Appendix:Japanese glossary

A glossary of Japanese linguistic terms used in the body of this dictionary. see also Appendix:Glossary for terms not specific to Japanese. This page can be linked to using {{ja-glossary}} or {{glink/ja}}.

Contents: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
  • Ateji (当て字) – kanji representing a sound that is not from the original phoneme associated with the kanji's used reading. Example: 寿()() (on’yomi is associated with Sinitic phoneme, but the word is non-Sinitic), ()(けい) (originally unrelated kanji ()(けい)). In some ateji, kanji is chosen to make it a phono-semantic matching, e.g. (おお)()().
  • Bound form (()(ふく)(けい) (hifukukei)) – a unit of language that can only be used as part of a word, not as a word on its own; in Japanese, these manifest in a special way in certain words which have both free and bound forms: can be used freely as かみ (kami), or in forms compounds (e.g. (かむ)さぶ (kamusabu)) as かむ (kamu). Other examples of free-bound pairs include 雨 (あめ/あま), 稲 (いね/いな), 酒 (さけ/さか), 木 (き/こ).
  • Commonly used kanji – English translation of Jōyō kanji.
  • Daiyōji (代用字) – a kanji in the jōyō kanji or tōyō kanji list that is used to replace another kanji not in the list. The two kanji are usually homophonic or semi-homophonic.
  • Gikun (義訓) has two meanings:
    1. Synonym of jukujikun.
    2. The use of a kanji for its meaning, i.e. kun'yomi. Sometimes used when a new kanji with a narrower meaning replaces (possibly several) previously-used kanji in a term, e.g. 蔑 in 蔑ろ.
  • Go-on (呉音) – the kanji pronunciation before the arrival of Kan’on. One of the on’yomi categories. Goon is the earliest of all borrowed pronunciations, mostly used in Buddhist terms.
  • Grade n kanji – one of the grade divisions of the kyōiku kanji (educational kanji) ranging from 1 through 6. "Grade S" refers to kanji taught in secondary school.
  • Hyōgaiji (表外字) – kanji outside the jōyō kanji and jinmeiyō kanji lists; most (but not all) such kanji are written in kyūjitai (traditional characters). Also known as 表外漢字 (hyōgai kanji).
  • Kanji (漢字) – Chinese characters that are used in the Japanese writing system.
  • Kan’on (漢音) – the kanji pronunciation brought to Japan during the Japanese missions to Tang China. One of the on’yomi categories. Kan’on resembles the contemporary Chang'an Chinese dialect, and is more systematic compared to other borrowings.
  • Kan’yōon (慣用音) – the kanji pronunciation derived from a corrupted or changed form of other regular on’yomi. One of the on’yomi categories.
  • Kateikei (仮定形) – A katsuyōkei used for conditional and subjunctive forms, using the -ba ending.
    Termed Izenkei (已然形) in the Classical and Old Japanese, where this form was also used as the main verb in an exclamatory sentence.
  • Katsuyōkei (活用形) – In traditional Japanese grammar, the 6 "stem forms", mizenkei, ren’yōkei, shūshikei, rentaikei, kateikei and meireikei, from which all the others may be derived in a similar fashion to the principal parts used for Latin and other languages.
    Originated in the Edo period, the katsuyōkei system more closely reflects the vowels of the Classical Japanese verbs than the modern ones. It fails to address some euphonic sound shift in Modern Japanese such as the -a/-o split in mizenkei. Moreover, this system has been criticized because the six forms are not equivalent, with one being solely a combinatory stem, three solely word forms, and two being both. It also fails to capture some inflected forms. However, five of the forms are basic inflected verb forms, and the system also describes almost all extended forms consistently.
  • Kun’yomi (訓読み) – a reading of a kanji that is not derived from the kanji's original pronunciation borrowed from Chinese.
    • Most kun'yomi are of native Japonic origin, with a few exceptions:
      1. Borrowed from Chinese, but attributed to a different kanji, e.g. (ひど) (hidoi) from Chinese-derived ()(どう) (hidō).
      2. Borrowed from languages other than Chinese, e.g. (マイル) (mairu).
        • Most of this kind of kun'yomi are dated, and are now replaced by pure katakana, e.g. マイル.
    • Kun’yomi is limited to single-kanji readings. For similar readings of inseparable multi-kanji terms, see jukujikun.
  • Kokkun (国訓) — a kanji kun reading with a meaning different from its original Chinese meaning.
  • Kokuji (国字) – kanji made specifically for the Japanese language. Some of these have been adopted into other languages that use Chinese characters.
  • Kyōiku kanji (教育漢字) – Elementary school kanji; literally, “educational kanji”. The elementary level of the jōyō kanji, divided into 6 grades.
  • Kyūjitai (旧字体) – Japanese traditional characters; literally “old character forms”. This term often refers to the pre-reform appearance of characters in the jōyō list.[1] Opposite to shinjitai. Visually resemble closely to Chinese traditional characters and virtually identical to Korean hanja, with occasional differences.
  • Meireikei (命令形) – A katsuyōkei expressing the imperative mood.
  • Mizenkei (未然形) – A katsuyōkei used for plain negative (of verbs), causative and passive constructions. The most common use of this form is with the -nai auxiliary that turns verbs into their negative form. The -ō version is used for volitional expression and formed by a euphonic change.
