Do you have to learn the kanji radical name? ex:こどもへん Do people use it? Thanks.

  • 2
    Can you clarify what you mean by use it ? – virmaior Dec 12 '17 at 9:47

Strictly speaking, no you don't have to learn the radical names.

It's far more important to learn the meanings of the radicals, rather than the names of them. Perhaps that's what you meant, I'm not sure. It's certainly useful to also know the names, in cases where you are specifically asking about the composition of a kanji. But learning the meanings is by far more important.

If possible, you should also learn the associated pronunciations of elements within kanji. There are many elements which have set pronunciations and lend that pronunciation to the overall reading of the character. For example, the character 寺 has the on-yomi ジ. When this element appears as part of other kanji characters, the on-yomi of the whole character is often ジ. 時、持、侍 etc are read as ジ. This isn't a 'rule' because other characters do not behave that way. But there are many examples where knowing an element's reading can provide a general guideline as to how to read a character in which it appears.

Therefore, my advice is to focus on learning the meanings and readings of radicals and elements as a priority. You can learn the names later.


I’m from Japan and learned radical names (部首 in Japanese language) in elementary school. So the answer to the first question is yes. I think there’s some reasons but the main reason is to memorize kanji more easily.

You might know kanji is a logogram. So a radical name is deeply associated with the kanji meaning it composes of. So learning them will help you to memorize kanji itself. For example, 貝(かい) means ‘shell’ and there are a lot of kanji containing shell radical name, like 貯 買 賞, which relate to ‘trade and money’. This is because in ancient times people used shells as coins.

And Japanese people sometimes use radical names when they want to explain how to write kanji. Like this,

“Ah, do you know how to write つたない?”

“Write てへん (hand radical name) and 出{で}る next to it.”

I hope this will help you. :)

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