Weirdly similar kanji

Why is this a thing?
未 and 末
I mean I imagine it’s even harder to distinguish when it comes to writing
Even the stroke order is the same.
So what’s the deal? Is there a reason why they look pretty much the same to someone who isn’t focusing on the details?


Those kinds of differences become more obvious as you learn and read more Japanese. For example, if you see the word 未来, you know it is 未 and not 末, because 末来 isn’t a word.


I’m still struggling with these. They have single-handedly driven me to madness and also forced me to slow down significantly when reading kanji. No help here, just commiserating


If you think about it, letters like E and F are almost identical “except for that one squiggle”. Even more so for j and i. In time 末 and 未 come to look very different to you. In the meantime they exist to frustrate us budding wanikanians.


Okay, so here’s how I did it.
未 = not yet. The smaller bar is NOT YET to the bottom.
末 = end. The smaller bar is at the END (bottom) now.


I remembered these by visualizing a person’s arms in reaction to these meanings.

末 “It’s the end!” = throw your arms up yelling (longer bar is on top)
未 “Not yet…” = dejected half shrug with arms at sides (longer bar is on the bottom)


If it helps, the way I taught myself to distinguish these particular two is I say the one that has the second line longer says “not yet” and in my mind it’s trying to extend the line even further. The other one (with the shorter second line) reached the “end” and doesn’t want to extend any longer.


Can anyone think of a word where it would be possible to confuse these even if you couldn’t tell them apart? Even ignoring the fact that they’d be in a sentence with context if you saw them.

Also, in handwriting, line length difference is usually exaggerated more than in fonts.


At least E and F don’t look identical from far away! But I see your point; I guess each language has its own quirks.

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I couldn’t think of anything off the top of my head, but I don’t have a particularly large vocabulary.

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I guess I was thinking in terms of “test” setting than actual “distinguish meaning in a sentence” situation. You make a good point!

I dunno if it’s just me, but when I write kanji I usually write pretty fast so I don’t want to be worrying about line length. Since they basically have the same stroke order I was thinking damn maybe I’d end up not getting the length right and no one can tell the difference from stroke order XD

The worst offenders are ‘O’ and ‘0’ and ‘I’ (capital i) and ‘l’ (lowercase L).

In a text, it’s not so much of a problem since you know which is used from the context, but if you try to enter a registration code or captcha, they can be a nightmare.


I always found that “COFFEE” looked weird because of that haha


That hits home! the capital I and l have always bothered me so much


“He” in french is “Il” :joy:


nothing will ever be as cruel to me as シ, ツ, ン, and ソ


Not as bad, but メandナused to bother me so much in my first semester of Japanese because they’re both in my name. As @Leebo said, my sensei always just taught us to exaggerate the differences


Cow 牛 and noon 午 too! There’s a tiny tiny stroke on the top that makes me stuck at apprentice until now.


@Mangobango We are on the same level, I just did my lessons for these. Thanks for pointing this out. It will save me time like when there was 地 and 他, it took me a while to realize they are different when they come up for reviews. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


Me right now. Trying to remember that cows have an “ear”.

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