What is the term for two kanjis, that when written in the reverse order, have the same meaning? For example, "northeast". I have seen this situation occasionally.

  • It'd be useful if you could give some examples. Even with 東北 and 北東, I'm not sure they're used interchangeably. I might be wrong, but 東北 seems to be used in names of places, but 北東 I haven't seen that much and it might be used more for the cardinal direction. Not entirely sure. Nevertheless, if there are other examples you have in mind, it might be useful to post them. They may or may not be entirely interchangeable.
    – A.Ellett
    Jun 30, 2017 at 16:49
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    I found a interesting page. oshiete.goo.ne.jp/qa/7266471.html Jun 30, 2017 at 16:56
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    There's a similar list also on this site bacause OP asked about this before. japanese.stackexchange.com/q/44242/5010
    – naruto
    Jun 30, 2017 at 22:04
  • @naruto, this question asks about two identical kanji's. My other question asks about two kanji compounds.
    – Jack Bosma
    Jul 18, 2018 at 18:19

1 Answer 1


There is no widely-known specific term for this.

There is a website maintained by a Japanese amateur kanji fan, where you can find the list of kanji compounds that makes sense when written in the reverse order (not necessarily the same meaning). The owner of the site calls such words 反対語(はんたいご, literally "opposite word"). But normally 反対語 means antonyms such as 男/女 and 大きい/小さい, and he owner admits this is his own definition of 反対語 which is usable only on his site. He just could not find a better specific word, and ended up borrowing the word 反対語 for his own purpose.

Yoshinori Sakai, another amateur kanji researcher, published a book called 可逆語を探す in 2004, where 可逆語(かぎゃくご, literally "reversible word") appears to be defined as a kanji compound that still makes sense when written in reverse order (again, not necessarily the same or similar meaning). But apparently almost no one have accepted this term after this book.

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    BTW, if I had to coin a new term for this, perhaps I would use 可換語 or 可換熟語. 可換 ("commutative") is a mathematical term that exactly means "the meaning is unchanged when written in reverse". For example a + b is the same as b + a because the addition is 可換. No one seem to have used this term, though.
    – naruto
    Jun 30, 2017 at 23:39

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