In the English Wiktionary entry for "を" there is a quote or example sentence using the character "乎" with no explanation seemingly where the particle "を" would normally occur.

Now I couldn't find anything in either the entry for "乎" or "を" about them being historically connected via man'yōgana, and Google searches failed to turn up anything conclusive either.

In fact I don't know much about man'yōgana at all so could it be that any character with the right reading could be used for "を"?

  • 2
    Another kanji for learners to over-use! hehehe...
    – Kaji
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 11:02
  • 1
    If you're interested in this stuff I recommend reading "A History of the Japanese Language" by Bjarke Frellesvig.
    – HAL
    Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 16:22

1 Answer 1


Yes, it was one form. From here:

奈良時代には、「オ」は [o] 、「ヲ」は [wo] と発音されており明確な区別があった。借字(万葉仮名)では、オには意・憶・於・應(応)・隱(隠)・乙などの字が用いられる一方、「ヲ」には乎・呼・袁・遠・鳥・鳴・怨・越・少・小・尾・麻・男・緒・雄などが用いられていた


In the Nara period, オ was pronounced as "o" and ヲ was pronounced as "wo", and were clearly distinguished. [借字]{しゃくじ}(Manyogana) used 意・憶・於・應(応)・隱(隠)・乙, etc. for オ and 乎・呼・袁・遠・鳥・鳴・怨・越・少・小・尾・麻・男・緒・雄 for ヲ.

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