Can you tell me the difference between 壱 and 一, 弐 and 二, 参 and 三?

Do these pairs have the same meaning? If yes, why do we use different Kanji? If no, what is the difference in their meanings?

Can you give example usage in sentences for each of them?

  • 1
    I am not sure if this is considered as duplicate or not, but it is covered by YOU’s answer to another question. Oct 10, 2011 at 12:03

2 Answers 2


The more complex ones are called daiji (大字【だいじ】). Find out more here. http://www.jekai.org/entries/aa/00/no/aa00no38.htm

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    The explanation: "These numbers are provided in lieu of regular kanji numbers for use in contexts where accuracy and avoiding fraud are critical such as in finance and legal agreements. In handwritten documents, for example, it would be easy for a forger to add a line above or below a numeral 一 to make 二, changing, say, 一万円 (10,000 yen) to 二万円 (20,000 yen); the alternate numbers prevent such alterations." seems to be contradicted by the existence of "(As 卅, but with one more extra vertical line) 40". o_O Oct 11, 2011 at 22:56

The "difficult" kanjis are used in legal documents, or for style (in some commercials, e.g. when you have three days of sales).

I guess we don't use them because they're obviously harder, but I don't know where the "simple" ones come from.

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    don't know where the representation of 1, 2 and 3 as respectively 1, 2 and 3 horizontal strokes, came from? Erm... I'm willing to take a wild guess :-P
    – Dave
    Oct 10, 2011 at 16:16
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    Yeah, the simple characters came first and are pretty obviously representational. The more difficult character set for numbers was adopted later. Also, it might be useful to add that the harder characters were adopted for official use specifically because they are harder to alter. Changing 一 to 十 is easy; changing 壱 (or 壹!) to 拾 is not.
    – Matt
    Oct 11, 2011 at 0:17

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