I am interested in Japanese culture and the symbolism used in Japan, specifically I'd like to know what the △ triangle, ◯ circle, ╳ cross and ◻ square mean to a Japanese person.

How are those shapes interpreted and do they vary depending on there being filled or not?


4 Answers 4

  • ○ まる
    • OK; correct; yes; supported; available (like ; note that the check mark usually means "wrong" in Japanese examinations)
    • masked/censored character (like * in English used to mask characters in certain words; see this)
    • rival horse; second likely to win (horse race; favorite horse is marked with )
    • win; victory; 白星 (when used as opposed to 黒星 = = lose)
  • × ばつ、ぺけ、ばってん
    • NG; wrong; no; unsupported; unavailable
    • masked/censored character (mainly for sexual reasons; cf: ちょめちょめ)
    • multiplication (math)
    • lose (game)
    • dead; extinct; obsolete (word, species, person; like in English)
    • used to denote romantic relationships, especially in yaoi fandom (like "slash" / in English)
    • finished (calendar, event)
  • △ さんかく
    • partially OK; partially supported; nearly sold out; between ○ and ×; questionable
    • second move; 後手 (in shogi, when used as opposed to = first move; sometimes inverted ())
    • negative value/earnings (finance, when positive values are marked with nothing)
    • money gain; increase (stock market, when used as opposed to = loss)
    • dark horse; third likely to win (horse race)
  • □ しかく
    • unavailable character; glyph missing (see: 豆腐 and geta symbol)
    • full-width space (as opposed to the dot used to denote half-width (ascii) spaces)

And these symbols can be used as the casual placeholder for other arbitrary words/characters. (See this)

As you can see, depending on the context, filled symbols often mean the opposite things to the unfilled ones.

  • × is used before the name of a dead person? Isn't that kind of harsh?
    – Avery
    Aug 23, 2016 at 2:30
  • 2
    @Avery Such use is mostly limited to (semi-)academic contexts, I think. For both historical and technical reasons, the dagger sign has never been popular nor widely available in Japanese documents.
    – naruto
    Aug 25, 2016 at 4:06
  • × × can also be read as チョメチョメ: zokugo-dict.com/17ti/cyomecyome.htm Jun 1, 2018 at 7:48
  • 1
    +1. I just want to add (for the asker) that Japanese also use ◎ to indicate "best", "excellent", etc. or anything better than 〇. Japanese pretty much use 〇 × and △ in everyday work (I'm in the engineering consulting field) but not □ or ◎. Also, kids in kindergarten and grade school get a 花丸 (hana maru=flower circle) but not ◎ from their teachers if they get a perfect score in a test, if the teacher thinks their homework is excellent, and so on.
    – DXV
    Feb 5, 2020 at 8:21
  • 1
    anecdote: Playstation has the ⭕️❌🔳△ buttons. Sony generally requires games default to ⭕️ = select in Japan and ❌ = select outside Japan. IIRC it's now settable in the system settings where as before (PS1-PS3) it was only based on region. This means games need to display those characters dynamically like if the game says "Press ? to continue" that ? has to be updated at runtime with the correct character for the region/setting.
    – gman
    Mar 31, 2021 at 4:30

◯ (まる) symbolizes “O.K., Right," Perfect," while X(ばつ)symbolizes "No," "Incorrect," and "Wrong."

The test method that requires the testees to answers in Yes (○) / No (X) format in school examinations and the written examination of driver’s license is called ”まるばつ式テスト.”

I don’t know if ◻ square and △triangle have any specific implications as a sign like ◯ and X have, except the cases of the signs being often used for the index to be placed ahead of the bullet-type sentences, like:

■Fewer people are on welfare

■But the government didn't save money

■Most families in poverty don't receive welfare.


Would just like to add that ◯ can also be used as a placeholder. For example there's a TV show called 人志松本の◯◯な話. The equivalent in English would be "Matsumoto Hitoshi's _____ story".


△ さんかく over internet could mean such thing as san is cool/handsome people write a name and put the △ in the end bcs sankaku could be . san ga kakkee (“_-san is cool/handsome”)with a little imagination so Name△ instead of writing it all

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.