Why would wanikani have different meanings for the same symbol kanji and vocab?

There are a lot of things that I find weird or dislike about Wanikani but this is one that I just cannot understand. What would be the reasoning behind it? Why would they force me to learn the name/meaning of kanji and then when I see the same vocab, that meaning is WRONG. For example, 技 is a "skil"l kanji. But the Vocab 技 is “technique” or “art”, if I type “skill” there its WRONG. Because 技能 means “skill”.

Or another example. 命 kanji means “fate”, so when u see 命 as vocab you will try to use “fate” and its WRONG. It means “life” and 運命 is “fate”. Like there are many other things that I dislike but this is the one that I just can NEVER understand. What would be the reasoning behind purposefully naming the kanji wrong? Why Kanjidamage and Jisho have the correct meanings but Wanikani purposefully makes users mix things up and makes them harder to remember? Am I misunderstanding something? It makes literally 0 sense and its extremely annoying when I have to check every single kanji to make sure that its vocab isn’t different.

I don’t think the problem is with WaniKani. This is just how the Japanese language works.
The Kanji may have one meaning, but vocabulary that uses it may have a different meaning.


Correct me if I’m wrong but Kanji don’t have “meanings.” They are just parts of the words. And your explanation would be understandable but both Jisho and Kanjidamage either list the “vocab” meaning among kanji meanings or don’t have wanikani’s meaning at all. If wanikani had multiple kanji meanings with vocab meanings among them like they sometimes do, I’d understand that as well. But they don’t. And I see 0 reason why wouldn’t they. Every single new kanji I see, I have to check if it has the corresponding vocab with exactly the same meaning and then add that meaning as a synonym, otherwise I will learn the WRONG meaning, thanks to wanikani.

Jisho doesn’t list “technique” for “技 #kanji” even though that is the first definition for the actual word.


The word 命(いのち) only means “life” and not “fate”
The Kanji 命(めい) can mean fate, life or other words, but WaniKani only teaches the most commonly used meaning.


You are right. Jisho doesn’t, Kanjidamage does. Do you know why? I guess my issue is with the Japanese kanji/vocab system then. I can’t argue the vocab meanings but I don’t understand why wouldn’t you use or even include the vocab meaning for the corresponding kanji if it’s exactly the same.

Yeah but I just wish they added synonyms for these meanings instead of forcing users to check if every new kanji has a corresponding exactly the same vocab but with a different meaning.

I can’t speak for them, but my understanding is that the main reason that they only allow one meaning for each kanji (occasionally two if the kanji is used very frequently in both ways) is so that the meanings can be used in the mnemonics for vocabulary items. If you only ever wrote down “life” as the meaning for the 命 kanji, when you ran into all of the vocabulary words that use the more common meaning “fate” you won’t understand why the word is written as it is.


It’s similar to why in English we have “nata” that generally means “birth” (which itself comes from different roots) as seen in “natal” or "nativity, " but in the word “native” it can mean "indigenous. " Kanji give an insight into etymology, but language is constantly changing.


That makes sense. I don’t really use WK’s mnemonics and I’m only lvl 14, so maybe that’s why I’ve never ever had issues with using same meanings for kanji as I use for its vocab.

Don’t worry about getting it wrong. The SRS is built in such a way that, after enough time failing and doing it over, it ends up sticking.

Getting reviews wrong is a good thing, because it gives you more opportunities to learn the items that give you more trouble. If you hacked your way around wrong reviews, you wouldn’t really be learning as effectively.


I don’t get it wrong a lot, I just always add another ‘user synonym’ for the kanji if it has a different meaning for the same ‘vocab’ item. It doesn’t happen very often but when it does it makes me really mad and I never understood why would it happen in the first place but your post explained the logic behind it, so I’ll be less upset in the future, thanks :slight_smile:

1 Like

I’m not really sure what it would mean for the kanji to not have meanings.

I’m fairly sure that every meaning that WaniKani lists can be found in some resource. If you look at the 意味 section of a Japanese kanji dictionary (so Japanese people think the kanji have meanings), you’ll see 7 different meanings listed for 命.

In that list, “fate” happens to be number 5. And “life” is number 4.

But I can’t see how you can argue WaniKani is wrong for using “fate.”


I can vouch for this as I fail so often.

I don’t know if I’m off topic here, but what about 然 for example? I couldn’t find the “nature” meaning anywhere. Sometimes WK feels like teaching wrong kanji meanings for the sake of vocab, at least obscure ones.

The meaning of 然 in 自然, for example, is 人力の加わらない本来の状態 (an original state or condition without human power / human efforts added)

If you want to argue that summing that up as “nature” is wrong, I’m open to hearing what meaning you would use instead, but it seems fine to me.

然 is a ridiculously abstract kanji.


Yeah but in cases like this, I think WK should provide a bit more information. When you look at the kanji’s explanation, it makes you imagine nature as in plants, greens etc. not the the basic or inherent features of something. It messes with the concept that you should imagine when you see the kanji I think.


Okay… well, that’s a different question. Basically a complaint about the mnemonics and explanations. I think it’s separate from saying that nature is a “wrong meaning.”

Besides… I don’t really see why getting an image of plants and whatnot is wrong. The idea is “untouched by people.” Unless you just mean that plants can also be cultivated by humans and thus aren’t the same meaning of “nature.”

But I feel like that’s nitpicking quite a bit.


Maybe coming from “someone who was born there”? I actually don’t know, just a guess.

1 Like

I’m saying it uses the wrong meaning of nature, thus making you imagine the meaning wrong. I don’t think about the English meaning when I see a kanji, a certain concept comes to mind, and it is wrong.

The clear definition of that would be the phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations. I think it is only loosely related with the other definition.

Yes, these can be picked up by immersion anyway :d Just wanted to talk about it.

1 Like