Why is 富 character under 宀 40th radical? why isn't it under 102nd radical 田 ?

Why is 仏 character under 人 9th radical? why isn't it under 28nd radical 厶 ? etc.

what is the logic for assigning Kanji characters to certain radicals?

  • These sound like very broad generic questions. If so have you looked in wikipedia for an answer? If not, what is the illogicality you have identified?
    – Tim
    Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 11:59
  • If you are concerned with radicals only for finding kanji them in a dictionary, consider multiple-radical lookup jisho.org/kanji/radicals or "handwriting" recognition (電子辞書's, Microsoft IME pad, several websites, Android/IPhone). I can't remember the last time I had to look up a kanji via its radical.
    – blutorange
    Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 12:53
  • As per 畐 (Type 1 Phonetic) as described in 副 (abundance) + 宀 roof/building → building stocked with abundant possessions → wealthy; become wealthy; abundant. in case yr interested = kanjinetworks.com/eng/kanji-dictionary/…
    – yadokari
    Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 5:50
  • @yadokari Kanjinetworks has been subject to criticism for their non-mainstream method for coming up with character etymologies.
    – user1478
    Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 7:17
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    @snailboat, yes I love controversial websites...Kanjinetworks is actually under tmz.com on my bookmarks bar.
    – yadokari
    Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 16:23

1 Answer 1


In principle, it's arbitrary. Dictionary makers are free to put 富 under whichever section they want, and the same goes for 仏 or any other character. And in fact, editors of some dictionaries put characters under different radicals; see for example the New Nelson. As such, they can have different motivations, and it's impossible to answer what the motivation is in every case.

However, 富 fits a very common pattern: like the majority of kanji, it can be divided into a semantic component and a phonetic component. In such cases, the semantic portion is usually the radical. In this character, 宀 is the semantic portion, while 畐 is the phonetic portion.

Likewise, 仏 consists of 亻 and 厶. The former is the semantic and the radical, and the latter is the phonetic.

There are other patterns you can recognize. For example:

  • If a character is itself a radical, it is its own radical.
  • Semantic-phonetic characters are generally divisible into two parts. In your example of 富, it's not likely for 田 to be the radical because the top half doesn't form a character, so the division is probably somewhere else (in this case, just under 宀).
  • In left-right kanji, the left side is much more likely to be the radical.
  • In top-bottom kanji, the top side is more likely to be the radical.
  • In enclosure kanji, the enclosure is more likely to be the radical.
  • The left-side radical form of 人, called にんべん, is written 亻. If a character contains this element, it's most likely the radical! This is true of many such combining forms, including , , , and so on.

In some cases, you'll simply have to memorize the radicals. For example, 謄, 騰, and 勝 and all have 朕 as a phonetic! So the radicals are in the unexpected lower-right position, and you'll find these characters under 言, 馬, and 力. As you come to recognize phonetic elements and identify them with patterns in 音読み, identifying radicals like these will be easier, and over time, you'll simply come to remember them.

(In principle, you can tell that the radical is in lower-right position in the above because those kanji aren't left-right divisible, but in practice this is difficult because (for example) valid left and right sides may include characters that are no longer used or were never used in Japanese.)

And there will always be exceptions to the above generalizations. For example, the kanji 錦 has the same on reading as its left side (金), so it appears that the phonetic portion is on the left. But in this case, that's also the radical! Why? Well, the right side can't be the radical simply because it's not one of the 214 choices! Likewise, the radical for 難 is on the right. Why? Again, the left side isn't one of the 214!

So it's a complicated system, and it's likely to surprise you. But hopefully the more you learn, the more it will make sense, and the rest you'll be able to memorize or look up as need be. (After all, it is just a system for indexing dictionaries.)

  • 宀 means "roof", 富 means "rich"... "宀 is the semantic portion" how come? is there a semantic link between "roof" and "rich"?? Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 20:45
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    @DrStrangeLove It's a cross-reference within the book, A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters by Kenneth Henshall. If you want to know more about kanji etymology, it's one book you could pick up. (I probably should have omitted the numbers when I quoted it.)
    – user1478
    Commented Aug 24, 2013 at 0:03
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    I don't think the mnemonic explanations are always etymological. Beware.
    – Zhen Lin
    Commented Aug 24, 2013 at 0:25
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    @ZhenLin Henshall's book gives etymologies and mnemonics. When the mnemonics differ from the etymologies, he makes that clear. (This is unlike, say, Heisig's book, where etymology is thrown out the window and arbitrary explanations are invented.) For example, in this case the mnemonic is "house at single entrance to field grows wealthy", but it is presented separately from the etymology. (IMO, the mnemonics aren't very good, so I ignore them and read only the etymologies.)
    – user1478
    Commented Aug 24, 2013 at 0:28
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    @dainichi For example, you can find 有 under 肉 rather than 月 in the New Nelson. They felt it wasn't useful making readers guess whether an element that looked like 月 was truly 月 or a form of 肉, so they placed all the characters from both radicals (with the exception of 月 itself) under 肉. But the New Nelson is not the only dictionary to vary from the 康煕字典. For example, I've read that the four-volume abridged version of the Morohashi combines radicals similarly and otherwise classifies kanji differently where the editors felt it made sense to do so.
    – user1478
    Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 7:13

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