there will be multiple other words that you do not understand in the definition of the word. If you have to look those up too (with potentially more unknown words in their definitions) you will be going bonkers before the day is done, digging too deep!

Instead, the option I would suggest for you to take is that any words you encounter that you do not know, you allow yourself to still look up in a J→E dictionary. The goal here is to understand the Japanese definition of the original target word completely, but you do not need to bother with any definitions of sub-target words (yet).

If you are using any type of SRS software to keep all words you encounter I would suggest you to keep two decks. One with all your new target words, with a detailed Japanese monolingual definition. You can add a ton of interesting information here if you are so inclined, but I would suggest just sticking to the definition. The second deck would be a simple translation deck of any words you encounter in the definitions. This could (and probably will) be a lot of dictionary specific vocabulary, so the chances of you encountering a lot of these words in the wild are relatively scarce. But you will potentially come across them time and time again while using your dictionaries, so they will still pay off greatly.

2. General tips

2.1 Make your notes and / or context memorable

If you do decide to still use flashcards (or notes of another type), the same way that Wanikani uses mnemonics is always a good idea. Whether you can relate this to other vocabulary you encountered, an important moment in the show you are watching, a book, … The more memorable the word association is, the better the word will stick in your brain. The way I do this myself is with what I call “deep dives” (term definitely trademarked :smirk: ) to built a deep context for the new words. The downside to this method can be that it will take you more time with each word, and you probably just want to get on with whatever you are doing, so I would advice you to only do this when you have the time and if you are in the mood to do it. Otherwise it’s fine to just understand the word and move on, Later encounters will help cement the word in your brain either way!

2.2 Sometimes it’s better to just understand and move on

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE drilling down deeper in words, I can lose hours just looking up use-cases, synonyms, antonyms, situations to avoid using it, alternative meanings, related terms, example sentences, definitions in other dictionaries, …

And if you are in the mood to do that sort of thing, please take your time and enjoy every minute of this aspect of the language :smile_cat: But be aware of the trap that this can pose if you are trying to work your way through a certain text. I can’t begin to count the number of times I have felt demotivated because I didn’t reach my page goal in a certain text to keep up with a bookclub or hit my arbitrary goal, heck, I’ve managed to get stuck for days on a single page of a text, just because I kept putting off reading further for more dictionary look-ups. And sadly I have to admit that I have dropped books before, because I just felt too demotivated in reading them, as I seemingly got nowhere and because I spent 90% or more of my time just looking through dictionaries, I couldn’t even really remember most of the story.

So, this is a simple little caution. Look-ups are great, and whenever you just want to dive deeper into certain words and the like, please go ahead and spent as much time as you want in them, however, keep in mind that when you are working your way through a text, the book is the more important thing, enjoy reading, make sure you understand the sentence and move on, the “studying” can wait until you are finished reading for the day!

3. Dictionary deep-dives

So, I mentioned previously in the article about dictionary deep dives as I like to call them. But what does this really mean? How do you go about it? What can they help you to achieve, and why I think you too should do them?

To put it simple, a dictionary deep dive is just a (way) more thorough look-up of whatever word you encounter. In 3.1 I will run you all through an example of how I go about it (though a bit more detailed and well written out than I normally do, I normally jot down barely any notes :stuck_out_tongue: )

There are several different ways in which you can do a deep dive, and you are free to focus on just one part, or combine several together. There also isn’t a need to stick exclusively to monolingual dictionaries for this, as often times there are some interesting discussions, mentions, … on language learning threads about it if it involves a particular turn of phrase or the likes. The main deep dive “strategies” that I consider are :

  • Looking up the definition in multiple dictionaries
  • Related terms
  • Compound words / variations
  • Different use-cases
  • The history of the term
  • Key phrases and interesting items of vocabulary
  • Synonyms, antonyms and the like

I quite like to combine a variety of these together, you can also enrich the context of the word further by looking up any articles from for example Wikipedia, reading news articles or whatever Google throws up in relation to the term for example, but you can go as deep or shallow as you personally want. In doing these deep dives the chances are that (especially in the beginning, but it’s true for me even now) you will come across A LOT of unknown vocabulary. As I stated before, there is never anything wrong with just looking up the english translation of those words and getting on with the task at hand. In the past whenever I didn’t understand a text that I felt might have been important to provide some context I would often throw it through, or even DeepL or Google Translate, before trying to re-read it and see if I could understand it now. The most important thing is that you get it, and can expose yourself to more different contexts to strengthen your reading ability. So, use whatever tools you must, but do try to lessen your reliance on them over time :wink:

3.1 An example of a deep-dive

Warning : This section turned out to be quite a bit longer than I initially expected it to be, feel free to skip around (or even skip entirely if you want), you can get the gist with just a brief look!

