In particular I was not able to find 図象 in any dictionary; I wonder if it is perhaps a typo and the author meant 図像.

In the case that the author meant 図像, would it then simply mean "icon made up of characters"? So that 亜字形図像 could be roughly translated as "the 亜 (character-based) icon"?

The context is the following:


Source: 白川静;常用字解(第二版)、p3

  • "In particular I was not able to find 図象 in any dictionary" - really? If I put 図象とは into a search engine - the standard trick I was taught - the first result I get is a Goo entry, then a Kotobank entry, then the other word in Kotobank, then a Weblio entry, then JP Wikipedia. Sep 6 at 20:46
  • your Goo, Weblio and Wikipedia links are for 図像, not 図象. The second kanji are different; but if these two words mean the same thing, then I apologize
    – bocwulf
    Sep 6 at 21:29
  • I could have sworn I checked that. I must be going blind. Sep 7 at 19:17

2 Answers 2


In standard usage, 象 and 像 are distinct kanji with different meanings. In particular, they are rarely confused in the following contexts:

  • (ぞう; elephant): 象牙 (ivory)
  • (ぞう; statue): 銅像 (bronze statue)

However, these kanji are also often associated with "image":

  • (しょう; image): 現象 (phenomenon), 印象 (impression), 抽象 (abstraction), 具象 (embodiment)
  • (ぞう; image): 現像 (development of film), 映像 (movie)

In such cases, 象 and 像 were not strictly distinguished in the past. For example, if you search the 青空文庫全文検索, you will find that older authors sometimes used 実象, 映象, 群象, etc., which would be considered mere typos in modern standard usage but were accepted variants at the time. In your specific case, it's safe to consider 図象 as a synonym for 図像, so it's "亜-shaped icon".

(I doubt this is a "typo". Although 常用字解 seems to be a relatively recent book, I suppose the author intentionally chose 図象 based on some historical or academic background. Old notations tend to be preserved in the context of historical researches.)

Please also read dROOOze's answere here: How does ayakashi, あやかし = 妖 or 罔像?


Not positive, but I think it's (((亜字形)図)象): that is 亜字形, plus the suffix ~図, plus another suffix ~象 (that I would say is read as ~[象]{しょう} - "phenomenon").

亜字形図象 - "The 亜-shaped icon/image phenomenon"


  • I hadn't thought about that. I think it's possible (describing the 紋章 phenomenon). On the flip side, I just found this book title (図象文字とフトマニ図象の研究), and also references to 図象 on this website (note.com/iyashirolife/n/n36d401a16d20). When looking at the example images on the website, I think 図象 is best interpreted as either symbol, figure, or diagram. However I'm not sure what the exact intended meaning is.
    – bocwulf
    Sep 6 at 20:24

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