One yojijukugo (four character idiomatic compound) for each level

Wish WaniKani had more yojijukugo? No? Well, I went and found one for each level anyway.

I tried to pick common ones wherever possible, while keeping the concept of “at least one kanji in the word is new to that level” in mind.

When looking at the star ratings, keep in mind that “common” yojijukugo are still much less common than basic vocabulary. So anything in the 1 or 0 star range will probably be something Japanese people probably have never seen or heard. Just FYI.

For each one the list goes as follows

  1. Compound
  2. Reading
  3. Meaning
  4. Use in spoken language
  5. Use in written language
    (for both of those, rarity is expressed from 0 to 3 stars, taken from sanabo.com, ☆☆☆ = very rare, ★★★ = most Japanese probably know it)

EDIT: If you want more information on any of these, check out the above-mentioned sanabo site or idiom-encyclopedia.com, both of which have lots of info on the etymologies and usage. idiom-encylopedia gets a bit more in depth, but they don’t cover every one I picked.

Levels 1-10

Summary

Level 1: 一上一下
いちじょういちげ
up and down
Spoken: ★☆☆
Written: ★☆☆

Level 2: 三日天下
みっかてんか
short-lived rule; governments and power are fleeting
Spoken: ★★★
Written: ★★★

Level 3: 上下一心
しょうかいっしん
coming together as one regardless of social status
Spoken: ★☆☆
Written: ★☆☆

Level 4: 一世一代
いっせいちだい
once in a lifetime
Spoken: ★★☆
Written: ★★☆

Level 5: 十人十色
じゅうにんといろ
to each his own; different strokes for different folks
Spoken: ★★☆
Written: ★★★

Level 6: 海千山千
うみせんやません
sly old dog; old fox
Spoken: ★★☆
Written: ★★☆

Level 7: 花鳥風月
かちょうふうげつ
the beauties of nature
Spoken: ★★☆
Written: ★★★

Level 8: 馬耳東風
ばじとうふう
utter indifference; talking to a wall
Spoken: ★★☆
Written: ★★★

Level 9: 八方美人
はっぽうびじん
everyone’s friend (Caution! typically meant in a derogatory way; imagine someone who is nice to your face and mean behind your back)
Spoken: ★★★
Written: ★★★

Level 10: 七転八起
しちてんはっき
fall seven times, get up eight (Note: this is a condensed version of a proverb and can also be read the same as the proverb ななころびやおき)
Spoken: ★★☆
Written: ★★★

Levels 11-20

Summary

Level 11: 以心伝心
いしんでんしん
tacit understanding; telepathy; communicating without speaking
Spoken: ★★★
Written: ★★★

Level 12: 一期一会
いちごいちえ
once in a lifetime encounter (Note: This is actually used as the Japanese title of Forrest Gump)
Spoken: ★★★
Written: ★★★

Level 13: 一問一答
いちもんいっとう
answering question by question; exchange of questions and answers
Spoken: ★★☆
Written: ★★☆

Level 14: 全知全能
ぜんちぜんのう
omniscient and omnipotent
Spoken: ★★☆
Written: ★★☆

Level 15: 半信半疑
はんしんはんぎ
half in doubt; half-convinced; dubious; incredulous​
Spoken: ★★★
Written: ★★★

Level 16: 危急存亡
ききゅうそんぼう
life-and-death matter; an emergency or crisis where survival is threatened
Spoken: ★★☆
Written: ★★☆

Level 17: 是々非々
ぜぜひひ
free and unbiased; fair and just; calling a spade a spade
Spoken: ★★☆
Written: ★★★

Level 18: 多種多様
たしゅたよう
diversity; a great variety of
Spoken: ★★★
Written: ★★★

Level 19: 自業自得
じごうじとく
you reap what you sow; paying for one’s mistakes
Spoken: ★★★
Written: ★★★

Level 20: 心機一転
しんきいってん
changing one’s attitude; turning over a new leaf
Spoken: ★★★
Written: ★★★

