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40 most common radicals

November 10, 2007 – 1:31 am

When I started learning Chinese my teacher gave me a list of the most 40 common Chinese radicals. Might be helpful for anyone.

人 rén – man, person
刀 dāo – knife
力 lì – power
又 yòu – both, again
口kǒu – mouth
囗 wéi – enclosure Used as a radical only, not as a character itself
门 mén – door
土 tǔ – earth
夕 xī – sunset
大 dà – big, large
女 nǚ – female, woman
子 zǐ – son
寸 cùn – inch
小 xiǎo – little, small, young
工 gōng – labor, work
幺 yāo – tiny, small
弓 gōng – bow
马 mǎ – horse
心 xīn – heart
戈 gē – dagger-axe
手 shǒu – hand
日 rì – sun, day
月 yuè – moon
贝 bèi – cowry (shell)
木 mù – wood
水 shuǐ – water
火 huǒ – fire
田 tián – field
目 mù – eye
示 shì – to show
糸 mì – fine silk, Used as a radical only, not as a character itself
耳 ěr – ear
衣 yī – clothing
言 yán – speech
走 zǒu – to walk
足 zú – foot
金 jīn – metal, gold
隹 zhuī – short tailed bird
雨 yǔ – rain
食 shí – to eat

To the newbie learner: These are only radicals, often they are not used as words. For example the last one 食 shí means “to eat”, however most often You want to use 吃 chī – “to eat” when You are building a sentence where something is eaten.

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  1. 7 Responses to “40 most common radicals”

  2. There’s a book called Reading + Writing Chinese Characters by William McNaughton which at the front has like 200-odd radicals organised by stroke and I thought they were really good. Your list doesn’t include all the different variants eg the fact that there are 3 people radicals, that the knife radical can also be written as it is in 利 at the right hand sign and the way that the water radical is almost never written like that but written as 3 dots, 2 for ice etc.

    Good luck with the Learning chinese I’m not sure how long you’ve been learning it. I’ve been learning in total a year and a half but it gets better all the time.

    By Zhongguoist on Mar 19, 2008

  3. Hi!

    Thanks for this!

    By Chinese learner on Sep 9, 2008

  4. McNaugton’s book (updated with help from Li Ying) goes through the 214 Kangxi radicals (and talks about the ’226′), but many are used only in more ‘advanced’ characters. The 40 here are a very good place to start, as they are found in many very commonly used words that beginners need to know (ie: the first 1000, 2000 or even 3000 characters you should learn would mostly be based on these). That having been said, use this list AND get McNaughton’s book because it gives you the historic meaning, variations on the writing for each radical and lots of other info. The book also has a student ‘study guide’ section that tries to guide you with learning things in an order that is helpful.

    By Derek Read on Jan 27, 2009

  5. I’m a Chinese, happen to find a mistake here in your list. 又 doensn’t mean right hand side, it means again. 右with exactly the same pronunciation means right hand side.

    By claire on Jul 22, 2009

  6. Hi Claire,

    thanks for Your comment, while 又 is a pictograph of the right hand, it indeed means “both” and “again”. I just checked with zhongwen.com

    By Hendrik on Jul 22, 2009

  7. There’s a new Chinese Radical Test on the Clavis Sinica website that allows you to test your knowledge of the most commonly used 57 radicals. There’s also a free flashcards tool you can use to increase your knowledge of the radicals. For more details, see http://clavisinica.com/resources.html .

    By David Porter on Jan 3, 2011

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