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Radical (Chinese character)

A radical (from Latin radix, meaning "root") is a basic identifiable component of every Chinese character, namely, of the Chinese Hanzi, the Japanese Kanji, and the Korean Hanja. The name is an English translation of the characters 部首 (bu4 shou3 in Chinese; bushu in Japanese; busu in Korean), literally meaning "partial head", where "head" means "the most important (part)".

Radicals are used in Chinese dictionaries, Kanji-Japanese dictionaries, and Hanja-Korean dictionaries to order characters in sets by the number of strokess they contain.

Full characters are ordered according to their initial radicals, which fall into roughly 214 types (give or take 1 or 2, depending on the dictionary). Then these are subcategorised by their total number of strokes.

This principle of categorisation is exploited by everybody who must learn to write Han characters: The vast number of Chinese characters can be much more easily memorized if they are mentally decomposed into their constituent radicals.

Table of contents
1 How to use radicals in dictionary
2 List of radicals

How to use radicals in dictionary

The commonly used system, known as the "radical-and-stroke-count" method, makes use of the fact that Chinese characters (total number very approximately 5,000-50,000) are assembled from some 1,000-2,000 subcomponents. Of those subcomponents a few hundred are designated as "radicals" for indexing purposes. The most commonly encountered radicals are very basic ideograms, representing simple concepts like "man (人)," "sun (日)," or "tree (木)". The steps involved in looking up a character are (a) identify the radical under which the character is most likely to have been indexed; (b) find the section of the dictionary associated with that radical; (c) count the number of brush or pen strokes in the non-radical portion of the character; (d) find the pages listing characters under that radical that have that number of additional strokes; (e) find the appropriate entry or experiment with different choices for steps a and c.

For example, (信) (man standing next to his words(mouth with sound) meaning truth, faith, fidelity, sincerity, trust, confidence, reliance, or devotion. This particular character is composed of the radical for "man," and 7 additional strokes. To look this up one by the multi-radical method, [1] one finds the radical for "man" in the dictionary (most dictionaries will have an index page to help with this step) and then passes through 1 additional stroke, 2 additional strokes, etc. until one finds entries for 7 additional strokes. If the radical chosen by the user matches the radical used by the dictionary compiler (not a problem in this simple example, but it can be tricky), and if both user and dictionary compiler count strokes the same way (occasionally a problem), the entry will be found.

List of radicals

The following is the list of radicals in order of the number of strokess. The list is from Radical-Stroke Index of Unihan Database [1]

One stroke

一 one, 丨 line, 丶 dot, 丿 slash, 乙 second and 亅 hook.

Two strokes

二 two, 亠 lid, 人 man, 儿 legs, 入 enter, 八 eight, 冂 down box, 冖 cover, 冫 ice, 几 table, 凵 open box, 刀 knife, 力 power, 勹 wrap, 匕 spoon, 匚 right open box, 匸 hiding enclosure, 十 ten, 卜 divination, 卩 seal, 厂 cliff, 厶 private and 又 again

Three strokes

口 mouth, 囗 enclosure, 土 earth, 士 scholar, 夂 go, 夊 go slowly, 夕 evening, 大 big, 女 woman, 子 child, 宀 roof, 寸 inch, 小 small, 尢 lame, 尸 corpse, 屮 sprout, 山 mountain, 川 river, 工 work, 己 oneself, 巾 turban, 干 dry, 幺 short thread, 广 dotted cliff, 廴 long stride, 廾 two hands, 弋 shoot, 弓 bow, 彐 snout, 彡 bristle and 彳 step

Four strokes

心 heart, 戈 halberd, 戶; door, 手 hand, 支 branch, 攴 rap, 文 script, 斗 dipper, 斤 axe, 方 square, 不 not, 日 sun, 曰 say, 月 moon, 木 tree, 无 lack, 止 stop, 歹 death, 殳 weapon, 毋 do not, 比 compare, 毛 fur, 氏 clan, 气 steam, 水 water, 火 fire, 爪 claw, 父 father, 爻 double x, 爿 half tree trunk, 片 slice, 牙 fang, 牛 cow, and 犬 dog

Five strokes

玄 profound, 玉 jade, 瓜 melon, 瓦 tile, 甘 sweet, 生 life, 用 use, 田 field, 疋 bolt of cloth, 疒 sickness, 癶 dotted tent, 白 white, 皮 skin, 皿 dish, 目 eye, 矛 spear, 矢 arrow, 石 stone, 示 spirit, 禸 track, 禾 grain, 穴 cave, and 立 stand.

Six strokes

竹 bamboo, 米 rice, 糸 silk, 缶 jar, 网 net, 羊 sheep, 羽 feather, 老 old, 而 and, 耒 plow, 耳 ear, 聿 brush, 肉 meat, 臣 minister, 自 self, 至 arrive, 臼 mortar, 舌 tongue, 舛 oppose, 舟 boat, 艮 stopping, 色 color, 艸 grass, 虍 tiger, 虫 insect, 血 blood, 行 walk enclosure, 衣 clothes, and 襾 west.

Seven strokes

見 see, 角 horn, 信 speech, 谷 valley, 豆 bean, 豖 pig, 豸 badger, 貝 shell, 赤 red, 走 run, 足 foot, 身 body, 車 cart, 辛 bitter, 辰 morning, 辵 (辶) walk, 邑 city, 酉 wine, 釆 distinguish, and, 里 village.

Eight strokes

金 gold, 長 long, 門 gate, 阜 mound, 隶 slave, 隹 short tailed bird, 雨 rain, 藍 blue, and, 非 wrong.

Nine strokes

面 face, 革 leather, 韋 tanned leather, 韭 leek, 音 sound, 頁 leaf, 風 wind, 飛 fly, 食 eat, 首 head, and, 香 fragrant.

Ten strokes

馬 horse, 骨 bone, 高 tall, 髟 hair, 鬥 fight, 鬯 sacrificial wine, 鬲 cauldron, and, 鬼 ghost.

Eleven strokes

魚 fish, 鳥 bird, 鹵 alkaline, 鹿 dear, 麥 wheat, and, 麻 hemp.

Twelve strokes

黃 yellow, 黍 millet, 黑 black, and, 黹 needlework.

Thirteen strokes

黽 strive, 鼎 tripod, 鼓 drum, and, 鼠 rat.

Fourteen strokes

鼻 nose, and 齊 uniformly.

Fifteen strokes

齒 tooth.

Sixteen strokes

龍 dragon, and 龜 tortoise.

Seventeen strokes

龠 measuring vessel.