As an example we will be looking into the word 三畳紀さんじょうき that I came across on the 恐竜恐竜 wikipedia page for dinosaurs in relation to a question I saw posted. Now, it’s not all that hard to infer that the meaning of this word would be the Triassic period from context (see below), but I wanted to do a bit of a deep dive about dinosaurs and that period of history anyway, and I had just started on this article, so might as well :smile_cat:

However, I find it quite important to make the following point. This word is quite a simple vocabulary word. I know what the Jurassic Period is, so there is no reason to dive deep as I did in this example for the following word. I am however using it as a bit of a showcase of ways to unlock deeper meanings and contexts, as well as a jumping off point for me to look up related vocabulary. The target doesn’t always need to be a difficult word, you can just start looking up related terms (whether by reading up on the Wikipedia entries, dictionary entries, … )

Context from Wikipedia :

恐竜の進化に関する正確な起源と時期は不明であるが、2億4330万年から2億3323万年前の 三畳紀 中期に出現したものが起源とされている。恐竜は2億130万年前に発生した三畳紀〜ジュラ紀間における大量絶滅で生き残り、その後のジュラ紀と白亜紀を通して陸生脊椎動物の頂点に立ったが、白亜紀~新生代古第三紀間における大量絶滅により、鳥類を除くすべての種が絶滅した。

There are already a lot of context clues that we can get from here to get that it is talking about the triassic period, whether it’s the period of time given, or the use of 期 at the end of 三畳紀中期, so in normal cases there would be no need to look it up unless we were translating to know the exact word, but for this exercise let us just pretend!

The first step I would always take is to turn to our trusty friend, the dictionary to look stuff up! So, let’s do just that. The first interesting thing is that it didn’t appear in too many dictionaries, which is one of the reasons I would always suggest to get your hands on as many dictionaries as humanly possible, as the words they cover can differ quite a lot! (And the benefit of a thesaurus will also become apparent quite quickly :wink: )

If we look at the entry in the 「精選版 日本国語大辞典」we get :

〘名〙 地質時代の時代区分の一つ。中生代の最初の紀で、約二億四七〇〇万年から約二億一二〇〇万年前までの約三五〇〇万年の期間に当たる。爬虫類・アンモナイト・裸子植物が栄え、哺乳動物が現われた。〔英和和英地学字彙(1914)〕

The 「大辞林4」gives us :

さんじょう きさんでふ—[3]【三畳紀】〔Triassic period〕

In the 「大辞泉」(more specifically the デジタル大辞泉) we find :

《Triassic period》地質時代の区分の一。中生代を三分したうちの最初の紀。2億4700万年前から2億1200万年前までの期間。爬虫類はちゅうるい・アンモナイト・二枚貝などが急速に栄えはじめ、原始的な哺乳類が出現した。トリアス紀。

And in the 「三省堂国語辞典 第八版」we find a more general mention of the Mesozoic era (interestingly enough this entry got added in the 8th edition, as it didn’t show up in the 7th ^^)

ちゅうせ い だい[中生代]⦅名⦆
〘地〙地質時代の大区分の一つ。古生代と新生代の間で、約二億五二〇〇万年前~約六六〇〇万年前まで。三畳さんじょう紀・ジュラ紀・白亜はくあ紀に分かれる。シダ類などが しげり、恐竜きょうりゅうが栄えた。

Now, has this given us more than enough to figure out it is talking about the triassic period? Heck yes, after all, it even spells it out for us in several entries in English :stuck_out_tongue: But this is a deep dive! So, will we settle for this? I don’t think so :smile_cat:

The first interesting clue has already been seen in the 「三省堂国語辞典 第八版」as it didn’t mention the Triassic by itself, but it showed an entry for the Mesozoic. So, we might need to look up some related terms to get the most information on this subject. For that, we have (among other things) our trusty friend the Thesaurus. Now, the thing I LOVE deeply about thesauruses when using the Monokakido app is that They make these types of related look ups SUPER easy, I must admit that there would be quite a big chance that I wouldn’t bother with this type of side lookup if they didn’t make it as simple as it is.

When looking at the entries I can see that there is an entry for 三畳紀 in the 「日本語シソーラス 類語検索辞典 第2版」(Roget’s thesaurus). When I click on it, this is the line I am interested in :

So, what we see here is that while 三畳紀 is one term (with its own results in the dictionaries), we can actually click on these other terms and see what they bring up. Let’s do that right now!

Back at the 大辞典 we get :

〘名〙 (トリアスは ドイツ・英Trias) 地質時代における中生代の最初の時代。三畳紀。

大辞林 just has a reference to the entry for :

トリアス き[4]【—紀】〔Triassic period〕

Same for the 大辞泉


Of note should be another nifty feature that I didn’t mention before anywhere. If you are looking at a specific headword, you can easily switch between all dictionaries with that headword by clicking the drop-down menu in the middle and switching between the dictionaries like this :

Super handy feature! Now, lets look at what the term ジュラ紀 throws up!

