I want to know how Japanese dictionaries are organized, as Japanese doesn't use the roman alphabet "a,b,c,d..."

Do they instead organize words by あ、い、う、え、お? Or do they do it but kanji radical? Or something else?

  • 2
    Possible duplicate: japanese.stackexchange.com/q/58020/9831
    – Chocolate
    Dec 13 '18 at 16:45
  • Ok, so for kana that makes sense, but what about kanji? Do they have a separate dictionary?
    – user32245
    Dec 13 '18 at 16:48
  • 1
  • Oh, didn't think to check Wikipedia, thanks
    – user32245
    Dec 13 '18 at 16:50
  • 3
    There are two dictionary types: one that lists kanji characters and is just for kanji lookup, which is organized for 字形引き【じけいびき】, and another that is more like a dictionary that English speakers would be used to that lists words, not characters. A regular word dictionary in Japanese is (always?) organized by kana order, which (for the modern language) is your basic あ・い・う・え・お、か・き・く・け・こ、 etc. ordering. Dec 13 '18 at 17:36

The system is called 五十音 (gojuuon). There’s a decent description of it on Wikipedia. A web search on “Japanese alphabetical order” will help, also.

Wikipedia 五十音 article

In the Japanese language, the gojūon (五十音, Japanese pronunciation: [ɡo(d)ʑɯꜜːoɴ], lit. "fifty sounds") is a traditional system ordering kana by their component phonemes, roughly analogous to alphabetical order. The "fifty" (gojū) in its name refers to the 5×10 grid in which the characters are displayed. Each kana, which may be a hiragana or katakana character, corresponds to one sound in Japanese. As depicted at the right using hiragana characters, the sequence begins with あ (a), い (i), う (u), え (e), お (o), then continues with か (ka), き (ki), く (ku), け (ke), こ (ko), and so on and so forth for a total of ten rows of five columns.


The gojūon order is the prevalent system for collating Japanese in Japan. For example, dictionaries are ordered using this method. Other systems used are the iroha ordering, and, for kanji, the radical ordering.

enter image description here

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy