Weirdly similar kanji

Hahaha I feel you! The first review I did on am I mistook it for afternoon (they both start with 午 and I tend to not really look). Many things drive me crazy but it’s still my favorite language :3

That’s interesting. Thanks for the info ^^

A lot is made of similar looking kanji being confusing to learn.
But this new book focuses on similar looking kanji as a way to remember the readings.

e.g. it points out that 未 and 美 are both symmetrical. And they have rhyming readings MI and BI.

Another example is 英 栄 and 営 which all have small ‘sparks’ at the top and the reading EI.

The bulk of the book teaches phonetic components and gives a lot of example words.


This looks really good! I just ordered it!

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Cool. Let us know what you think.

英 and 栄, 営 are unrelated as far as phonetic components go. 英 comes from 央 (えい・おう・よう), and 栄, 営 come from 𤇾 (えい・ぎょう).
There are also other kanji with same components which have different readings (蛍, 労, and a billion kanji with the component 艹 which comes from 艸).
In short, if you remember that “sparks” = えい, you’re going to be very confused when you encounter all the exceptions to that rule. If you’re using WK I strongly recommend this extension.


Thanks for the extension link - looks great!

Sorry, I was a bit unclear when talking about the phonetic components and the EI examples I gave.

The book has a few sections.
The Phonetic Code section lists phonetic components and gives example kanji and words.
The Visual Code is where the examples I listed come from. This section is a bit ‘left of centre’ and looks at kanji from an artistic perspective. e.g. it points out that some kanji that have similar visual properties (the aforementioned ‘sparks’) also happen to share the same reading, EI. It’s kind of like mnemonics you use to learn the meaning of kanji, except it’s focused on the readings. It’s not for everyone, but I thought it might be of interest since mangobango was talking about the visual similarity between 未 and 末

How I got over it was to look at them all lined up an focus on the differences. And like others said, making little mnemonics helps

失 Fault 矢 Arrow: The 大 in 失 messed up and is poking through the gun radical. What an idiot, it’s all his fault the kanji is ruined. But the 大 in 矢 respects boundaries and stays in it’s place, kind of like how arrows stay in their quivers.


Those are actually not quite so bad to distinguish in real handwriting or in a font that emulated the look of being handwritten. If you know stroke order, you’ll know that the one that has the last stoke with the thicker part of the stroke at the bottom and thins as it curves upward is シ/ン and the one that has the thicker part of the stroke high and thins as it curves downward is ツ/ソ. Default fonts like Meiryo of course don’t have that which makes it more annoying.

Also another trick to distinguish ツ and シ that my Japanese teacher taught is to look at the alignment of the dakuten. In シ(shi) you can draw two vertical parallel lines on both sides of them and the beginning and end line up between that. For ツ you can draw horizontal parallel lines to see the alignment. That really helped me when reading fonts that don’t have stroke weight.

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Posted this on the wrong thread at first. :man_facepalming:

  1. [dat5h] 15-11-2008(148): I believe a better version of that by mameha1977: [Cheat] Remember these as a set: The tree ( 木 ) does not yet ( 未 ) have exremities ( 末 ) of vermilion ( 朱 ).未/index.html末/index.html


I remember 末 with the word 月末 which is month-end, and the readings ‘rhyme’ i.e. GETSU MATSU.

I remember 未 with the word 未満 which means less than. So the criteria is ‘not yet fulfilled/satsified’. MI MAN

And this a bit random, but I associate 未 with the hiragana み. If you rotate the kanji to the right the crossed line on the right looks similar.


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I though that too up until I got old enough to need reading glasses. :wink:


ah, yeah! it took several years of me scratching my head over them (or tearing out my hair) before someone (on here, i think!) pointed out the stroke order difference. it blew my mind.
thankfully, seeing little tsu pretty frequently helps, too.
you’re so right about the fonts… especially in some games, it is super hard to tell, and then they’ll show up in made-up fantasy names to make it even more mysterious.


I’ll check it out. Thanks for the reference!

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No problem!

Yessir! Will do!

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I have all of these in my name in katakana (ウッド・ジェイソン) so I lucked out since I have to write it a lot on forms and stuff in Japan.


One of the reason I started WK was because I thought they would bring these up and give you ways to distinguish between similar looking ones, but nope that didn’t happen. I try to find ways to remember the difference on my own.

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You are not the only one haha :grinning:

I often run into trouble with 午 and 牛; it’s only a trouble when they’re in isolation (because I rarely ask my friends about their post-cow plans, or ask for a spot of noon-breast with my coffee), but it’s tripped me up on WaniKani more than once.

I try to remember that a cow has two horns.

Similarly, I keep mixing up 石 and 右. It helps if I remember that the top component of 右 is a hand; I don’t know why it helps, but it does.
Again, though, really only a problem in isolation.

Unless I’m mistaken, this isn’t just a useful mnemonic: It’s very close to what the characters are actually believed to represent.

末 shows a tree (木) with the top marked. It represents “end”, just as 本 (with a bar marking the roots) represents “foundation”.

未 shows a young tree that’s still growing; it’s not yet fully matured.
The top branches are still very short. In older writings, they were pointing more upwards, as young branches tend to on many trees.

Well, you’re in pretty good company, in a sense, considering 未 was once used as a man’yōgana for the mi sound. (Specifically, Wikipedia lists it as a man’yōgana for mi2; I’m not sure what the difference between mi1 and mi2 is.)

Similarly, as Kai_973 mentioned above, 末 was used as a man’yōgana for ma, and ended up giving rise to both the characters ま and マ. In both ま and 末, the top branch should be slightly longer than the lower one.

When I learned the character 末, I’d only recently heard of man’yōgana. I was quite excited when I noticed the similarity :slight_smile: