I'm a graphic designer and illustrator working on a personal character design project about animals made out of combining different asymmetrical figures.

I've been trying to choose a name for my project, and I found out about this Japanese kanji '図' (romanized 'Zu') which according to various dictionaries that I have consulted, means "figure" but also means: illustration, drawing, and most importantly "diagram".

I don't trust these dictionaries enough though, so what I need to know is if '図' is really used to say "figure" or "illustration" in Japanese since I want the project to be called 'Zumals', a word combination between that word 'Zu' from Japanese, and the word 'animals' taken from English.

  • You could just call it "zu" as an approximate homonym for the English word "zoo" if you are designing pictures of animals. Because frankly, "zumals" just sounds dumb as hell. May 1, 2021 at 20:58
  • @JansthcirlU thanks, I also thought about that homonym, the "-mals" thing was just the first thing a thought when I was thinking about a name, but I think I'm going to change it, the style of my illustrations is childish and they include various wild animals, they're designs made from scratch.
    – Rainer
    May 1, 2021 at 22:15
  • 2
    I don't know why some people are trying to mark this as a "translation request". While this question may seem a bit elementary, I think this is a valid and focused question with enough research effort and background information.
    – naruto
    May 2, 2021 at 9:39
  • 1
    "Zumals" rather sounds like German to me... May 2, 2021 at 12:02
  • Just makes me think of "zoo"
    – flowsnake
    May 2, 2021 at 18:27

2 Answers 2


図 ("zu") is a word that primarily refers to technical diagrams and illustrations. A typical 図 is something shown in this page:


Technical illustrations are also 図, but artistic illustrations are not.

図 and non-図

The English word "figure" has many meanings. 図 refers to "figure" as in "This research paper has one table and four figures".

So the first thing you have to do is check if you're really making a 図 like the ones shown above.

However, even if you're actually making 図, that's not enough. Technically speaking, "zumal" is a portmanteau, but 図 is a very short word. It's very unlikely that anyone who is familiar with both English and Japanese will notice your intention by looking at this word. If that's not a problem to you, go ahead, but if you're thinking of using "zumal" as a catchy title, you may want to reconsider.


The Kanji Learner's Course lists this kanji with the keyword "drawing". It's not strictly the meaning of the kanji, but most of the time words containing 図 will be related to that meaning. Kanji, in general, don't have a meaning directly translatable to English.

Some examples:
図書館 (toshokan) Library
図鑑 (zukan) Pictorial book
図表 (zuhyou) Diagram

  • One more example: Map -- 地図 (chizu)
    – ajsmart
    May 1, 2021 at 23:48
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    図 (ず) is a very common independent word. You can say 図を書く, このページには2個の図がある, etc.
    – naruto
    May 2, 2021 at 3:00
  • You are right. I focused too much on the kanji itself, and I forgot some kanji are also words. Good catch!
    – oscarlima
    May 2, 2021 at 19:49

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