ジュラ き[ジュラ紀](名)

〘名〙 (ジュラは Jura この時代の地層がよく発達しているフランスとスイスの国境にあるジュラ山脈から) 中生代を構成する三つの紀の第二の地質時代。約二億一二〇〇万~一億四三〇〇万年前までの約六九〇〇万年間。巨大な爬虫類、アンモナイト類、イチョウ・ソテツなどの裸子植物が繁栄し、鳥類・被子植物が初めて現われた。ユラ紀。〔英和和英地学字彙(1914)〕


《Jurassic period》地質時代の区分の一。中生代を三分した場合の2番目の時代。2億1200万年前から1億4300万年前まで。アンモナイト・爬虫はちゅう類が栄え、大形恐竜・始祖鳥が出現。植物では裸子植物が繁栄。名は、この時代の地層が発達しているジュラ山脈にちなむ。

Of note should be that while 三畳紀 also had an entry in “The Wisdom” JP→En dictionary, ジュラ紀 is the first one that is in both the Wisdom and the Genius, as well as having entries in 4 other dictionaries. It might not seem like an important detail, but it is often a good idea to at least make a mental note when looking at synonyms of which term has more (or more detailed) entries, as this is often the more important of the terms.

The term ユラ紀 doesn’t have a single dictionary entry, so I know that it probably isn’t even worth my time to learn. But it’s an easy term to keep in the back of the mind anyway :person_shrugging:

The last term is 白亜紀 which, as soon as we look at the definitions is talking about the Cretaceous period. While also interesting, to keep this article from being too long (too little too late :sweat_smile: ) I’ll abstain from adding a look at this in the article (though I did read up on it as well as a few unfamiliar terms I encountered throughout the definitions, and I would advice you to follow your interests too on these matters!)

So, now that we have read A LOT of definitions (more than this specific word deserves, really) we can always get a bit more context by looking it up on Wikipedia and / or Google. I won’t be going into that here either due to length (and choice of word), but it can always pay of to do this.

But let’s look at some other fun things we can do in these deep dives. The first thing I like to do is break the words apart in smaller bits and see if we can learn anything interesting. Now, while 三畳紀 doesn’t offer any truly interesting things when breaking it down to its components (though I find it quite amusing that the second Kanji used is also a counter for Tatami mats :stuck_out_tongue: ) there are some interesting and noteworthy expressions and the like that came to the foreground looking around. I will just briefly mention some that interested me personally (by clicking through to related things, looking stuff up in expressions, example sentences, whatever, GO WILD!) to give you an idea of what kind of interesting stuff can be hidden just behind those “dry” dictionary entries :wink:

畳の上の水練 = To practise swimming on a Tatami mat. An expression that means that you know the theory but are unable to put it into action

折りたたみ自転車 = One of those folding bikes (also 折りたたみ is used for a lot of foldable / telescopic appliances like 折りたたみ傘 , 折りたたみ机 and the like)

白亜紀 = Cretaceous period, not noteworthy, but find it great that they too use Chalk (白亜) to “mark” (pun intended) this period. As in Dutch, my native language, we also call this period “het Krijt” (the chalk).

Just wanted to give the full definition I encountered for 白璧 (don’t even ask me how I got here through my dive… Think it was when I looked up chalk…)

はく へき⓪

I adore the entry under ㊀! (actually added 白壁白璧の微瑕ビカ to my notes ^^)

Anyway, those points are just to showcase how many fun and interesting things you can encounter when you just take the time to dive deeper and look up anything that strikes your fancy. Maybe you are interested in a synonym at one point, or a related term (maybe you just want to click over to the next “alphabetical” entry in the dictionary to take a look), there is an endless rabbit hole that can be found in dictionaries, whether monolingual or bilingual. So as closing remarks I would just say this : Go out, enjoy, discover, but most importantly


I need time to process all of that, but it’s very well written. :+1:


Quick question for the peeps reading this thread. I recently started making an excel sheet for myself with some definitions like I wrote out for the “a quick look at the symbols used in the Meikyo dictionary” post, that I wanted to use as a basis for similar guides. The thing is that this one is getting relatively big and I wouldn’t mind cleaning it up and expanding it to all entries I can find in the dictionary lists, but that would require quite a few hours of my time. If it can help someone I’m more than willing to do it, so consider this post as a gauge of interest. Would you all be interested in this? (This would mean I put the other dictionaries on hold for a bit though)? Or does it hold no value to you all?

  • Please do!
  • I’m ambivalent.
  • It is of no use to me.

0 voters

Quick pic I took just to show :


Introducing the Monolingual Dictionary Cheat sheet! I was planning on compiliing it all before publishing, but turns out that if I use Google Sheets I can just publish and it updates automatically whenever I update it, so you all can have this like a week before I had planned :stuck_out_tongue:

Feel free to comment with any suggestions for improvements, any mistakes I potentially made or anything that you would like clearing up. I’ll also give notice from when I allow suggestions for new terms, I still have a long list of words to add, so just to avoid duplicates among those lists I’m not accepting any at the moment.

Either way, access the list by clicking This inconspicuous link .

Example pic :

Status : Work in Progress. Current entries : 150


Thanks to this thread I got the courage and enough knowledge about monolingual dictionaries to buy one. I’ve only been using one for a few days but I already feel like its helping me a lot. So I just wanted to drop a comment here to tell you @matskje that I’m grateful for this thread :blush:


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: