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凍, does it have the water radical on the left? Why is this three strokes in some words and two strokes in others?

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While 「氵」 is indeed an abbreviation of 「水」 (water), it is rather unfortunate that the colloquial name of 「冫」 in both Chinese and Japanese implies that 「冫」 has something to do with water. To emphasise, 「冫」 does not have anything to do with water, unless the appearance of 「冫」 is due to graphical corruption from 「氵」.


西周

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⿱𠂤一丞卣
集成5318


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日乙227 冬
睡虎地秦簡


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「冫」 was originally a picture of forged metal plates, now written as 「鉼」 (Zhengzhang OC: /*peŋʔ/). It was later borrowed to represent the morpheme now written as 「冰」 (/*pŋrɯŋ/, ice) via the rebus principle.

As a stand-alone character, 「冫」 thus represents the two morphemes

  • [鉼]{へい}, metal (plates)

  • [冰]{ひょう} (Shinjitai: 氷), ice


In accordance with how Chinese characters work, as a character component, 「冫」 may impart either a meaning hint, a sound hint, or both a meaning and sound hint to the character it is part of. These meaning and sound hints are taken from the morphemes that it represents; that is, if you see 「冫」 as part of a character 「X」, you should be thinking to yourself about one of the following:

  • X sounds like へい
  • X sounds like ひょう
  • X has something to do with metal (plates)
  • X has something to do with ice
  • X both sounds like へい and has something to do with metal (plates)
  • X both sounds like ひょう and has something to do with ice

Examples:

  • 冶 - to smelt metal
  • 匀 - ancient weight measurement, now written as 「鈞」
  • 金 - きん, metal, compound of 「冫」 (metal plates), semantic 「王」 (metal battle weapon > power/authority > king) and phonetic 「今」 (also きん). See What is the etymology of the kanji 金?
  • 冷 - cold
  • 冬 - winter
  • 凍 - freeze
  • 馮 - びょう, ひょう

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I can give you a hint:

In 冷たい、the key on the left side in the kanji 冷 depicts : "ice with a few cracks on it". Source: https://www.amazon.com/Key-Kanji-History-Characters-Japanese/dp/0887277365

I cannot affirm with certitude that is the same radical as in 凍 though.

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  • FYI: that description of 冫 is incorrect. – dROOOze Mar 14 '20 at 22:19
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The radical on the left of 冷 and 凍 is called にすい (二水) but it's not the usual "water radical" which is さんずい (三水). You'll just have to count the strokes.

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