I've come across two kanji, which are both read やなぎ and both mean "willow".

From what I've found out so far, has an On'yomi of リュウ and it seems to mean more "things with the qualities of a willow"; while  has an On'yomi of ヨウ and means the type of tree. That being said it also seems to be a name element.

Can anyone confirm this or shed some more light on the subject?


2 Answers 2


やなぎ リュウ:

  • Used for willows which have their branches hanging down including しだれやなぎ. Can refer more broadly to the tall deciduous trees in the willow family and as a general term for shrubs as well according to Kanjigen.
  • Has a frequency of 1169/2501 and is classified as a general usage Kanji according to Kanjidic.

かわ やなぎ ヨウ:

  • Used for willows which have their branches going upwards including かわやなぎ and ねこやなぎ according to Kanjigen.
  • Has a frequency of 1815/2501 so is less common and is classified as a 人名用{じんめいよう} Kanji for use in people's names according to Kanjidic.
  • I guess a better translation for 柳 would be "weeping willows" then. Commented Mar 4, 2014 at 3:06

According to dictionary.goo.ne.jp, maybe is the collective name for all willows, and may be used for some specific species (カワヤナギ,ネコヤナギ).

However, the kun reading(やなぎ) of 楊 is usually not used, and 楊 is usually only used in some compound words. So when referring to willow, 柳 would be used.

Note that for tree names formed with the two characters may refer to different kinds of trees. E.g, 白楊【はくよう】 may be ヤマナラシ (Populus tremula), which is not a kind of willow.

  • I wish I could accept two answers, I appreciate your answer too! Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 4:55

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