Levels 21-30

Summary

Level 21: 大義名分
たいぎめいぶん
just cause; good reason
Spoken: ★★★
Written: ★★★

Level 22: 因果応報
いんがおうほう
retribution; just desserts
Spoken: ★★☆
Written: ★★★

Level 23: 疑心暗鬼
ぎしんあんき
jumping at shadows; once you suspect one thing, everything will look suspicious
Spoken: ★★★
Written: ★★★

Level 24: 千差万別
せんさばんべつ
an infinite variety of; being extremely varied and wide-ranging​
Spoken: ★★★
Written: ★★★

Level 25: 不平不満
ふへいふまん
discontent and grumbling
Spoken: ★★★
Written: ★★★

Level 26: 右往左往
うおうさおう
moving about in confusion; going every which way
Spoken: ★★★
Written: ★★★

Level 27: 前途多難
ぜんとたなん
having many difficulties in store; grim prospects​
Spoken: ★★☆
Written: ★★☆

Level 28: 奇想天外
きそうてんがい
fantastic; bizarre; incredible
Spoken: ★★★
Written: ★★★

Level 29: 暗中模索
あんちゅうもさく
groping in the dark; exploring new avenues without having any clues
Spoken: ★★★
Written: ★★★

Level 30: 適材適所
てきざいてきしょ
the right person in the right place
Spoken: ★★☆
Written: ★★☆

Levels 31-40

Summary

Level 31: 針小棒大
しんしょうぼうだい
exaggeration; making a mountain out of a molehill
Spoken: ☆☆☆
Written: ★☆☆

Level 32: 自画自賛
じがじさん
singing one’s own praises
Spoken: ★★★
Written: ★★★

Level 33: 表裏一体
ひょうりいったい
two sides of the same coin
Spoken: ★★★
Written: ★★★

Level 34: 枝葉末節
しようまっせつ
unimportant details
Spoken: ★★☆
Written: ★★★

Level 35: 油断大敵
ゆだんたいてき
unpreparedness is one’s greatest enemy
Spoken: ★★★
Written: ★★★

Level 36: 旧態依然
きゅうたいいぜん
remaining unchanged (from the old state of things)
Spoken: ★★☆
Written: ★★★

Level 37: 臨機応変
りんきおうへん
resourcefulness; playing it by ear
Spoken: ★★★
Written: ★★★

Level 38: 敵前逃亡
てきぜんとうぼう
desertion in the face of the enemy; deserting under enemy fire​
Spoken: ★★☆
Written: ★★☆

Level 39: 暗中飛躍
あんちゅうひやく
behind-the-scenes maneuvering
Spoken: ★☆☆
Written: ★☆☆

Level 40: 才色兼備
さいしょくけんび
being gifted with both intelligence and beauty
Spoken: ★★☆
Written: ★★★

Levels 41-50

Summary

Level 41: 他人行儀
たにんぎょうぎ
in a reserved manner; treating a friend as a stranger; unduly distant; formal​​
Spoken: ★★★
Written: ★★☆

Level 42: 天下無双
てんかむそう
unrivaled; peerless
Spoken: ★☆☆
Written: ★★☆

Level 43: 支離滅裂
しりめつれつ
illogical; inconsistent; disjointed
Spoken: ★★★
Written: ★★★

Level 44: 危機一髪
by a hair’s breadth; in the nick of time; close call
ききいっぱつ
Spoken: ★★★
Written: ★★★

Level 45: 全身全霊
ぜんしんぜんれい
complete devotion; body and soul
Spoken: ★★★
Written: ★★★

Level 46: 斬新奇抜
ざんしんきばつ
novel; unconventional; cutting-edge
Spoken: ★☆☆
Written: ★★☆

Level 47: 喜怒哀楽
きどあいらく
human emotions (joy, anger, pathos, and humor)
Spoken: ★★★
Written: ★★★

Level 48: 一網打尽
いちもうだじん
round-up (e.g. of criminals); wholesale arrest; catching the whole herd with one throw
Spoken: ★★★
Written: ★★☆

Level 49: 質実剛健
しつじつごうけん
unaffected and sincere, with fortitude and vigor
Spoken: ★★☆
Written: ★★★

