Radical Names in WaniKani vs Other Sources

As I’ve noticed, and I’m sure many other have as well, the names of certain radicals from Wani Kani lessons don’t match up to other sources. Ex. The top bit of 光 being called triceratops rather than a variation of 小. For those level 60 veterans out there, or just people who have learned quite a bit of Japanese, has knowing the “official” names for the radicals helped out more in the real world. Has knowing the Wani Kani meanings been unhelpful? Does it even matter realistically? Thanks in advance for any responses!

1 Like

As you can imagine, they serve different purposes. The WK names are often chosen for making mnemonics that are memorable to English speakers who have no prior contact with kanji. “A variation of 小” is not as helpful to a beginner as something more evocative of an image like “triceratops.”

I know you didn’t really complain about that, but just getting it out there.

The names that Japanese people know are themselves not really standardized either, but knowing them can be useful. For instance, when verbally describing a kanji in Japanese, or having one described to you, obviously triceratops is no help. At the same time, situations where this is the only option you have aren’t that common.

For less practical examples of reasons to learn them, if you’re interested in taking the Kanji Kentei, some levels do test you on the common names.

Contrary to a commonly offered reason, you don’t need to know them to be able to use a paper kanji dictionary. You can use such a dictionary based only on the appearance of them. No names needed.


What Leebo said. I like to rant about the “official” radical names sometimes:

WK’s “radical” system is much better suited to create mnemonics.


I recall Koichi recently saying they’re open to calling the WK radicals something else entirely, to avoid the confusion. Though I’m not sure if that’s set in stone, or close to implementation.


Yeah, i had that in the back of my mind, hence “radical” :slight_smile:
Though Koichi also had a point that everyone is used to that word now, and since the “official” radicals aren’t so standardized anyways, i think radical is alright. The other words are all pretty meh (components, parts…).
Maybe it should just be made more clear to users that WK created its own set of radicals and that there’s a different “official” 18th century set that’s used to look up Kanji in dictionaries, some japanese tests (Kanken), and describing kanji to japanese natives, who happen to have learned this system, which is why it can be useful (though i’d still argue it’s not a very good system).


The names don’t matter too much, but it does help to know what shapes the dictionaries do and don’t use as radicals. You’re not going to get too far if you try to find “crab” or “death star” in a dictionary’s radical index, as far as I recall.

This topic was automatically closed 365 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.