I love learning kanji, so I thought about taking the kanken (probably level 6). So I started to look for information here and there, and it seems I'll have to learn radical names.

I'm totally fine with that, but my problem is: which name to learn ? Let's take 乙 for example: should I learn 乙部{おつぶ}, or simply 乙{おつ}. But in that case, I found quite a lot of other names: おつにょう (well, I suppose this one is only if the radical is used as a nyou part of a kanji), つりばり (this one seems to be for the 乚 variant) or れ (seems to be for 乚 again) ? Or again for 丨: should I learn 丨部{こんぶ}, ぼう or たてぼう?

  • 2
    You might want to look into getting a kanken book that lists every kanji for that level and its raidcal/radical name as it would appear on the test. When choosing the radical names, though, you pick from a list, so it's a lot easier. – ssb Jan 25 '15 at 23:12
  • I also recommend going through a kanken book, if all you've studied from so far is "日本語 for foreigners" (e.g., JLPT-type stuff). I went through a couple of them at some point, and I felt that they covered a much more thorough usage of kanji than 日本語 for foreigner books. (E.g. you need to know a lot more vocabulary/熟語, and there's a lot more 漢字使い分け.) – Kimball Jan 26 '15 at 15:18
  • I love this topic, but I'm not sure if it's the right place to ask about it. – jarmanso7 May 31 '20 at 21:17

The Kanken tests don't require you to write the name of the radical, instead they give a multiple choice of radical names, and for each radical, where alternative names exist, the test gives all of the alternative names for each radical. In practice it's mostly fairly easy to identify which one is which, and you don't need to remember all of the exact names. Kanken from 2017 The thing which they test for, and the thing which is sometimes difficult, is whether you can identify the radical of each kanji, so the thing you need to know is "what is the official radical of this kanji according to Kanken/Monbusho" rather than being able to reproduce the names.


On differing names: Radicals and it's names is a wide subject, and such this topics require to have in mind that grammar and its nomenclature evolves through time (as the language itself). In linguistics, this kind of issue pops up all the time, and to explain the variations we have to look back at the language history (this approach is called diachronic). With that in mind, let's say that some times some scholars seems to prefer a specific nomenclature and classification pattern, and sometimes they prefer others. Once your objective is the Kanken test, we do not need to explain the variations so let's take a look of how they behave in modern japanese.(this approach is called synchronic).

On the radicals names: You seemed to ask generally about the names of all radicals, but because there are plenty, I'll just treat the examples you've highlighted. The 乙、乚 and the 丨

乙 is called おつ。おつにょう, as you've suspected, refers to 乙繞, 繞 being the radicals written from the left to the bottom. (like 辶)  乚 is the same radical when written in the right (like a 旁「つくり」, but it'is not), but once this radical comes the representation of "something that obstructs the growing of other something", traditionally it as been read just as another form of 乙, in fact they have the same name. Both of them are おつ, but maybe that's why when referring to 乙、usually、one would say おつにょう。   About 乙部 「おつぶ」this is not the traditional name of the radical, indeed it is not hard to find it, but it's as an abbreviation of 乙繞部首 "the radical otsu" As the Grammatical terms usually require kanji with lots of strokes, it is common to abbreviate the nomenclature (e.g. like the informal classical verbs conjugation: サ行変格活用ー>サ変)

In fact we could generalize that no radical has 部 in the end of it's name. Whenever we find it, we must read it as an abbreviation of the grammatical nomenclature. The same goes for 丨 the name can be either ぼう or たてぼう. Kanken Level 6 preparatory book appendix

But as your aim is the Kanken test, (maybe) you should not worry too much about it (for taking the test), because just as @Ben's answer well shows, the kanken test do not demand you to write the radical name. Another point is that maybe you might not study all radicals starting from the ones with less strokes, FOR THE PURPOSE OF THE TEST. Once every level of Kanken has a predefined list of kanji (that goes with the japanese scholar years, level 6 corresponding to 5th grade) maybe sticking to this list could be way more effective.

For the Kanken test, I strongly recommend you the preparatory book series published by the very Kanken Association. (Kanken level 6 preparatory book cover) They have a book for every level.

I have answered based on my personal experience with the help of the kanji practice manual 漢字学習ステップ published by 日本漢字能力検定協会、the japanese kanji dictionary 例解学習漢字辞典 published by 小学館、and by the japanese language dictionary 広辞苑 published by 岩波書店。

Good luck!


Last I checked, Kanken doesn't test on the names of any radicals, just knowledge of which element of a particular kanji is the radical. The names are just for your own memorization. Call them whatever you want, though knowing a few of the common ones can be useful for talking with Japanese people about particular kanji.

  • They don't ask on every level, but radical name questions exist. For instance on level 5 section 2 kanken.or.jp/kanken/outline/data/… – Leebo Dec 23 '19 at 3:41
  • This is wrong, they test on radical names but they give alternatives. – Super-User Mar 1 '20 at 21:59

I am sorry I am not sure what you are actually asking for. Take only and concentrate on the 乙, it is a metrical? or order system originally derived from Chinese. - 十干(じっかん)は、甲・乙・丙・丁・戊・己・庚・辛・壬・癸の10の要素の順列 -

Source : http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%8D%81%E5%B9%B2

I personally think you do not have to go deep into 乙部, which is the system of putting words in order according to 部首, I think you will go too deep down and will have no merit.

  • 1
    Maybe you missed the point of the question Kentaro. – Super-User Mar 1 '20 at 22:24

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