the kanji 隣 tonari, it is formed by:
- the radical ⻖ : こざとへん hill, mounds;
- the radical 舛 : まいあし contrary, to err;
- the kanji 米 : ベイ rice.

Knowing such components, if it is possible, how can I conclude that that kanji means neighbor? What is the reasoning to follow? Many Thanks.

  • 1
    I won't make this an answer, because it is a personal device and rooted on opinion, but in order to remember things like these I'll create a mnemonic-like story for the components to describe it to me. So, we have, hill, contrary, and rice. It makes me think of "rice" as indicative of someone keeping it. So, "rice not on this hill but the other one belongs to my neighbor"
    – psosuna
    Oct 24, 2018 at 18:20
  • 1
    The character system is filled with components which mostly only contribute sound. IMO this should be just accepted, rather than trying to make mnemonics for everything, which will end up doing harm when you're spending more effort to memorise the mnemonic rather than the meaning of the character itself. Not that most of these are commonly seen characters in Japanese, but 僯, 隣, 撛, 噒, 獜, 潾, 憐, 嫾, 璘, 橉, 轔, 暽, 膦, 燐, 磷, 瞵, 鄰, 䫰, 嶙, 驎, 麟, 繗, 蹸, 鏻, 鱗, 疄, 㔂, 䗲, 䚏, 䚬, 亃, 粼, 甐, 斴, 翷, 遴 are all just pronounced something like りん - "rice" + "contrary" is not going to get you very far.
    – dROOOze
    Oct 25, 2018 at 8:00
  • @droooze can you explain better this concept. I think this is the key concept to be able to memorize many kanjis. Thanks!
    – JB-Franco
    Oct 28, 2018 at 18:29

2 Answers 2


「隣」was originally an administrative unit of a group of households in ancient China, relating to the size of villages/towns/cities. This definition was extended to mean neighbour. The orthodox structure「鄰」is comprised of semantic「⻖/邑」(town, city) and phonetic「[粦]{りん}」.

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This structure is important for the explanation, as「⻖」is the おおざと component on the right rather than the こざと component「阜」on the left.

「阜」depicts a row of hill mounds, used in characters to do with hills or arrays, e.g.

  • 「陰/陽」, north/south side of a hill
  • 「阪」, slope
  • 「隊」, team/group ("an array of people")
  • 「陣」, battle formation ("an array of war chariots"「車」)

In Japanese, the variant structure「隣」was chosen as the standard which switched「⻖」to the left hand side, so you'll have to make an exception in this occurrence of「⻖」.

「粦」only contributes to sound, not meaning, in this character. As far as I can recall, the only character where「粦」contributes etymology (and hence meaning) is「燐」(phosphorus).

「粦」was the original character of「燐」, which refers to the will-o'-the-wisp/ignus fatuus ghost fire phenomenon, where green lights are seen around decomposing bodies. The modern meaning phosphorus of「燐」is due to much of the decaying organic compounds containing this element.

「粦」was originally comprised of「大」(frontal view of an adult > big), representing a decaying body, and additional small markings around it, indicating will-o'-the-wisp lights.

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Later on, feet*「舛」were added, and the body + dots were corrupted into「炎」and then further corrupted into「米」.


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*「舛 : まいあし」refers to the bottom component ([足]{あし}) of「[舞]{まい}」; the meaning opposing > contrary is an extension of「舛」depicting a pair of (opposing shaped/left + right) feet.



Etymologically, none. Because it is a phono-semantic compound in Chinese, where the semantic element 阝 “city, town” is added over a phonetic 粦 [rins] to produce the meaning “something connected to the city pronounced almost like [rins]” (actually [rin]; in modern Mandarin lín and also lín, in Japanese both are りん).

As for an association to jelp remember the kanji, just imagine a rice feast and dance (treat 舛 as the lower part of 舞, to dance) party behind the sturdy 阝 wall of your neighbour :D .

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