There seems to be a great many nicknames, but only one official name for each radical. I'm thus more inclined to learn the latter, but I'm left wondering about the practicality of that. All of the other radical lists that I've seen, whether English or Japanese, only list the nicknames. Are the official names rarely used in Japanese? Is it worth learning them? What about the nicknames, should I learn all of them? And most importantly, which names will show on the Kanji Kentei (漢字検定{かんじけんてい})?


At Japanese elementary and middle school, students learn the 通称 names in the table in the linked page. Virtually every native Japanese adult knows しんにょう and ぎょうにんべん, but not 辵部【ちゃくぶ】 nor 彳部【てきぶ】. I don't know where these "official" names are used.

On 漢字検定, it appears that the names of 部首 are not directly asked. Instead, you need to write the radical itself (example). This is probably because there are no official names for these radicals while there are too many nicknames found in various dictionaries. Still it can be safely said that average Japanese people learn radicals using one of the "nicknames" on the right column.

I can't tell how many radical nicknames you need to learn... It depends on what you want to do by learning these names.

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  • On lower levels they are actually asked, although in the form of a multiple-choice question with multiple "nicknames" listed for a single radical. kanken.or.jp/kanken/outline/degree/example/… – macraf Dec 9 '17 at 11:32
  • If the 'nicknames' are the only ones ever asked in the 漢字検定, and the 正式名称 is not used anywhere, perhaps we can conclude that it isn't worth memorizing the official names? I wish it was all a bit more standardized! – kandyman Dec 12 '17 at 21:41

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