KM Scholar adjectives

Japanese adjectives

This revision page is generally useful for learning and revising Japanese adjectives, not least for users of Kanji Memories videos on Kanji Memories You Tube Channel. If you do not already subscribe to Kanji Memories on YouTube, please do so now.

Use for quick revision only not reference. Does not cover adjectives used with 'no'.

Large 大, Little 小, Tall 高, Many 多, Long 長, Wide 広, Allowed 可, Good 良, Bad 悪, Fond of 好, Pleasurable (Music) 楽, Beautiful 美, Bright 明, Fresh 鮮, New 新, Old 古, Early 早, Heavy 重, Nearby 近, Cheap or Peaceful 安, Empty 空, Blue 青, Special 特, Dark 暗, Friendly 友, Soft 軟, Spicy 辛, Needed 要

Large 大. A man standing with arms outstretched is large.
Large is as the Kanji for 人 'person' with added arms stretched out.
on and kun readings
YouTube link 大

  1. 大きい (おおきい) - i adj - big, large
  2. 大きな (おおきな) - pre-noun adjectival - big, large
  3. 大胆 (だいたん) - na adj - bold, daring
  4. 大事 (だいじ) - na adj - important, valuable
  5. 大雑把 (おおざっぱ) - na adj - rough, crude, broad

Little 小. Just three drops make little difference.
Little is very simple, and was probably originally just three grains of sand.
on and kun readings
YouTube link 小

  1. 小さい (ちいさい) - i adj - small, little
  2. 小さな (ちいさな) - pre-noun adjectival - small, little
  3. 小柄 (こがら) - na adj - small stature, petite

Tall 高. This tall tower has two openings, one hidden under a box and one just under the lid.
Tall uses a 口 'mouth' as an opening twice, plus a 亠 'lid' and an 冂 'upside down box'.
on and kun readings
YouTube link 高

  1. 高い (たかい) - i adj - high, tall, expensive
  2. 高価 (こうか) - na adj - expensive, high-priced
  3. 高級 (こうきゅう) - na adj - high-class, high-grade
  4. 高尚 (こうしょう) - na adj - noble, refined

Many 多. Double evenings make many moons.
Many is simply two 夕 'evening' symbols, a form of 月 'moon'.
on and kun readings
YouTube link 多

  1. 多い (おおい) - i adj - many, numerous
  2. 多岐 (たき) - na adj - diverse, various
  3. 多忙 (たぼう) - na adj - busy, bustling
  4. 多大 (ただい) - na adj - great, significant

Long 長. Three strands of hair so long it needs a hair tie and two clips.
Long is a complex shape which we think of as three strands of hair at the top, plus ties.
on and kun readings
YouTube link 長

  1. 長い (ながい) - i adj - long
  2. 長大 (ちょうだい) - na adj - huge, very long
  3. 長閑 (のどか) - na adj - peaceful, tranquil

Wide 広. This cliff is where I have to spread myself wide.
Wide has 广 'stony cliff' (stony because of the dot on top) with ム which we call 'myself'.
on and kun readings
YouTube link 広

  1. 広い (ひろい) - i adj - wide, spacious
  2. 広大 (こうだい) - na adj - vast, extensive
  3. 広範 (こうはん) - na adj - wide-ranging, extensive

Allowed 可. They allow mouths to be nailed on this street.
Allowed combines 口 'mouth' and what we call 丁 'nail'.
on and kun readings
YouTube link 可

  1. 可能 (かのう) - na adj - possible, feasible
  2. 不可能 (ふかのう) - na adj - impossible, not feasible
  3. 可愛い (かわいい) - i adj - cute, adorable
  4. 可憐 (かれん) - na adj - lovely, charming
  5. 可笑しい (おかしい) - i adj - funny, strange

Good 良. White can be a good color if you add extras.
Good can be thought of as starting with 白 'white' with added lines at the bottom.
on and kun readings
YouTube link 良

  1. 良い (よい) / いい - i adj - good, fine
  2. 良好 (りょうこう) - na adj - good, favorable
  3. 良質 (りょうしつ) - na adj - high quality, superior

