Why not also teach the other meanings of 零点?

So, I’ve just had 零点 coming up as a review and my answer was “freezing point” which was marked as wrong. At first, I was a little confused but I took it; maybe I was wrong. After looking it up on Jisho however, I’ve realized that 零点 even has one additional meaning.

It can mean:

  • zero points (what WK wants)
  • rather important mathematical zeros
  • freezing point

Level 51 also contains 沸点 which means boiling point. Thats probably why I thought of “freezing point” as more intuitive. I know I can e-mail WK directly about it but maybe my proposition to include the other meanings doesn’t make a lot of sense if we factor in frequency and synonyms? Not sure.

And yes, I’ve added it as a synonym. And yes, I might be overthinking this.


One thing to maybe keep in mind is Fahrenheit exists - I would assume 零点 can mean “freezing point” because it’s the point at which something is zero, and in Celsius, that’s the freezing point of water. The jisho entry for it supports this, since the phrasing is “zero degrees (Celsius); freezing point​.”

(Weblio gives “寒暖計の零度。氷点。” which doesn’t specify Celsius but I feel like it would maybe be assumed? looking around on wikipedia for 零 in the articles of the two systems only has it in the context of the clearly unambiguous 絶対零度 / absolute zero)

It looks like the word for “freezing point” more directly would be 氷点, which makes sense.

So that might be one reason - “zero points” is more straightforward with the meaning of the kanji than “the freezing point of water (in Celsius)” and leaving out the Celsius part might be misleading (particularly for Americans) and “zero point” (without the s) is likely accepted anyway.

I would say across the board there’s possible senses of Wanikani words that aren’t going to be surfaced well in the SRS despite being good to know and potentially more intuitive for some folks, so I think adding the synonym is a good choice, but that’s my take at least on one possible problem with adding “freezing point” officially.

(the more I think about it though I’m not sure my quibble makes sense - it’s not like freezing point itself is a different thing depending on how it’s measured… so perhaps you’re right! This might just be an example of how the freezing point being zero is a sore point / blind spot when having to deal with both…)


Good points! I definitely didn’t consider that.

That leads to an interesting question - from which point of view does WK want to teach vocab? If we consider the American (and some other countries) point of view it doesn’t make too much didactic sense to teach “freezing point”. I guess a big portion of the user base is from America.

However, if we look from a more European and more importantly a Japanese point of view it does make a whole lot of sense to add as an official synonym since Japan uses Celsius according to a quick Google search.

I’d say WK took the safest route here which is fine. Maybe it would distract too much from the original learning objective and add a little bit of confusion.

1 Like

I think more than the Japanese/European/American point of view aspect (which does possibly explain why it didn’t occur to tofugu to add as an intuitive option), I think the clincher aspect for me is the directness.

It seems to me it only means “freezing point” because it means the point when a themometer reads zero, and likely doesn’t mean it outside of that context (e.g., chemically).
Whereas “zero points” is clearly direct from the word.

If you’re going to get one meaning drilled repeatedly into your head, I think getting the most direct one is good (but it’s good to know that the others exist).


Not in Japan, like most of the rest of the world.


I mean, the concept of Fahrenheit does continue to exist even if it’s not usually relevant outside of America… and the topic might be likely to come up in conversation as cultures interact like your example shows. :slight_smile:

I mostly just think it’s hard in an SRS context to distinguish between the “freezing” sense meant in these sentences:
“it’s below freezing today”
“the freezing point of water is 0 degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit”
… particularly to an audience that includes Americans. and 零点 seems like it could be used in a translation of the first sentence but not the latter.

It’s true I think though Wanikani has been trying gradually to remove Americanisms like cultural references (might be wishful thinking; I’m not sure how much they’ve done that on second thought), and maybe “zero = freezing” is direct enough to everyone else that it’s not much of a leap to add “freezing point” as a meaning, I guess I wouldn’t know.

1 Like

Yup, 度 as a unit assumes Celsius afaik. All weather reports I’ve seen used Celsius. I think teaching the Japanese meaning makes a lot of sense. You can either tag the Mods here, or post it in the synonym thread.


I think zero point(s) is more natural. And freezing point is something you can derive from it.

So it might be good to add as an alternative meaning.


In conversation and most (or nearly all) practical contexts yes, but not inherently, I don’t think. The Japanese title for Fahrenheit 451 is 華氏451度, for example.
And if for some reason, living in America, I wanted to ask in Japanese for someone to set the thermostat temperature to 72 degrees, I think I could do that with 度 without also specifying Fahrenheit (because the thermostat being in Fahrenheit would be clear in context).

