I've noticed that Delta variant and so forth is translated using 株.

I've always understood this kanji to primarily deal with things regarding stocks, business, and so forth.

I also see from my dictionary the kanji can be used as a counter for small plants, which is the closest thing in my head so far that I can connect to then mean a variant for a virus; viruses aren't exactly plants but they are small organisms in a sense.

I also searched the kanji on this website and of its listed meanings none of them really clicked with me enough to explain how this could mean a variant of a virus. The 地位 or 評価 in definition 1 in my head could maybe logically lead to meaning variant, the status or evaluation of the virus?

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    As a native speaker, I think 株 for a stock company sounds similar since the company more or less is controlled by the stock holders(i.e 株主). The variant of Corona virus has almost the same nature by the root even if some of DNA has changed. Probably it does not sound a clear cut, but the counter 株 works fine for the variants and unit of a stock. The researchers warned us try not to mistake 種 and 株. cf. 【重要】変異「種」の誤用について(報道機関 各位) Jul 20, 2021 at 13:42
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    The Wikipedia article suggests some link to this .
    – aguijonazo
    Jul 20, 2021 at 17:14

1 Answer 1


株 originally referred to tree stumps, from which new stems sprouted. It then came to mean a unit of plants (consisting of several stems made up of one or more individuals).

Such unit of plants can be multiplied by 株分け, where this unit is broken up and divided into smaller 株s which grow individually, and can then be divided again (see here). The procedure to maintain microorganisms like bacteria, virus, cells is similar, and thus 株 is used to refer to these strains.

According to a dictionary, the etymology for stock is:

Perhaps the notion is of the "trunk" from which gains are an outgrowth


And this is perhaps why 株 was used to translating stock.

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