Bad 悪. It is bad for your heart to be under Asia.
Bad is made from 心 'heart' with a symbol which is most often seen being used for 亜 'Asia'.
on and kun readings
YouTube link 悪

  1. 悪い (わるい) - i adj - bad, poor, evil

Fond of 好. Every woman is fond of her child.
Fond of is made from 女 'woman' and 子 'child'.
on and kun readings
YouTube link 好

  1. 好き (すき) - na adj - liked, fond of
  2. 好ましい (このましい) - i adj - preferable, desirable
  3. 好い (よい/いい) - i adj - good, pleasant (less common form of the adjective "良い")

Pleasurable or Music 楽. Four sparks of white above a tree inspire music.
Pleasurable or Music has a 木 'tree' underneath the colour 白 'white' with four added sparks.
on and kun readings
YouTube link 楽

  1. 楽しい (たのしい) - i adj - fun, enjoyable
  2. 楽 (らく) - na adj - comfortable, easy
  3. 楽天的 (らくてんてき) - na adj - optimistic, carefree

Beautiful 美. Nothing is as beautiful to a poor peasant as a large sheep.
Beauty is made from a form of 羊 'sheep' over 大 'large' or 'big'.
on and kun readings
YouTube link 美

  1. 美しい (うつくしい) - i adj - beautiful
  2. 美味しい (おいしい) - i adj - delicious
  3. 美味 (びみ) - na adj - taste, flavor (often used in compound words)

Bright 明. Why is it so bright? Because you can see both the sun and the moon.
Bright contains 日 'sun' and 月 'moon'.
on and kun readings
YouTube link 明

  1. 明るい (あかるい) i adj - bright, cheerful
  2. 明らか (あきらか) na adj clear, obvious
  3. 明確 (めいかく) na adj - clear, precise
  4. 明朗 (めいろう) na adj - cheerful, bright
  5. 明瞭 (めいりょう) na adj - clear, plain
  6. 鮮明 (せんめい) - na adj - clear, vivid

Fresh 鮮. Sheep will go anywhere for fresh fish.
Fresh is simply made from the symbols for 魚 'fish' and 羊 'sheep' combined.
on and kun readings
YouTube link 鮮

  1. 鮮やか (あざやか) - na adj - vivid, bright, clear, fresh
  2. 鮮明 (せんめい) - na adj - clear, vivid

New 新. To start a new cabin, stand by a tree with an axe.
New has 斤 'axe' to the right, on the left is 立 'stand' over a form of 木 'tree'.
on and kun readings
YouTube link 新

  1. 新しい (あたらしい) - i adj - new, fresh
  2. 新鮮 (しんせん) - na adj - fresh, novel
  3. 新規 (しんき) - na adj - new, novel
  4. 新型 (しんがた) - na adj - new model, new type
  5. 新生 (しんせい) - na adj - new, reborn

Old 古. Ten mouths to feed would make you feel old.
Old combines 十 'ten' with 口 'mouth'.
on and kun readings
YouTube link 古

  1. 古い (ふるい) - i adj - old, ancient
  2. 古風 (こふう) - na adj - old-fashioned, classical

Early 早. Set an early trend, pin a sunflower to your top.
To remember Early we have 日 'sun' with 十 read as a 'needle'.
on and kun readings
YouTube link 早

  1. 早い (はやい) - i adj - early, fast, quick
  2. 早急 (さっきゅう) - na adj - urgent, immediate

Heavy or Pile up 重. A double wheeled vehicle can carry heavy loads.
We suggest Heavy is remembered by reference to similar symbol 車 'car'.
on and kun readings
YouTube link 重

  1. 重い (おもい) - i adj - heavy, serious, important
  2. 重要 (じゅうよう) - na adj - important, essential
  3. 重厚 (じゅうこう) - na adj - profound, solid, heavy
  4. 重大 (じゅうだい) - na adj - serious, important, significant
  5. 重苦しい (おもくるしい) - i adj - oppressive, heavy

Near 近. Near enough to be hit by an axe.
The Kanji Near wraps 斤 'axe' with the symbol for ⻌ 'movement'.
on and kun readings
YouTube link 近

