I recently found out emoji comes from the japanese characters e (meaning picture) and moji (meaning character).

What would the equivalent be for the japanese character meaning sound?

I tried using google translate but I was suspicious after I tried to find the english equivalent of picture and it gave me something other than e. But when i do Japanese to english with e it did give me picture in English.

  • 4
    Are you just asking how to say “sound” in Japanese? That would be 音 oto. If that is your question mark me a little confused about how the emoji stuff is related... Jun 12, 2019 at 20:41
  • Well, both pictures and characters are visual resources, so it makes sense to have characters made of pictures (i.e. えもじ). I'm not so sure how a sound, which is an audio resource, could make a visual character.
    – jarmanso7
    Jun 12, 2019 at 22:01
  • The closest thing I can think of are onomatopeia words made from sounds, but these are words, not characters.
    – jarmanso7
    Jun 12, 2019 at 22:02
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    On a side note, discovering the real meaning of emoji was a surprise for me as well, as I always assumed it was made out ouf "emotion" + じ (character)
    – jarmanso7
    Jun 12, 2019 at 22:07
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    I don't think OP is trying to find out something like "is おともじ a word?" but rather I think he is trying to find out how to pronounce 音 because he is doubtful of Google Translate after having learned that 絵 can be picture from 絵文字 but when he searched "picture" to verify GT's accuracy it gave him a different result.
    – psosuna
    Jun 12, 2019 at 22:18

1 Answer 1


I reread your question and thought I would retrace your steps. Yes, the translation that Google Translate gives for the word sound is correct in the character 音 pronounced おと(oto).

However, using Google Translate to look up a word or meaning of a character is generally a bad idea because there are things that it cannot translate well. If you put "Picture" in English, you might have gotten 画像 (gazou, which translates better as image) which is not nearly as common a word as 写真 (shashin, for photograph) or 絵 (e, for illustration)... There are definitely some nuances it is no good at capturing. As you can see, these are synonyms with a degree of non-overlap that can all be translated as picture.

I also have to give the disclaimer: 音 is a 漢字 (kanji), and how it is used in Japanese, that character 音 can be read in more than one way. The meaning won't change, but depending on whether it forms part of another word, the sound used to represent it can be different. This is a whole section of study in Japanese that can take years to master. However, 音 on its own IS read おと(oto).

That being said, I do suggest you look here to look up dictionaries and resources that can help you find other words you have curiosity about. In general, the link has good resources to get you started if you care to learn more of the Japanese language.

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