As we know this kanji means "divide / part / minute / understand" and many other meanings but these are the main meanings .. and I can understand the first two because they are related to the etymology of the kanji but I can't understand the meanings "minute" and "understand"...

I read before something like "because it meant part and minute is part of the hour it also meant minute", but I think this is not a clear explanation, because for example second is a part of the minute and the hour is a part of the day so why does this kanji especially mean 'minute'?

And for the last meaning I didn't find any explanation .. how does this kanji mean "understand"?

  • 7
    Note that, in English, "minute" and "second" also come from the concept of dividing an hour into parts. They come from the Latin terms "pars minuta prima" (first small part) and "pars minuta secunda" (second small part), so the association of subdivisions of an hour with terms meaning "divide" is not unique to 分. Commented Mar 13, 2019 at 0:24
  • 5
    You may find that "Understanding" has much similarity to "breaking something down into distinguishable parts" where the distinguishing is what allows someone to understand something
    – psosuna
    Commented Mar 13, 2019 at 0:38
  • This would make sense!
    – user32763
    Commented Mar 13, 2019 at 0:39

1 Answer 1


In Japanese, "understanding" is actually addressed with the intransitive verb 分かります, which means "it breaks down", i.e. "this breaks down/makes sense (for me)":


Note that 日本語 (Japanese) is the subject here (hence が), and it's the thing doing the breaking down, or in more 'English' terms, being understandable/comprehensible. The Japanese usage is, of course, a bit more metaphorical.

As for hours/minutes, this is largely educated conjecture on my part, but it's pretty reasonable to consider minutes as being merely divisions or parts of an hour.

  • 2
    Not sure what the down-vote is for. Is my understanding of "understanding" incorrect?
    – db2
    Commented Mar 13, 2019 at 19:10
  • I think i got it
    – user32763
    Commented Mar 14, 2019 at 3:34

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