  1. 近い (ちかい) - i adj - near, close

Cheap or Peaceful 安. A cheap crown does not make a woman a queen.
Cheap combines 女 'woman' with 宀 which can be 'shaped crown' or 'roof'.
on and kun readings
YouTube link 安

  1. 安い (やすい) - i adj - cheap, inexpensive
  2. 安全 (あんぜん) - na adj - safe, secure
  3. 安心 (あんしん) - na adj - relief, peace of mind
  4. 安定 (あんてい) - na adj - stable, steady
  5. 安易 (あんい) - na adj - easy, simple-minded

Empty, Sky 空. All craftspeople love an empty cave.
Empty is made from 穴 'hole' or 'cave' above 工 'craft' as in 'craftsperson' or 'construction'.
on and kun readings
YouTube link 空

  1. 空っぽ (からっぽ) - na adj - empty, hollow

Blue 青. Once in a blue moon, the barley shoots appear.
Blue has 月 'moon' combined with 龶 that extends 土 'soil' to give what we call 'barley shoots'.
on and kun readings
YouTube link 青

  1. 青い (あおい) - i adj - blue
  2. 青白い (あおじろい) - i adj - pale, pallid

Special 特. They are special cows at the temple.
Special combines the 寺 'temple' symbol with the one for 牛 'cow'.
on and kun readings
YouTube link 特

  1. 特別 (とくべつ) - na adj - special, particular

Darkness 暗. Darkness where there is no sun and no sound.
Darkness takes 日'sun' and adds 音 'noise' or 'sound'.
on and kun readings
YouTube link 暗

  1. 暗い (くらい) - i adj - dark, gloomy
  2. 暗黒 (あんこく) - na adj - dark, gloomy

Friend 友. Friends hand each other secrets, how could it be otherwise?
Friend combines 𠂇 which we take as 'left hand' with 又 'otherwise'.
on and kun readings
YouTube link 友

  1. 友好的 (ゆうこうてき) - na adj - friendly, amicable

Soft 軟. A car lacking metal can be soft as silk.
Soft is made from the Kanji 車 'car' and 欠 'lack'.
on and kun readings
YouTube link 軟

  1. 軟らかい (やわらかい) - i adj - soft, tender
  2. 軟らか (やわらか) - na adj - soft, tender (see other form 柔らか)

Spicy 辛. Spicy as ten needles standing on your tongue.
Spicy is thought of as combining the Kanji 立 'stand' with 十 'needle' or 'ten'.
on and kun readings
YouTube link 辛

  1. 辛い (からい) - i adj - spicy, hot
  2. 辛辣 (しんらつ) - na adj - biting, harsh

Needed 要. All good westerns need a good woman.
Needed is made from 女 'woman' with 覀 which we take as a form of 西 'west'.
on and kun readings
YouTube link 要

  1. 必要 (ひつよう) - na adj - necessary, essential
  2. 重要 (じゅうよう) - na adj - important, significant

__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __


N1. 鮮, 暑,
N2. 軟, 辛,
N3. 美, 可, 良, 好, 要,
N4. 多, 広, 悪, 楽, 明, 新, 古, 早, 重, 近, 安, 空, 青, 特, 暗,
N5. 大, 小, 高, 長, 友,

to do

N1. 狭, 嬉,
N2. 短, 弱, 軽, 甘, 簡,
N3. 難, 速, 遅, 熱, 寒, 静, 忙, 冷, 苦, 便, 単, 面,
N4. 強,
N5. 白


[1] Kanji have evolved over a long period. Their original forms are usually very different from their modern ones, and the original meanings are often based on aspects of culture that nowadays have little relevance. This means that almost every aspect of a Kanji invites argument among experts.

[2] The Kanji Memories descriptions above and elsewhere are therefore entirely aimed at aiding recognition of Kanji for students. They are not intended for use for any other purpose, and students are recommended to study more scholarly works to gain a fuller understanding of Kanji origin and evolution.

Comments to: info (at) please.

Disclaimer: Information on this N4 site should be treated with caution. Translations, grammar and other aspects of the site can contain errors. We always recommend that you learn with a qualified Japanese teacher and this site is primarily intended for use by students only under the guidance of such a qualified teacher.