Question about 生 radical in different kanji

So, the kanji for wheat (麦) is one of the only kanji that I use the mnemonic for. I have an app that I practice writing kanji on (especially helps with stroke order and directions), but every time I go to write it, I write the top part exactly like the 生 kanji only for it to be wrong because it doesn’t have the first stroke. I think I only just now realized this, and the same thing happens in 青 and several other places. I just don’t understand why it’s still being called the 生 radical when it’s missing the first stroke. Is there any reason, or should i just realize it has no reason?

It’s not uncommon for the used radicals to be slightly modified when they’re in different kanji, the meaning mnemonic for actually mentions that:

麦 is technically its own official radical, but it’s just not used that way on here (青 is introduced as a radical though)


While I understand that, I just find it weird that there wouldn’t be another radical that matches it better. I feel like missing 1/5 strokes is a big chunk of what makes it the radical that it is. I guess I’m just curious if there is a reason for this to begin with. Like to me, 王 would be a closer radical, just adding a longer top.

I don’t know. Just a bit of ranting I guess. lol

Yeah according to Japandict, they list 麦 as both the kanji and its own radical. I think WK is using 生 specifically to tailor their mnemonic not as a stroke guide. Which, yeah, just makes it purely subjective in use.

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I guess dictionary sites say it’s made up of these radicals. I guess it is just purely a WK decision then.

Sure, but 麦 is also a radical in its own right.

麹, 麺 and 麸 come up when you do a search by radical using 麦.

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Yeah, that one was below the other four, I’m just thinking of treating it as anything other than a full radical in its own.

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This is kind of off-topic, but historically speaking, 麦 does not contain a 生 component; it is believed to be a phonosemantic compound of semantic 夊 (foot, walk) and phonetic 來 (来 in Japanese and Simplified Chinese).

It is possible that 麦 originally meant “come” and 來 meant “wheat”, but over time it seems that the hanzi 麦 and 来 changed meanings with each other, possibly because it was convenient to write the more common concept with a simpler hanzi.


That’s really interesting! Thanks for sharing.
Do you have any background in Chinese then, or did you just randomly find this?

I don’t really have a background in Chinese, but I find the history of kanji really interesting; it’s actually been a problem for me that whenever I’ve tried to get serious about learning Japanese, I keep gravitating towards Chinese :stuck_out_tongue:

When I learn a new kanji that looks interesting, I usually go and look it up on Wiktionary first (good summaries, but rarely cites sources), and then on other sources like Chinese Etymology (great pictures, but no explanations), Yellow Bridge (explanations for almost every character, but very brief) and Kanji Portraits (interesting “second opinion”; it tends to lean towards ideogrammic explanations, even when a phonosemantic explanation is available).

麦 stuck in my mind, because it has such an interesting history (assuming that the 麦<->来 theory is correct).

On a related note, since 青 came up above: This one does contain 生, but that’s no moon; it’s cinnabar (丹). You can still find it in most kanji dictionary by searching for 生+月, though, just as you can with many kanji that historically contain the components 肉 and 舟.

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Ohhh, cinnabar. Well that makes a whole heap more sense than “rust coloured”.

Yeah, the 青 (or 靑) component in 錆 is probably phonetic; both have しょう as on’yomi, and they are pronounced fairly similarly in modern-day Mandarin (qīng & qiāng, respectively) although apparently 錆 has largely been replaced by 鏽/銹 (trad) and 锈 (simp).

According to Wiktionary, cinnabar is soclosely associated with coloring that the component 丹 carries the meaning of color, making 青 an ideogrammic compound: 生 (growing plants) + 丹 (color) = the color of growing plants.
Since 青 traditionally covered both blue and green, this made sense.

On the other hand, both Yellow Bridge and Kanji Portraits take the view that the lower component is actually a well: 井
Green plants and blue water; thething they have in common is that both are blue/green.

So, if you ever catch anybpdy (say, me) saying a component actually means one thing, take it with a pinch of salt; oracle bones and bronze inscriptions rarely come with the authors’ margin notes :wink:

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Well they really should.


I’m not sure if oracle bones and bronze inscriptions even come with margins. :stuck_out_tongue:

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Yeah, they should get marks off for not showing their work.

Hey, maybe that’s where the missing ノ in 龶 went!


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