Safe to add "male" as an alternate meaning for 男?

I find myself typing “male” instead of “man” for 男. My knee-jerk reasoning is that “man” is a “male person”, therefore 男の人. To me, the 男 in that statement is conveying “male”. Is this true?

If I’m correct, then can 男 by itself even mean “man”? Surely there is a reason that the 男 kanji card was translated as “man”?

I realize this is a fairly amateur question but I want to make sure I’m learning in the most precise way!

男 by itself can indeed mean “man.”

For example, you would hear someone say something like “あの男、いつもこんなことする。” (That man, he’s always doing stuff like this) or “窓に男の顔が見えていた。” (I saw a man’s face in the window).

Alone, it more often means “man” than “male” in my experience, though it could be either. 男性 is more often used for “male,” though that can also mean “man” or “men” depending on context.

I guess the answer is there is really not a 1-to-1 comparison with English for these words.


In situations like this, you go right ahead and add a synonym. You know generally what it means, that’s the important part, you don’t have to strictly put it into the words that WaniKani wants you to.

If you’re worried about learning a slightly wrong meaning, don’t. That’s a problem that will self-correct as you get into reading Japanese material and develop an understanding of how words are used natively.


I wouldn’t do that in this case. Both 男 and 女 have the implied meaning of their genders, but as for common use of 男の人 and 男 they’ll mean man. So that is a meaning you’ll need to master.

(just as 女 means woman, implied female).

This is how you’d say male in the context of talking about the male gender. For female there is 女性. Now you are explicitly talking about females or males in general.

Like 男性的 【だんせいてき】 (adj-na) manly, (P)

As for why 男 can mean male, well, it can also be used to say manly:

男らしい 【おとこらしい】 (adj) manly, (P)

So, it’s another way of talking about masculine, manly things. Not a man.

I think you just need to buckle up and learn these items as they are taught. Synonyms are great, but don’t get into a habit of adding them to common words and meanings that you need to understand the correct nuances of such as 男 and 女. It will only come back to haunt you later on. Because, both of those you’ll see used in the meaning of man and woman all the time.


Well, it depends on whether they’re talking about the kanji or the word. If they are talking about the word 男, then I think it’s borderline, but I agree that it might be best to not add “male” as a meaning. If they are talking about the kanji 男, then I think it’s fine though. They did put this question in the kanji section of the forums, but they never really clarified in their post which they were asking about.


Agreed. I mostly wanted to caution someone against avoiding learning the meanings WK teaches so early on their WK journey. It just risks making things harder further on.

I think part of their confusion came from thinking of 男の人 as “male person” rather than as “man”. Basically, the follow-up questions are also about the vocab meanings and how they’re used, so, yeah, I just wanted the OP to think of “man” as the primary meaning of 男 and 男の人 as that’s what they’ll encounter in the wild.

While it wouldn’t be far off to add this particular synonym, you generally won’t go wrong training yourself to use the WK provided English meanings. I’ve found it beneficial to avoid adding synonyms unless I’m fairly darn certain it makes sense to. Even then, the nuance of the WK provided meaning(s) are usually closest.

WK also introduces characters in a particular order. I’ve lost count of the number of characters where I added a synonym only to remove it later when I realized a more advanced character or vocabulary word is better to associate with that specific meaning. You’ll eventually learn
男性 (だんせい)
and (おす), for example, which both mean “male”.

When I run into issues with the definitions WK presents, I sometimes find it worthwhile to run it by or to see if there are synonyms or contexts that are easier for me to remember. There have been a few cases of WaniKani presenting homonyms where I assumed the wrong meaning of the word.

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