Special kanji words derived from other words

Continuing from here, in this topic we can discuss kanji that become their own words, that are clearly derived from simpler kanji/words. For example, てのひら (meaning palm of one’s hand), is literally 手の平.

Let’s gather all of these interesting kanji that fit this pattern. When the origin isn’t a valid spelling, dictionaries like Goo will sometimes mention the origin. For example, the entry for 湖 says 《「水海」の意》.

Origin is a valid alternative spelling:

Word Reading Origin
いしぶみ 石文
彩る いろどる 色取る
承る うけたまわる 受け賜る
うまや 馬屋
おくりな 贈り名
陥る おちいる 落ち入る
陥れる おとしいれる 落とし入れる
かたまり 固まり
偏る かたよる 片寄る
くびき 頸木
こいし 小石
試みる こころみる 心見る
快い こころよい 心良い
しおり 枝折り
たきぎ 焚き木
てのひら 手の平
腥い なまぐさい 生臭い
ねや 寝屋
捗る はかどる 果取る
儚い はかない 果敢ない
はがね 刃金
辱める はずかしめる 恥ずかしめる
燧石 ひうちいし 火打ち石
酷い ひどい 非道い
繙く ひもとく 紐解く
まぶた 目蓋
蝕む むしばむ 虫食む
やじり 矢尻

Origin is not a valid alternative spelling:

Word Reading Origin
あけぼの 明仄
憤る いきどおる 意気通る
いしずえ 石据え
頷く うなずく うな突く
おおかみ 大神
赴く おもむく 面向く
おもむき 面向き
おろし 下ろし
幼い おさない おさ
象る かたどる 形取る
傾く かたむく 片向く
かみなり 神鳴り
剃刀 かみそり 髪剃り
かなめ 金目
きのこ 木の子
兆す きざす 気差す
くちばし 口端
けもの 毛物
こうのとり 鸛の鳥
志す こころざす 心指す
ことわり 事割り
断る ことわる 事割る
遡る さかのぼる 逆上る
しるべ 知る辺
滴る したたる 下垂る
たくみ 巧み
保つ たもつ
とびら 戸片
司る つかさどる つかさ
にわとり 庭鳥
ねぐら 寝座
のこぎり 鋸切り
はりつけ 張り付け
ほたる 火垂る
まこと 真事
瞬く またたく 目叩く
まつりごと 祭り事
みことのり 御言宣り
みずうみ 水海
武士 もののふ 物の部
醜い みにくい 見難い
息子 むすこ 生す子
むすめ 生す女
蘇る よみがえる 黄泉から帰る
わだち 輪立

Origin is not an alternative spelling and is pronounced differently due to sound changes:

Word Origin
あかつき あかとき
いもうと いもひと
おとうと おとひと
かえで かえる
かつ かた
つまず つま
みずか から
みなもと もと

CC @sigolino @Greya.

Just to comment on the 偏る one. I briefly mentioned in the other thread, but I actually figured this one out on my own as I was coming up with a mnemonic. 偏る means “to be biased”. I immediately thought of 方 and 寄る, and came up with the mnemonic “to approach (寄る) being a person (方) is to be biased (偏る)”. You know, because humans are naturally biased and all that.

Also, two more I thought of that weren’t mentioned in the old thread.

鶏 = 庭鳥
暁 = 赤月 or maybe more likely 赤付き?

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This word became so ingrained in my brain already that I had completely forgotten the initial shock when I learned it wasn’t actually written 庭鳥 :joy:

As for 暁, from what I gather it seems it used to be read あかとき, which itself came from the idea of 明時, which makes sense I guess. It doesn’t seem to be a valid spelling.

I don’t know how this should be added to the table, since it also involves a sound change…


Aw, and I thought 赤付き had a good chance of being right. Does your dictionary have anything on this one?


It has exactly what I said:

For あかつき:


And then for あかとき:



Looks like Goo has the same information. I’ll be sure to check there from now on.

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What about 「〆」 and kanji with super long readings, e.g. 「志」?

What would 志 have originated from though? Specifically the さし・ざし part. Goo doesn’t list an origin in this case.

It says on the Wiktionay page I have linked to.


The spellings seem to have slightly different connotations. Which one is used in gastronomy?

志す is from 心指す

What about 政 (まつりごと) = 祭事 and 源 (みなもと) = 水(み)の本(もと)

“… While 卵 can be used for all kinds of eggs, products at grocery stores mostly use 玉子because 卵 has more of a biological perception attached to it.”

However, 玉子 is mainly used for cooked eggs, although a boiled egg is 茹で卵.

From the Tofugu article on homophones.

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From the Wiktionary post @lilalas mentioned, I also found 承る (うけたまわる), which apparently can also be spelled 受け賜わる, and might be the origin. Both Wiktionary and Goo are slightly ambiguous on this, so I’m not sure whether to add it.

First one looks like a match. The second one has the sound change, so I’ll put an asterisk next to it.

三省堂 (weblio) lists 受け賜る


雷 = 神鳴り


I just found a bunch:

遡る = 逆上る
傾く = 片向く
躓く = 爪突く
彩る = 色取る (valid spelling)

And we’re forgetting the one that motivated this thread:

薪 (specifically when read たきぎ) = 焚き木

I have to leave now, if no one added those when I come back I’ll do it :slightly_smiling_face:


つまづく? Maybe?

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I know that’s a bit weird considering the origin is 突く, but that’s how it’s spelled nowadays, at least. Maybe at some point it was spelled with a づ, or maybe both are still valid. All I know is that the dictionaries I checked show ず.

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