I figure 度 maps directly to “degree” and 零 to “zero” and the context that, separately, of course Japan uses Celsius gets you the right assumptions to know what “zero” and “degree” mean psychical temperature-wise.
Skipping the step and going directly from 零 to freezing feels to me personally like it might obscure that context rather than illuminate it.

(I’m probably still splitting unnecessary hairs though.)

1 Like


度 isn’t assumed to be Celsius in this context because 華氏 means “Fahrenheit”, so it’s explicitly being declared.


Right, but my point is 度 itself isn’t Celsius-y, so to speak - it’s not out of place next to 華氏.
Celsius is assumed, but it’s not 度 that’s doing it, it’s just Japan. And if the assumptions are different, like the American thermostat example, the language stays the same.

“degrees” is to me a more appropriate definition of “度” than “degrees Celsius” because of that. In the same way “zero point” is a more precise definition to me than “freezing point” for 零点 - because it doesn’t mean that outside of situations where Celsius would be assumed separately.

Does that make sense? Again it’s entirely possible I’m just splitting hairs that don’t matter. :slight_smile:

1 Like

American schools teach celsius in science, so anyone who bothered to pay attention in their basic science classes shouldn’t have any problem with understanding that it’s the freezing point.


Honestly, that’s probably the cause of my problem with “freezing point.” That phrase, to me, as an American, makes me think of Chemistry class and talking about converting between Celsius and Fahrenheit and measuring water with different salinity and stuff.

Whereas the word in Japanese seems (as far as I can tell) to mean the talking-about-the-weather type of “it’s below freezing today” thing, and not the freezing point of water outside of contexts where Celsius would be assumed. So to me personally, “freezing point” feels a little misleading in a way that “0 degrees Celsius” isn’t.

Obviously not misleading enough to cause major problems since you can see the logic with a moment’s thought, but it does seem like WK tries to avoid the possibility of people keying in on one of the official definitions and being misled.

Sounds pretty similar to how below freezing would be used in American weather.

Idk, sounds like the perfect opportunity to open up Americans to the fact that other people in the world do things differently. Especially when it’s really the whole rest of the world that does it differently and many of the people using WK, Brits, Aussies, Europeans, etc are all familiar with it.


Exactly, but unless we want to map the freezing point itself to “below freezing” it’s hard to express in a snappy SRS definition, I personally think. “freezing point” on its own without the “below” doesn’t convey the same thing to me. (If 下 were in the word in some form though, “below freezing” would be perfect).

I think we’re definitely aware that other people do it differently - and again, it’s not that we don’t understand Celsius, I just think that 零点 - “0 degrees (celsius) (and lots of other things that involve 0)” does not have exactly the same nuance as 氷点 - “freezing point (of water)”
Having to deal with the two systems simultaneously makes that distinction especially important, so it’s because other places do things differently that I think the distinction may be worth preserving. (but it’s a minor quibble I just got sucked into because it’s easier to think about than more critical problems - I hope that’s clear and none of this read like a diatribe)

To try an analogy, hypothetically defining an official synonym for 法定飲酒年齢 as “20” because it’s the legal drinking age in Japan, would have some logic behind it, and might arguably teach you something about Japan, but I think personally would be worse than “legal drinking age,” at least for the purposes of SRS, because if all you remember is “20” that doesn’t actually tell you what the word means.
That’s all I really mean - it’s certainly debatable, and 100% acceptable as a user synonym.

For what’s it worth, takoboto gives me an alternative for 零点 with 零度 for the 0 degrees celsius and freezing point meaning. While 氷点 is listed as freezing point only.

So there seems to be a slight distinction.


Just have the second meaning be written as “this word can also mean freezing point, though it’s the freezing point in celsius (0°C = 32F)!”


…of water. I guess I don’t know enough about how common the phrase is in a non-technical sense to have an opinion. Like, is that shorthand for “it’s freezing outside”? Does it mean freezing point more generally, like, what if we’re talking about engine coolant? Still 零点 even though technically it’s not at zero celsius? If we were talking in Fahrenheit, would the 零点 be at zero F, or 32F?

Seems fair for “freezing point” to be an allowed synonym for sure, but I think the literal ones make more sense for the primary meaning.

1 Like

“Whew, it’s cold enough to freeze tungsten outside!”


At standard atmospheric pressure. :smiley:

1 Like