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I know that this words means "Leader", but I need help thinking of a keyword that helps me decipher words containing the Kanji 将.

Take this word for example 未成年. To me, individually, these Kanji means, "not yet", "turn into" and "year". With these keywords, I can then pull the meaning out from this Kanji by saying something like, "Well, if the YEAR has NOT YET TURNED of you then you're probably stuck at a young age. Therefore your a MINOR".

Here's another example using the Kanji 未来. Individually, the key words are, "not yet" and "come". Again, my thinking will be along the lines of, "Hmm... if something has NOT YET COME, it will take some time to get here. Therefore, It will arrive sometime in the FUTURE".

Can you see how this makes sense? So here's where things don't make sense for me.

As far as I know (and yes I'm pretty knew to Japanese), this 将 means LEADER. But when I use that keyword to decipher this kanji 将来, it just doesn't make sense. Individually these are, "leader" and "come". So I'm thinking, "Well... it's erm... a LEADER that has to COME/arrive sometime in the FUTURE. Like a FUTURE president maybe?

Somehow this just doesn't gel for me. Need help. So what keywords should I be using for 将 that will help me decipher other words?

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「将」, as a kanji (and not as a word in Japanese), can mean "will" and "shall".

So, if you look at 「将来」 as "will come" or "shall come", it actually is quite logical that it means "future".

See: http://www.mdbg.net/chindict/chindict.php?page=worddict&wdrst=0&wdqb=%E5%B0%86

(The kanji you see on that page is the Chinese version of「将」.)

  • A good mnemonic word to make a connection between both meanings "leader" and "will" is 将軍 (しょうぐん)(commander). As 将 means "will", or in other words, "from now on", the 将軍 is the person in front of an army, the person from with 将 which an army 軍comes. – jarmanso7 Apr 24 at 5:32
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While I completely agree with l'électeur's answer, I wanted to give a related opinion on this matter.

Even though the Kanji meaning works out in the case, studying Japanese I've found certain cases where it is hard to match a Kanji's (common) meaning with the overall meaning of compound. For example the word 流石, whose meaning doesn't seem to relate very well to its constituent parts (even if you can provide a counter example to this compound, I think it's hard to disagree that this can occur).

I think it's great to try and learn each Kanji's individual meaning and associate that with the compound meanings to a certain extent. However, eventually you will encounter words that you just have to learn "as is", and accept there are exceptions or usages of Kanji that are no longer in common use.

In this specific case, I think 将's most common meaning is "leader", though as others pointed out there are other meanings. But I am not sure how common those are, or if it is worth trying to memorize all possible meanings for each Kanji.

If nothing else, learning various meanings of Kanji can be fun and an interesting trip through history (:

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    +1 "However, eventually you will encounter words that you just have to learn 'as is'" while-heartedly agree with this. Kanji were not imported one-by-one and do not occur in isolation. It is much better to learn words with kanji and then apply that knowledge across other words. – user11589 Feb 17 '16 at 17:25
  • Yes, I think we are in agreement. I agree that it's best to learn a reasonable amount of individual Kanji, but was just saying it isn't a magic bullet for all situations. – Locksleyu Feb 17 '16 at 19:09
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See the Wiktionary Entry for 將 (Shinjitai: 将):

A conflation of two roots: “to take; to hold” and “will; be going to; near”.

The reason why it's hard to connect the meanings of「将」in the question is because it's being used to represent two different root words.


Character structure

「將」is comprised of a hand「寸」taking/holding a piece of meat「肉・⺼」and a phonetic「爿{しょう}」.

「爿{しょう}」depicts a resting table, and was the original form of「床{しょう}」(bed).

Meaning 1: Leader, Sino-Tibetan root

「將」originally referred to a word meaning take/hold > to hold power > leader, cf.「將軍」(Shinjitai:「将軍{しょうぐん}」).

Meaning 2: Will/shall, Austroasiatic root

「將」is a phonetic loan for this meaning, which is preserved in Chinese loanwords like「將來」(Shinjitai:「将来{しょうらい}」).

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