Tip for remembering 以. 以=side

Dictionaries were all over the place with 以. The most direct meaning I’ve come up with for 以 is “side”.

以下: downside (below)
以上: upside (above)
以前: beforeside (before)
以来: comingside (after)
以外: outside (excluding)

The mnemonic I use is “The L radical is on the person’s left side”

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Only issue with this, is that this associates the meaning with location, which it doesn’t always mean. 以上 for example means “not less than”, as in for example “not less than 3”.

The 以 part basically says “compared to x it’s …”, so X以上 is “compared to X, it’s bigger” (can be equal as well), X以下 is “compared to X it’s smaller”, X以前 and X以来 both are to do with time, “compared to X, the time is before/after”, and X以外 is “compared to X, it’s something else (it’s outside that)”.

以来 basically means “after”, but in natural English translation it usually translate to “since”, because a sentence like “I haven’t been home after 3 months ago” is not grammatically correct.


It gives the best gist. It refers to sides of continuums. Number lines, time lines, planes, sets, etc. And importantly as you mention its INCLUSIVE.


There are plenty of other ways to express positioning. 以 is about comparison not position and is therefore just broader in scope meaning-wise.

your examples rely on kanji that do involve position, above and below, and it’s 下 (below)
上 (above) that gives the position meaning, which they carry on their own.

But here, they become “more than” and “less than”, not positions.


Here are some native examples to show the concept of it meaning side. All of them are understandable in English and are useful for learners to understand the concept. The english word side is not only for positions.

Much better than Jisho: not less than …; … and over; … and above; … and upwards; … or more

If that approach works for you, that’s great. Personally, I would just stick to a vague interpretation of 以 as “compared to/or/than” which is not literal, but gets the meaning across instead. I don’t think it’s worth focusing too much on 1:1 conversions for expressions like the various 以x, because then one gets lost in the details easily.

As a certain senpai once said - Japanese is not English with Japanese semantics.


Well the first definition on 以 of kanjipedia is pretty much literally that, it’s just one word: “より” :grinning:

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Personally, what worked for me is “don’t try to associate a meaning with 以 as a single kanji; learn the words 以上, 以前, etc as individual words, and by the time you’ve learned three or so the pattern will be clear enough anyway”.


Literally the same as the picture. :neutral_face:

5以上, not less than 5= 5+
5 and over/and above/and upwards/or more= 5+

If you understand better with an image than words, that’s different.


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