When looking at counter words, there seems to be a part that has a number, and a part that stays more or less the same. For example, the counter words for hours of a day are ichi-ji, ni-ji, san-ji. What's the term for the ichi/ni/san part, and what's the term for the "ji" part?

  • I'm guessing that you're looking for something more technical than "count" and "counter word"... May 21, 2012 at 21:33
  • @Ignacio it needs to sound more Japanese-y, like "countu" and "counteru worudo".
    – Golden Cuy
    May 21, 2012 at 21:50
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    @AndrewGrimm I have no idea how you came up with that spelling, but if those words were ever to be borrowed into Japanese, and you romanize them, they would be kaunto and kauntaa-waado, pretty much different from what you have.
    – user458
    May 24, 2012 at 14:12
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    I thought what people usually refer to by "counters" is what you refer to by the "part that stays the more or less the same".
    – user458
    May 24, 2012 at 14:15

2 Answers 2


After a bit of poking around, it looks like you're looking for 「[数]{かず}」 and 「[助数詞]{じょすうし}」.

  • Where did you "poke" around to find this? 助数詞 is correct, but I'd be more apt to say instead of .
    – istrasci
    May 21, 2012 at 22:18
  • I got 「助数詞」 via Wikipedia, and then did a search for "kazu" and "josuushi" together. I get non-dictionary results for that query, but not for "atai" , "ne" or "chi". May 21, 2012 at 22:30
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    It might help if you say which word means what so that people don't have to go look up the words elsewhere.
    – atlantiza
    May 21, 2012 at 22:47

The first part is called 基数詞 (cardinal number) or (as pointed out by Tsuyoshi Ito) 数詞 (numeral). The second part is called (as Ignacio correctly notes) 助数詞 (classifier). Cf. Wikipedia.

  • Is it common to classify numbers in Japanese as 基数詞? (I see that Wikipedia states so, but I am asking this because you might know better than Wikipedia.) It seems strange to me to call numbers in Japanese as 基数詞 because they are used as both cardinal numbers and ordinal numbers. I thought that they are called just 数詞. May 24, 2012 at 14:44
  • @TsuyoshiIto As long as you talk within the context of languages where cardinals and ordinals are the same, I think what you say is one way to think, and is correct. An alternative way, which I assumed in the answer, is to say that they coincide in those languages, or that those languages lack either of them (presumably ordinals) and say that cardinals are also used for ordering. But I think there is no clear consensus on this, and you can think the way you like.
    – user458
    May 24, 2012 at 14:57

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