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
こずえ 木末
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)
(いずみ) ()()
(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)
(こよみ) ()()
(たなごころ) ()(こころ)
(つまず) (つま)()
(みずか) ()(から)
(みなと) ()()
(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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