I was looking at the picture of a newspaper during the times of the Hibiya riot (1905) and it took me a while to find the headline word 出鱈目{でたらめ}. In fact, in every dictionary I have checked so far the kanji 鱈 is written as I am typing it, with the left part being simply 魚. However, as you can see in the picture the bottom part of 魚 seems to be 大 instead of 灬.

I could not find any dictionary where the kanji is written as in the picture below. Is it just a typographical difference? Are 大 and 灬 somehow related and I just don't know about it?

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2 Answers 2


It's an older but common variant of the fish radical.

(The entries below are for the character「蘇」which is much more common than「鱈」but illustrates the same development)

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Looks like it is related this way:

a. 火 ⇒ 大 
b. 火 ⇒ 灬

  • a. was used commonly in the past, but now b. is more popular.
  • One possible reason for this is that changing to 大 reduces the total strokes of the character by one, and many people are very concered about the "auspiciousness" of the total stroke count number.
  • @naruto makes a very good point that the「火」shape that appears in the older variants of the fish radical is not related to fire because the fish radical is a complete pictograph in it's own right. In other words, it's not made up of smaller parts, so any change to the shape of the fish radical wouldn't really alter the meaning.


  • Thanks, very useful. Actually looking again at that newspaper 鱈 is not the only weird kanji. Look at 精 for example (on the first column on the right, more or less between the big 目 and の).
    – Tommy
    Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 1:12
  • 2
    That one is simpler to explain because it's not a variant. The「青」that we use today is a variant/simplification of「靑」, which is the Traditional Character version.
    – sazarando
    Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 1:47
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    The fourth character from the top on the rightmost column,「溪」is also a Traditional Character, which is now written as「渓」in Japanese 新字体. Before about 1945, Japanese newspapers would have used Traditional Characters and their typographical variants rather than the 新字体 characters that we are more familiar with now.
    – sazarando
    Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 1:53
  • Ya, in the older form, the part that looks like 火 "fire" is simply a reduced picture of the fish's tail. :) Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 16:49

It's a nonstandard variant (異体字) of 鱈.

In modern kanji dictionaries, 火 and 灬 (れんが) are usually considered different. But etymologically, these are the same radical, both representing fire.


魚 is a 象形文字 (hieroglyph) made from the picture of fish, and the four dots are not related to fire. 魚 is a radical in its own right. But the character 魚 was sometimes written with 火 at the bottom anyway. The bottom part of 点 is sometimes replaced by 大, too. This is probably etymologically not correct, but was used (according to @sazarando's answer, looks like 魚 with 火 was used in ancient China, too).

One article says 魚 with 大 at the bottom was preferred by sushi restaurants where they are expected to serve "raw and big" pieces of fish meat.


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