My friend asked me if I know what 神仙 means so I tried to look it up and almost all the results I got were 神仙 instead of 神仙. Which appearently means something like a hermit or an immortal person that has divine powers. But back to the question are 神 and 神 basically the same Kanji meaning wise? Maybe someone can help.

  • Then your friend is likely Korean. It’s written with a single character in Chinese, leaving only two possibilities: it’s either the Japanese word written the old-fashioned (or wrong) way, or the Korean word. Jun 22, 2023 at 12:46

2 Answers 2


Yes, 神 and 神 are basically the same kanji with the same meaning. More precisely, 神 is a kyūjitai (historical form), and 神 is the shinjitai (modern form). 神 must be used almost everywhere now, but the old version may be used intentionally to add some flavor in a historical drama and such.

Note that Japanese people do not consider them exactly the same. Native speakers almost certainly notice if the old form (神) suddenly appears in a sentence. This cannot be compared to true allographs such as two modern forms of Latin "a" or "g", or two modern forms of そ, which are hardly noticeable to modern native speakers.

  • 2
    Your explanation is truly brilliant! I just wanted to augment your point by mentioning that, when it comes to a person's name, many Japanese families still opt to use traditional form letters in an effort to uphold their long-standing traditions. This can largely be attributed to the considerable sacred value that family names bear within Japanese culture.
    – taiyodayo
    Jun 21, 2023 at 11:30
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    I just wanted to add that both forms have long existed in China and in Japan, before any character simplification took place in either country. 神 is more of a print-font, used in the printing press where they carved characters onto wood blocked. The Kangxi dictionary uses this form. 神 on the other hand, was always how people wrote the character by hand. Nowadays Japan decided to unify the forms under 神, making the other "old and obsolete", but truth is that they coexisted for a long time.
    – dvx2718
    Jun 22, 2023 at 1:00
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    Sorry it seems like in the comments, only the modern form gets displayed. In my comment, the print-form is the one with 示 on the left, the handwriting-form is the one with ネ
    – dvx2718
    Jun 22, 2023 at 1:02

These are alternative forms of each other.

It's a bit hard to tease out the details due to the layout of the information, but the Wiktionary entry at https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E7%A5%9E shows us that these are ultimately the same thing.

More specifically, the left-hand portion of these two characters (technically, its radical) differ only by a minor shift in shape caused by handwriting conventions. It's a bit like the difference between these two common forms of the lower-case letter A:



One has an extra half-loop on the top, commonly used in printed fonts, and the bottom is simpler without that extra embellishment, and tends to be more commonly seen in handwriting.

This kind of simplification is what we see in the "more traditional" version of the character , and the common "everyday use" version of the character .

For the kanji, the two versions of the radical are:

The topmost horizontal bar in the "traditional" version on top is simplified to just the top tittle on the simpler version below. The second horizontal bar and the left independent line in the top version are combined into the hooked フ second stroke in the simpler lower version.

I think just about all the kanji that include this radical come in similar pairs -- one with the older radical , and one with the simpler version . See also:

... etc.

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