I've noticed that the microwave minute dials often use 切 instead of 分 for minutes. Why is this the case?

When I look up 切 on jisho, I get nothing about time or minutes, so I'm naturally confused as to why I always see this.

Here's a picture:

Picture of Dial


  • 6
    I suspect that this has nothing to do with minutes, per se, and that the 切 is located where "OFF" would go on an English-language panel. :) If you can post a picture, it would greatly help us understand the context. – Eiríkr Útlendi Sep 20 '17 at 0:51
  • OH I see now. I'll post a picture in a sec. it's like a dial with numbers increasing clockwise, and 切 is where the 0 should be. Aka off. Wow that makes more sense. Thanks! – Enrico Borba Sep 20 '17 at 1:03
  • You might know though, I think even if you set the knob at "切" position, the electricity still runs in the microwave if it is plugged into the socket. I mean if the lightning hit the neighborhood, it could be broken due to the surge. – user25382 Sep 20 '17 at 2:39

切る means 'to cut off' or 'to turn off', and it's likely used here to mean to turn off the power and finish using the microwave.

  • I.e. it represents '0'? – Sjiveru Sep 20 '17 at 2:01
  • Not necessarily, but contextually close enough. – keithmaxx Sep 20 '17 at 2:31
  • 1
    May I ask a dumb question "the power" implies heating in English? – user25382 Sep 21 '17 at 13:51
  • 1
    @kimiTanaka well, it implies heating in the sense that "power" is referring to electricity, and so "turning on the power" means starting the microwave's heating (because even though there is electricity in the microwave even when it's off, it consumes more power when it is heating something). – psosuna Sep 21 '17 at 17:13
  • @ psosuna Thanks for the advice! Yes, you are correct. This device transforms the electricity into the heat. And turn on the power implies start the process of heating by using timer as minute-dial. But I was wondering turn on the power of guitar amp implies turning up the volume of guitar amp. Otherwise, you don't hear sound from the guitar amp. – user25382 Sep 21 '17 at 23:19


I think that "切 literally cut" is the devised result of a certain designer of cooking appliances to be heated by electricity. Of course it means "to cut off", "to turn off" or simply "OFF".
Both the microwave oven and the toaster in the kitchen of my house have "切" in the place where it corresponds to "0" of heating time dial.

I think as follows that decades ago, a product of an electric appliance manufacturing company was designed in this way, and the designers of other companies in the same industry who saw it thought it was "a very good idea!" and imitated the design to the same product of their company.
Therefore I think that similar designs are established today as that of Japanese heating cookware.

In general, the following four directive functions are required for this dial or control panel.
(1) Indication that this dial is a control panel related to heating time.
(2) Unit of heating time. Considering in common sense, it should be "minute".
(3) Display of the position of "0" on the dial. And a description that the heating is "being cut off" at the position of "0".
(4) Instruction to cancel heating once started; to turn the knob to the dial "0" position.

I admit that the designer who originally put "切" at this position would have had a hard time on how to display and arrange the above four directive functions on a limited area of the front panel of a microwave oven.

If you look closely at the picture posted by the questioner, there is a mark or pictogram of a clock pointing to 3 o'clock on the upper left of the dial you are paying attention to now. This is a simplified representation for the function of (1).
By the way, looking at the upper dial, there is a pictogram on the upper left where a snow crystal is melting, meaning "解凍 thawing of defrosting", and on the upper right there is a pictogram of a bowlful of rice that means "あたため warming up".

The description of (2) has been omitted as judging that everyone knows as common sense.
It is this "切" that solved the problems of (3) and (4) in a stroke. I think that it was associative from switches of "入 ON" / "切 OFF" or "入 ON" ⇔ "切 OFF" type which is called a toggle switch or a rocker switch.

The designer would not have thought that a person learning Japanese asked this kind of question, but I think "切" was a pretty wonderful idea.


「切」は、電気で加熱する調理器具の設計者が大変工夫した結果だと思います。 私の家の電子レンジもトースターも加熱時間のダイヤルの「0」に相当するところは「切」になっております。昔、ある電気会社の製品がこのようにデザインされたのを、「大変うまい!」と判断した同業他社の設計者が真似をしたので、同じようなデザインが、今日{こんにち}、日本の加熱式調理器具のデザインとして定着したのだと判断できます。

(1) このダイヤルが加熱時間に関係する操作盤であることの表示。
(2) 加熱時間の単位。常識的に「分」。
(3) ダイヤルの「0」の位置の表示。そして、「0」の位置だと、加熱が「止まっている」。
(4) 一旦スタートした加熱を「中断する(=途中でやめる)」ときにはダイヤル「0」の位置にレバーを戻す。



  • 細かく説明いただきましたね。仕様は思った以上によく考えていただいてました。 – keithmaxx Sep 20 '17 at 9:36
  • 素晴らしい説明です。一点だけ気になった所があり、”レバー”を0に戻すという点が気になりました.。lever と言うよりはknob とか handle でしょうか。 – user25382 Sep 22 '17 at 2:34
  • @kimi Tanaka: ご指摘ありがとうございます。日本語で回答した内容には自信がありますが、質問者や日本語に強くない方には申し訳ないと思っておりましたので、遅ればせながらなんとか英訳を試みました。拙{つたな}い点が多々あるのは承知の上です。遠慮なく直接添削お願い致します。大歓迎です。 – mackygoo Sep 22 '17 at 4:17
  • @mackygoo とんでもないです。leverでも分かるのかな、人によるんでしょうけれどね。タイマー⏲の中のテコの原理を用いているかも知れないのでleverでも良いのかなと思いました。設計者ではないので、本当にどうなっているのかは分かりません。 – user25382 Sep 22 '17 at 5:49

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