I was wondering why some of the names for kanji radicals are different depending on the source.

For example, right now I'm learning radicals on kaniwani and they called 「丶」 drop, but on my kanji learning app they called it a dot. The terms they call it are similar but still different. I would like to know which source is more credible or reliable to study kanji radicals.

1 Answer 1


I do not know what WaniKani considers as a radical or not but I am willing to give a generic answer that might extend your original question.

The problem you mention is mostly a problem concerning terminology linked to the English way of naming the radicals. First, you should know that there is not a unique, standardized way of translating the 214 Japanese radicals. So does it really matter, dot or drop, after all it is almost the same thing: a drop of ink will turn in a dot on paper. The radical you have given 「丶」 can be said as てん, ぽち, ちょぼ, チュ or チュてん (カタカナ for 音読み) and in English you can have something like: dot, drop, long dot. That's a lot but a single kanji can summarize them all 点 (ぽち and ちょぼ are small 点). As you can see, there are different names but the difference (in meaning) is very small.

There is a list of radicals in every dictionary and the different reading of them all should be provided. But, since several options are possible when talking about a radical, the objective is to get your way through rather than knowing exactly the name of radical at hand. I am pretty sure that nobody know (all) the names of all the radicals. So the answer to your question is that the name of radical is often based on preference and what you may recall when you want to talk about one. As for why the radical's name in English may differ from one location to another is due to the fact that there is no standard.

Another point that is interesting is that radicals' names can change depending on their position. 偏{へん} (on the left), 旁{つくり} (on the right), 繞{にょう} (on the bottom), 冠{かんむり} (on the top) and 構{かまえ}え (wrapping) (there are four types of 構え: 匸{かくしがまえ} (not to be mistaken with 匚{はこがまえ}(I am sure you're already enjoying radicals)), 囗{くにがまえ}, 門{もん}構え, 凵{かんがまえ}(or かんにょう or うけばこ (as you can see again the names are not unique but still the meaning is same: 受け箱 vs 缶構え (← I am not sure for 缶 but it is very likely)))).

So what I mean is that for example the radical of 全 is 入冠{にゅうかんむり} (にゅう because of 入 and 冠 because it is on top). Concerning this kind of character with a hat (𠆢{ひとがしら}) on top it, it is almost impossible to know whether it is classified under にゅうかんむり or ひとがしら (ひとがしら can also be said ひと屋{や}根{ね} (屋根 is roof while かしら is head (again different word but same idea))).

I conclude with a last example 心 (there are two variants 忄{りっしんべん} (as in 恨{うら}み) and [㣺]{したごころ} (as in 慕{した}う)) but you can also find 心 unmodified at the bottom of a kanji 怨{うら}めしい (here the radical is 心{こころ}and if you want to add precision you can say 心繞{こころにょう} but I think 心 would be enough).

(Note on why りっしんべん is called this way: りっ is from 立 (standing up) . You can find this りっ in another radical 刂{りっとう})


  • Name for radicals in English are not standardized ;
  • More than having the right name, there is multiple names but most of them mean just the same (drop vs dot, ちょぼ vs ぽっち, 屋根 vs 頭{がしら}, etc.) ;
  • The name of the radical can slighly change depending on its position.

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