Which definition of 生 is more correct?

In Wanikani, 生 is listed as “Fresh” under vocabulary lessons. However, in another app I use and in Jisho, it’s always used as “Raw” and marks fresh as an incorrect answer when tested. Can it be used for either or is Wanikani’s not necessarily the most accurate meaning?

“Fresh” is pretty muh a synonym of “Raw”, you could use for both.
For example:
This is raw meat.
This is fresh fruit.

They could both use the 生 kanji.

Its pretty hard to pinpoint one meaning for every kanji because in Japanese it can mean several things. It’s not that WaniKani is not accurate, its that both answers are esencially the same and there is not only one exact translation.

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Makes sense. Just interesting that Jisho doesn’t list ‘fresh’ as a synonym for it. “Fresh” is listed as 新鮮, so I wasn’t sure if Japanese speakers would use 生 for it, as well.

Wanikani accepts both Fresh and Raw as correct answers.

Screenshot of Item Inspector.


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Right, but it’s the only app I have that accepts “fresh” for that character. Just want to make sure it’s truly correct if I were to use it in that way.

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Jisho also accepts both fresh and raw.



Nice. Missed that. I notice that fresh comes after raw in that definition but good to know. Thanks!

I wonder if speakers would ever use 生 over 新鮮

Sure they would. Like if you’re talking about 新鮮卵 vs 生卵.

fresh eggs vs raw eggs


I think the question was more whether 生 could be used as “fresh”. An example that comes to my mind is 生クリーム, fresh cream.

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don’t want to nitpick, but to add on this: a translation is by no means a definition.

a translation is just the attempt to convey a concept from one language into another. Nuances of the meaning will almost always be lost i believe. So it is not like either raw or fresh are more “correct” than the other.


They would also use 新しい or 鮮やか.

Fun fact, the other I learned that the totally out of use kanji 魚x3 (a la 轟、品、森) was also read as あたらしい (no okurigana), and means fresh (fish).

I think you are vastly overestimating the precision and accuracy of translations in jisho and wanikani. They are fine when the concept matches the concept in English precisely, typically being very clearly defined, ike „eye”, „ear”, „drink”. Otherwise, databases available only in Japanese are much more precise, but then, they explain alien concepts with other alien concepts. In more extreme cases, finding the kanji or word in thousands of context during immersion seems to be the only way to get a feeling for it, translations are just the beginning of a rough idea.


That and trying to understand what 生「なま」 means both conceptually and emotionally. For more abstract terms like 生 I try to look at several translations to understand what kind of emotion the word is trying to convey.

@cmfillar if you are comfortable with a translation of a radical/kanji/word and which is not readily available in WaniKani, add a synonym :slight_smile: .

I don’t really like jumping into ‘kanji definition’ debates because, as @KGalaj said,

Also, depending on context and even on how a kanji is pronounced, its meaning changes. It will usually still be related to some sort of central idea, but the specific nuance involved will changed. I know this as a Chinese speaker. Furthermore, in my opinion, the best way to understand kanji meanings is to see them as interconnected, often via lateral thinking.

As someone else has pointed out, 生クリーム would mean ‘fresh cream’. The Japanese definition I have from 大辞林 also ends with「…新鮮なクリーム。」However, I believe that, when 生 is read なま, the primary meaning from which almost all other meanings can be deduced is ‘raw’. Something that is ‘raw’ is unprocessed, and therefore ‘fresh’. If it’s ‘unprocessed’, it can also be ‘live’ or ‘uncut’, as in the case of a TV programme. It can even mean that something is ‘unmodified’ or ‘unfiltered’ in other ways, like in「民衆の生の声」(‘the raw voices/opinions of the people/general public’) or「生意気」(someone who is impertinent/impudent is often considered young/inexperienced/immature, like how something that is fresh/raw is still not yet fully prepared/cooked/matured).

More generally though, if you ask me, 生 is a kanji (here I’m talking about all readings and uses, not just なま) that means ‘life’, and almost all its other meanings can be deduced from that: living, lifetime, raw, fresh, birth, produce, sprout and so on. About the only meaning of 生 that can’t be deduced from ‘life’ is ‘student’ and similar meanings, but that could be linked to 先生 or some other scholarly word using 生. My point is, however, that getting caught up on which meaning is ‘correct’ isn’t all that helpful, especially in cases where translations can’t possibly be perfect. It’s probably more important to know which definitions are wrong (i.e. can’t be used at all), and then to focus on links between the different meanings, possibly by referring to a few ‘main’ meanings as I did here with ‘life’, which should make learning all the different meanings (through experience, vocabulary and context, not through one-time memorisation) much easier.


Great food for thought here, thanks!

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