Kanji 267-285. H2O and Ice

WaterAndIceNot all kanji – not even most kanji – consist of core kanji and combinations of those core kanji. That would be too easy. Instead, there are also combinations of strokes that don’t constitute kanji in their own right, but appear as recurring motifs within kanji, and so it is worth naming them. For instance, we have already met elements that we’ve called by various names according to what they look like: ‘umbrella’, ‘drop’, ‘animal legs’ and ‘human legs’. Unfortunately, there are 172 of these non-kanji elements, which means that, in addition to learning the keywords for around 2200 kanji, you will also end up knowing the names of another 172 stroke combinations (see a list of them here). That might sound like extra work, but it is still much better than learning kanji stroke-by-stroke, and most of these elements are easy to remember because they are simple, and often look like the thing hey are named after.

In this lesson we’ll add two of these primitives: H2O and ice.

The first primitive consists of three drops on the left side of a kanji, signifying drops of water. To distinguish this from the kanji for water (), we’ll call the primitive ‘H20′. The chemical name may also remind us that there are two small, high drops (maybe these are the two hydrogen atoms) and one lower, larger drop (the oxygen atom). The first two drops are stroked down and to the right, the third is stroked up and to the right.

Within my own learning project on the KSP Android app, I chose an image of a splash for this radical, as shown below. (The original picture is a little too bright, so some graphical editing is in order, but you get the idea…) You are welcome to choose an entirely different image, or to leave it as three short strokes. (To see how to add images, check out the Youtube demo.)


The second radical introduced in the lesson is the ‘ice’ radical, which is very similar to H2O, but simpler – just two drops. Don’t confuse it with the kanji for icicle ().

This lesson will be very short, introducing only nine kanji, but the H2O and ice radicals will be recurring features in many of the kanji that follow in later lessons. In most cases, the H2O element is a reliable indicator that the meaning of the kanji has something to do with water. The ice element is a little less reliable as a hint at the meaning of the kanji, but it does appear in the kanji for ‘frozen’ (), and it does lead to easy mnemonics.



To make soup, take some H2O and add ten tasty ingredients.


#268. The H2O element indicates the water being drawn towards the curved moon of ‘evening’ () – giving you ‘eventide’.


#269. Creeks are small strips of H2O, easily crossed with an I-beam.

If you get this confused with ‘river’ () or ‘stream’ (), remember that CReek has the CRaft element.


#270. H2O plus ‘dry’ (). This is a simple pictorial representation of how sweat works… It gets your skin wet, and then it cools you down as it dries.

open sea

#271. H2O plus middle.
In the middle of the largest body of H2O, you are in the open sea.


#272. H2O plus extremity ().
At the extremity of a body of water is the splash.


#273. Combines H2O with eternity, which already contains the water kanji, so water is represented twice: With so much water, you’ll need to swim for eternity.


#274. H2O and white ().
Everything you need for an overnight stay: clean water and clean white sheets.


#275. A tricky keyword. Heisig called this “but of course”, and checking the kanji in jisho.org shows it can be used in expressions meaning “still more”, “not to mention”, “to say nothing of” that indicate the speaker wants to add a comment to what has been said. This is the meaning captured in Heisig’s awkward “keyword”. Looking up the kanji itself reveals that it usually means “condition” or “situation”, and most of the sample sentences on jisho.org use in a compound (状況, pronounced じょうきょう) meaning “situation”. For all of those reasons, KSP has adopted “situation” as the keyword for this kanji.

It was an awkward situation when my older brother got caught drinking vodka and had to pretend it was water. Is that water, demanded my mother. But of course, he said.


#276. If enough H2O is present, it can () make a river.


#277. Some have found it useful to see the waves as the ocean’s pelt. I find it more appealing to imagine facing the waves in a sea-kayak made of seal pelts, like the Inuit.


#278. H2O plus seduce (). This kanji reminds me of the Marsh of the Dead, which tred to seduce Frodo, but it could be any old marsh, seducing unwary travellers by being filled with H2O but looking like firm ground.


#279. The element to the right of the H2O primitive means ‘lord’ when it appears in its own (), but it loóks rather like a candlestick with the dot at the top making a flame, so many use the image of a candlestick in their mnemonics. This works well here: imagine someone pouring H2O on a candle to put it out.


#280. During a lively conversation, you will need to keep water at hand to keep your tongue moist.


Water, power, tree.


#282. If we take the element in the right to mean ‘alcohol’ (), then this kanji implies that sake is watered down alcohol.


#283. Imagine hiking in a valley and coming to a nice pool of water where you can bathe.


#284. Ice plus East. Picture a cold place in the East: Eastern Siberia, an icy place in the East of your own country, whatever work for you.

Or break it down further, into ice plus sun plus tree: The ice stayed frozen because the weak wintry sun was blocked by the trees.


#285. Two archers duelling, but making no progress and getting weaker and weaker because ice is covering their bows.