What is the meaning of 還元?

Wanikani lists the word as “return to origins”, or “reduction”, however, from what I found online it says: “還元は「利益の一部を(別の形で)戻す、他者に分ける」というニュアンスがあります”, which to me is completely different from “return to origins”

Jisho also doesnt say anything about the “return to origins” part, it lists it as “return” or “restoration”. The “reduction” entry is there, but according to jisho, its the chemistry type of reduction (i.e gaining electrons), which is not the way reduction was used in the example sentence WK provides.

Who’s right here?

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WK’s ‘return to origins’ is maybe a reference to the restoration meaning which seems to imply ‘restoring something to its original state’? That’s at least one of the meanings from Kenkyusha. The WK meaning feels a bit awkwardly worded.

As to reduction, Kenkyusha also has reduction both in a what looks like a chemistry sense but also in a general sense of the reduction of something into its component parts.

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I remember being confused when learning this word on WK, wondering when will I ever encounter such a strange word like “return to origins” … and ironically, for the past 6 months it’s in the top 5 of words I see everyday ! Because every major shops in Japan are participating to this campaign, so it’s plastered everywhere:

It’s a 5% rebate on consumer tax when using cashless payment. So it’s a nice use of 還元, some part of the money “return to origin” (the payer).


I love seeing kanji in context after just learning it in a class or wk or whatnot. Very cool feeling.

Makes a lot of sense now when in that context. Thanks!

Digging more I did find this phrase that aligns with that signage:


Translated as return profits to society.

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