Level 50: 優勝劣敗
ゆうしょうれっぱい
survival of the fittest​
Spoken: ★★☆
Written: ★★☆

Levels 51-60

Summary

Level 51: 有頂天外
うちょうてんがい
beside oneself with joy; in an ecstasy of delight​
Spoken: ★☆☆
Written: ★☆☆

Level 52: 神出鬼没
しんしゅつきぼつ
appearing in unexpected places and at unexpected moments; elusive; phantom
Spoken: ★★★
Written: ★★★

Level 53: 残虐無道
ざんぎゃくむどう
inhumanity; atrocity
Spoken: ★☆☆
Written: ★☆☆

Level 54: 疾風迅雷
しっぷうじんらい
with lightning speed
Spoken: ☆☆☆
Written: ★☆☆

Level 55: 佳人薄命
かじんはくめい
the good die young
Spoken: ★☆☆
Written: ★☆☆

Level 56: 天衣無縫
てんいむほう
perfect beauty with no trace of artifice; flawless
Spoken: ★★☆
Written: ★★★​

Level 57: 森羅万象
しんらばんしょう
all things in nature; the whole creation​
Spoken: ★★☆
Written: ★★★​

Level 58: 順風満帆
じゅんぷうまんぱん
smooth sailing
Spoken: ★★★
Written: ★★★

Level 59: 温厚篤実
おんこうとくじつ
having a gentle and sincere personality
Spoken: ★★☆
Written: ★★☆​

Level 60: 被害妄想
ひがいもうそう
persecution complex; paranoia​
Spoken: ★★☆
Written: ★★☆​

158 Likes

Nice, Leebo!

This is really cool and now I wanna mark my progress by this. bookmarks

edit: Level 7’s is so beautiful.

4 Likes

Yeah, I actually struggled with level 7 because there are two other great ones that would be defined as being in that level as well.

I guess I’ll just mention them here.

一石二鳥
いっせきにちょう
two birds with one stone

弱肉強食
じゃくにくきょうしょく
survival of the fittest

They’re also both very common.

24 Likes

This is awesome, thank you.

I’d love to know any more of your favourites as well.

1 Like

Sure, some more that hit the cutting room floor.

絶体絶命
ぜったいぜつめい
desperate situation with no escape; being driven into a corner

浅酌低唱
せんしゃくていしょう
getting slightly intoxicated and humming a tune

That one is so stupidly specific that it’s amusing.

17 Likes

… amazing

1 Like

Still reading through these, but stopping to say how great they are and to thank you for posting them

This brought to mind the Aristotle quote: “A friend to all is a friend to none”.

6 Likes

Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s the sense in which that translation was chosen.

Literally the characters mean someone who is beautiful from every angle, but it’s not really used that way now.

3 Likes

I’m just loving this! Thank you so much, @Leebo, fantastic job! Super interesting.

1 Like

Thanks for this list, @Leebo . I make a point of writing down yojijukugo whenever I encounter them and now I have a lot more to learn.

1 Like

I’d love to save this link without having to bookmark it… gonna bookmark it anyway
Thanks for sharing :slight_smile:

1 Like

Where did you get this info from? Any specific site or just experience? There’s a 3k yojijukugo on Anki. I was thinking about making a bot order them in a list by number of results on Bing/whatever so that I would have the deck in a decreasing order of “frequency”.

2 Likes

It’s in the OP Jeep-kun!

3 Likes

omg so sorry Leebo and Miss!

How I feel right now while planning the most perfect deck ever:

8 Likes

Thanks for providing the link to the frequency info! It’s interesting that the first yojijukugo taught by WK (悪因悪果 - lvl 17, I think it’s the first) has zero stars for speaking and 1 star for writing. Maybe they just really needed more vocab for 因…

Your whole list is great! These would be good for calligraphy practice, I think.

2 Likes

If you email Kristen I wonder if she’ll add some of these. :thinking:

5 Likes

Wow, this is a fun list! I’ll all of them to HouHou (up to my current level).

1 Like

@Leebo San thanks for this.

1 Like

More so that it is a rather common phrase in English!
Common enough to encounter in literature, at least.

1 Like

Yeah, there’s actually a few in the list that are synonyms of that one, but that Japanese people actually know and use.

2 Likes