    This form never occurs in isolation but only as a stem to which several particles and auxiliaries are attached. This stem originated from resegmentation of an initial *a of several suffixes (auxiliary verbs) as part of the stem.
  • Nanori (名乗り) – special kanji readings used exclusively in Japanese names. The nanori reading of a kanji is often a pronunciation assumed from its synonym or near-synonym.
  • On’yomi (音読み) – a reading of a kanji that is derived from the kanji's original pronunciation borrowed from Chinese, or rarely as in kan’yōon, misunderstood as being so. On’yomi readings are generally categorized into goon, kan’on, tōon and kan’yōon.
    • On'yomi is a "closed" category, i.e, it does not acquire new members. New borrowings of Chinese characters' pronunciations after the 20th century are generally not considered to be on'yomi.
  • Okurigana (送り仮名) – kana suffixes following kanji stems. For example, in 見る, is okurigana.
  • Rendaku (連濁) – voicing of an unvoiced initial consonant in a non-initial component of a word. Usually seen when joining words or morphemes together and in reduplication.
  • Renjō (連声) – sandhi, a kind of sound fusion between morphemes, such as (てん)(のう) whose pronunciation is not ten’ō (ten + ō), but tennō. Compare Middle English nekename (whence English nickname), from reinterpreting an ekename as a nekename; see also earlier Middle English ekename (nickname).
  • Rentaikei (連体形) – A katsuyōkei prefixed to nominals and is used to define or classify the noun, similar to a relative clause in English. In modern Japanese it is practically identical to shūshikei, except that verbs are generally not inflected for politeness; in old Japanese these forms differed. Further, na-nominals behave differently in shūshikei and rentaikei positions.
    This form was also used independently as verbal nouns in the Classical and Old Japanese. Such usage is obsolete in the Modern Japanese, only remaining in some set phrases.
  • Ren’yōkei (連用形) – A katsuyōkei used in a linking role (a kind of serial verb construction). This is the most productive stem form, taking on a variety of endings and auxiliaries, and can even occur independently in a sense similar to the -te ending. This form is also used as verbal nouns, which can mean any of the action, the agent, or the result of a verb.
    This form is believed to have been derived from the verb stem + Proto-Japonic *-i.
  • Shinjitai (新字体) – Japanese simplified characters; literally “new character forms”. Opposite to kyūjitai. Used for all regulated kanji, meaning jinmeiyō kanji, including jōyō kanji.
  • Shūshikei (終止形) – A katsuyōkei used at the ends of clauses in predicate positions. This form is also variously known as plain form (基本形) or dictionary form (辞書形) – it is the form that verbs are listed under in a dictionary. It was used also before modal extensions, final particles, and some conjunctional particles.
    Shūshikei merged with rentaikei by about 1600, but the distinction is preserved in the Ryukyuan languages and the Hachijōjima dialects.
  • Tōon (唐音), also called sōon (宋音) or tōsōon (唐宋音) – the kanji pronunciation brought to Japan since the Kamakura period, with some as late as in the Qing dynasty. One of the on’yomi categories. Tōon is relatively rare and irregular, as they were introduced piecemeal from China, often along with very specialized terminology. Tōon's distinctive features include:
    • Chinese coda /ŋ/ is transcribed as nasal /N/, instead of close vowels (usually /u/).
    • Chinese entering tone codas -p, -t, -k are dropped completely.
  • Uncommon kanji – English translation of Hyōgaiji.
  • Wasei eigo (和製英語) – Japanese-made pseudo-anglicisms: Japanese coinages which derive their roots from English, but which are otherwise not real English words, for example カッターナイフ (kattānaifu, boxcutter, literally cutter knife), from English cutter + knife. Some wasei eigo are further re-imported into English, such as (perhaps) サラリーマン (sararīman). (See also   Wasei eigo on Wikipedia.Wikipedia )
  • Wasei kango (和製漢語) – Japanese-made Chinese words: Japanese coinages which derive their roots from Chinese, or are created from individual characters' on'yomi readings concatenated together. Such words are formed in Japan, do not originally exist in Chinese, and are not used by Chinese speakers (unless such words are re-borrowed back into Chinese).
  • Yoji jukugo (四字熟語) – a four-kanji compound word, often of Chinese origin; many yojijukugo express an idiom or proverb.
    • In its broad sense, this term encompasses virtually all lexemes that are written using four Chinese characters in a row, regardless of their usage or meaning.
    • In its narrow sense, it traditionally only refers to specific subsets, such as those expressing idiomatic meanings that cannot be inferred from the constituent kanji.
    • A term is more likely to be agreed to be a yojijukugo if it has seen long-standing use, as many originally borrowed from Chinese have.
  • Yutōyomi (湯桶読み) – pronunciation of a two-kanji compound, with the first kanji kun’yomi and the second on’yomi.


  1. ^ 旧字体”, in デジタル大辞泉 [Digital Daijisen]‎[1] (in Japanese), Tōkyō: Shogakukan, updated roughly every four months