Question about radicals for grass kanji 草

For 草, why does WaniKani use “flowers”, “sun”, and “cross” for the radicals, instead of “flowers” and “early”? It seems easier to have only two radicals instead of three, and “early” looks more natural in any case (i.e., both “sun” and “cross” aren’t as recognizable since they’re a bit squished). Also (I assume this isn’t how radicals are chosen), in the two radical case, the radicals practically spell out the kanji (i.e., early flowers == grass).

Not sure if this should be categorized under WaniKani or Japanese Language.



The category you chose is fine, since this is a choice made by WK, not by institutions of the language.

In any case, you don’t learn early as a radical until Level 12, aftee which it will be used in 3 more kanji. In order to use it for this kanji, you either have to teach it after you learn the radical, or teach the radical in level 5.

To me, early flowers = grass doesn’t resonate as much, it’s not outlandish or very memorable if you actually need to recall the mnemonic to get to the meaning (to me), though I’m pretty sure I could read this kanji before I learned it on WK anyway, so never needed the mnemonic.

‘Officially’ the top radical is actually called grass, or 草冠 (くさかんむり), btw. That might have been even easier to use, were it not that the radical grass that WK teaches looks more like grass, than 艹 does.


I remember having this same thought when I got to 草 - I agree that “early flowers” would make for a better WaniKani mnemonic.

But keep in mind that these mnemonics only rarely reflect the character’s actual derivation. In this case, for example, the radicals weren’t originally chosen to mean “early flowers.” It’s a so-called phono-semantic compound where the flower radical is giving the meaning (loosely) and the early radical is giving a clue to the sound. [Edit: As @Saida pointed out above, what WaniKani calls the flower radical is technically a grass radical.]

This is a great site for checking character etymologies:草. (I’m not 100% sure how credible this guy is, and some of the derivations are way out there, but many of them are fully plausible - and it’s fun to look at the older, more pictorial forms of the characters.)


Interesting! I suppose I’m wondering now why we’re taught the kanji and vocabulary for “early” 8 levels before the radical’s presented to us, but I suppose that’s beside the point (and I’m not complaining–just genuinely curious). I hear you re resonation: Different mnemonics for different folks. Thanks for the info!

It’s easier to learn a kanji as a set of radicals than to learn it as one chunk in radical form. Once you know the kanji, you can then use that in other more complicated kanji to reduce the number of elements in the mnemonic.

Understood. I consider it a kind of opportune or lucky chance when the radicals ladder up to reflect the meaning of the kanji. There are other cases where WaniKani takes advantage of this, so I didn’t think it’d be anomalous in this case.

Cool website! Thank you.

Interesting! I think I view it differently (私の見方). In the cases where the kanji has the same meaning as its radical, learning the meaning of the kanji requires no effort; the work was done when the radical was learned.

The system isn’t set up to reach radicals by combining lots of other radicals. It’s set up to teach kanji from radicals, so that’s why it goes in that order. Most of the time when a kanji gets turned into a radical, that was the process.

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