What does 声 mean?

I’ve recently come across the kanji 声 meaning “voice” in my lessons, and the mnemonic, (about samurai who want their shogun to give them a voice) has tilted me in the direction of ‘having a voice’ in the sense of ‘having a say/ having the right or opportunity to put across your views and have them listened to’ as opposed to ‘being able to talk’. This is not necessarily the same as ‘say’ in e.g 申す which I understand as being the act of speaking.

So my question is, can 声 mean ‘say’ in this sense, or is that association purely an English language thing that doesn’t work in Japanese?


The core meaning of 声 as a kanji is vocal sounds. That sounds kind of weird, but just repeating “it means voice” probably wouldn’t be helpful.

BTW, 申す means “to say” but it’s a special kind of verb you only use when being humble. The typical verb for “to say” is 言う.


The mnemonics are made in to stories to help you get to the word, but their use can be somewhat extended to help make a better story.
So take the mnemonics as a tool to get to the word, not a explanation of ways it can be used.


I was curious about this myself and did a dictionary search. The expression “to have a say/voice” would be rather tied to having the opportunity/chance/right to do something, rather than “voice” itself. All of the words and expressions with 声 I could find were related to producing sound as @Leebo explained.

For uses of a specific kanji in words and context, check the example sentences. Mnemonics often point to an unrelated direction and can thus be a little misleading :slight_smile: .

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Thanks all. That is helpful, I thought I might be on the wrong track, but thought it was worth checking, I’m going to rethink the mnemonic for this one, because I wanted to write ‘say’ for the meaning, because that is what I’ve remembered from the mnemonic! This conversation will probably help me get through the apprentice and guru stages, but I can see myself slipping up later.

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Do you know the movie “a silent voice” (from the mangaka of To your eternity) about a deaf girl dat gets bullied? The Japanese title is Koe no Katachi. So everything I see the kanji I think of the MC that cannot speak normally and has a weird voice. If you do not know it, I really recommend the manga and movie


It’s an amazing movie. Super recommend as well.

Funnily enough though, the title uses the older 聲 instead of 声. I don’t think there is an actual difference in meaning.

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That’s the 旧字体 (old form). The kanji was simplified to 声.


Katachi. :slightly_smiling_face:



Oh lol, changed it xD need to cut my nails so I can type without typos :sweat_smile:


Btw, I once heard an old arabic saying that went something like “If one could build a house by shouting then a donkey would have built a whole city”. If such a method had been used to build Karachi in Pakistan – then it would have been 声のカラチ :sweat_smile:


You’ll come across more vocabulary that make the meaning clearer. Words like loud voice (big voice), whisper (small voice), crying (crying voice), and animal noise (chirping voice).

Finding the correct connotation for kanji can be tricky, especially when you start learning ones that have the same English meaning. I recently learned three kanji that are defined as ‘judge’, and get ready to mix up anything that means ‘reason’ or ‘thought’.

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Funny enough, I prefer the meaning of the original Japanese title for this and actually this title helped me remember 形 :slight_smile: .

When I see overlapping meanings I get instantly super suspicious, check a dictionary and draft my own synonyms. Worth noting that 審 does mean “judge” the way one might think, but 判 means “seal” (small stamping thing) very often.

So @OwenDG , other than the example sentences being an indication of word usage, also check a dictionary for words or kanji with synonymous meanings. Fortunately, the more kanji you know, the more readily you’ll be able to distill the “real” meaning of a word from its characters :smiley: .


When I see overlapping meanings I get instantly super suspicious, check a dictionary and draft my own synonyms.

That’s a good idea. I should do that because sometimes there isn’t enough vocab to sort things out and it’s easy to get tripped up when they come back around and then miss at a higher level. :roll_eyes: I should go do that before I see 感 / 情 and 念 / 想 pop up again…

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Jumping in to add that I’ve seen it used in the sense you originally asked about on election posters before. Stuff like 皆の声 etc. Obviously the literal meaning would be more common than the metaphorical, but just thought I’d add that it does in fact exist.

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