Suggestion for centigrade 摂氏

I just learned the vocab: 摂氏(せっし)meaning centigrade. The mnemonic teaches how “in addition” and “family name” somehow go together to create the meaning centigrade. I suspected this might be an ateji (like 寿司 sushi) where the kanji don’t mean anything and were chosen for their reading. According to Japanese wikipedia this seems to be the case. I suggest to use that fact as alternative mnemonic, at least for me that is easier to remember (and an interesting fact).

So here’s a very lazy alternative mnemonic I copy+pasted together:

This is ateji, meaning the meanings of the kanji don’t mean anything, only the sounds are being borrowed to make the word in Japanese (and originally in Chinese). So, skip to the reading and use that to remember the meaning (sesshi sounds a bit like Celsius, no?).

P.S. Sorry if someone suggested this before, I searched the forums but didn’t see anything.


I don’t know if it really counts as ateji. It’s a “translation” (adaptation?) of the Chinese way of writing Celsius.


I don’t know much about the rules for what constitutes an ateji. But anyway the kanji transfer only sound, no meaning - right?

Generally words imported from Chinese aren’t considered as Ateji. But honestly I’m not sure what to call it, because while 摂 has no meaning in the sentence, 氏 does. It’s also an abbreviation of 摂氏温度, and at the end of the day, “Celsius” itself is literally just some guys name.


Yeah, Jisho also lists せ氏 as a way of writing it. Maybe it’s not ateji because only half of it is?

It has “meaning”, it’s the first character of 摂爾修斯, which is the name Celsius in Chinese. As you said, 氏 is just there to mark the name. So degree “Mister Celsius” (or more exactly “Mister Ce”) instead of degree Celsius in English :stuck_out_tongue:


So it’s not ateji because it’s kinda like nanori?

I have no idea if it’s considered ateji or not.
Since stuff like country names written in kanji are considered ateji apparently, maybe it is?

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no, not really.

Nanori (名乗り, “to say or give one’s own name”; also, by extension “self-introduction”) are kanji character readings (pronunciations) found almost exclusively in Japanese names.

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No, it’s not Nanori, this is just essentially Chinese Ateji. I looked when I was writing my post to see if there was a specific reason for the spelling in Chinese and couldn’t find anything (sometimes when transliterating names into Chinese characters sometimes also be picked because of their meanings)


It’s a Chinese transliteration/ateji 摂爾修斯 that got borrow, shorten to 摂 and got honorific 氏… It’s never really clear to me if it would be really beneficial for Wanikani to try to explain this kind of complicated stuff. Might as well just use a weird mnemonic with “in addition” and “family name” and move on…

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The chinese equivalent of ateji seems to be 借字, incidentally. Although it seems to be true that chinese-origin compounds like these aren’t generally considered ateji, the fact that they operate on the same principle of sound correspondence makes distinguishing between Japanese-origin ateji and recent Chinese-origin loan compounds formed on that basis not especially useful.

(I’m not saying that they should be considered ateji, anyway. 米国 and 英国 and their relatives are formed on the same principle, and anyone would consider them regular compounds.)

Trying to explain all that would probably be too much.

But for me at least writing “Mister Ce stands for Celsius" makes more sense than anything involving the meaning “in addition”. And I think it’s fair to say that the Kanji was chosen for the sound. So whether it’s ateji or not, it follows the same principle.

(Also thanks everyone for the input, it’s quite interesting).


It was chosen for the sound in Chinese, in Japanese the onyomi せつ is a bit weird for the beginning of the word Celsius. But I agree that “Mister Ce” is a funny and memorable mnemonic, as well as describing what is actually happening, could be worth to include it in Wanikani !


Considering most people don’t know the origin of the name “Celsius” itself I think it’s definitely not really beneficial to try and explain it on Wanikani. Even calling it Ateji would be good enough.

@Zeiosis When you really get into the weeds, you get so many questions to ask. For one, you have characters in Chinese that mainly only exist in modern usage for transliterations. But perhaps more fundamentally is the fact that the word itself wasn’t created in Japan, and instead borrowed as a whole, and as I type that, I think that is fundamentally the difference between Ateji, and non-Ateji. So it’s simply that 摂氏 as a word is just one compound and doesn’t break down any further than that.

Okay, overly involved analysis over.


Wait what? People don’t know Celsius is a name? What else would it be? Basically all units of measure are names of people who had something to do with that unit (except meter and a few more).
In any case, I think it’d be worth it to include a little “Mister Ce” note as as one of those gray extra comments.

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well, whlie you’re waiting, why not add some variation of your suggestion to the community mnemonics?

also… watching this post cycle from “meter” to “m,s,g” to “meter and a few more”

Can you point me to where to do that? There seem to be several threads going on and one or two scripts?

here’s what I just changed my personal note to:
This compound has a bit of a complicated history in that the first part was chosen just for its sound in the Chinese writing of a western name. Then that was in turn borrowed into Japanese (partially).
Anyway you can think of this word as “Mister Ce” (せっ氏), i.e. it means Mister Celsius and stands for Centigrade.

//Regarding the cycling: First I remembered kg and s, then also candela and mole. It’s still true though almost every unit is a researcher’s name.//

this is the one I use:

it’s a bit outdated, though.

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