Japanese Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Japanese language. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I've never actually played a sudoku puzzle (I know, I live in a cave!).

I just saw the word written in kanji somewhere, which rekindled my interest.

Wikipedia states:

The puzzle was popularized in 1986 by the Japanese puzzle company Nikoli, under the name Sudoku, meaning single number.

Though to me, the compound 数独{すうどく} implies "number addiction", especially in the context of a game.

share|improve this question
up vote 9 down vote accepted

I don't believe that sudoku exists as an actual word. Literally it does mean "single number," as it is a combination of the characters for "number" and "single." However the mathematical term for singular (versus plural) is 単数{たんすう}.

According to the Wikipedia page for it, the name is a reduction of the phrase "数字は独身に限る," or basically "limited to one number." I don't know if there are any hidden puns about number puzzle enthusiasts being forever alone, but a subsequent publication of this type of puzzle in Japan shortened that title to 数独, and thus it was named.

share|improve this answer
+1 for the puns which should exists ;) (and of course the great answer!) – Leon Stafford Sep 27 '13 at 6:11

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.