I've been learning Japanese for over a year, and it seems very clear to me that the etymology of a kanji is a fantastic way to remember it.

That's why I've been making extensive use of genetickanji.com and their search tool, which not only returns the definition of the kanji and a list of compounds using it, but most importantly the origin of its form. The hyperlinks then let you navigate from your searched kanji to an "inner" one, then again to an "inner" one, etc.

I found it great to look up every kanji I came across with this tool, so I could discover new kanjis linked to it, and have a mental anchor to memorize them all.

However, it seems the website relies on a server which is now down, and while the website is still up, any search returns "Internal Server Error". I looked for a way to contact the administrator, but I didn't find any. The Twitter account linked has been silent for 7 years.

I'm now looking for a new resource to help me understand the etymology of kanjis I come across. I know some similar questions have already been asked here, but most of them are dating from years ago, and cite genetickanji as best answer for my need.

Do you know any resource that could help me replace this great one ?

  • I'm not looking for a kanji dictionary, such as jisho.org. This website will let me access the meaning of separate kanjis in a compound, but not the meaning of the etymology of a kanji
  • I'm not looking for a method to learn kanjis from scratch that would use etymology of simple parts to do so. While useful to start learning, those resources only show a selected number of decompositions of selected kanjis, while I'm looking for a way to find the etymology of a random kanji I come across
  • I would prefer an online resource than a book, as it's much easier to look for a kanji in a search bar than on paper
  • 1
    I'm sorry to say, the accuracy of genetickanji.com in describing kanji glyph origins is very low. However, if you found it helpful, you may not need (or even want) something that's accurate. Have you considered just using mnemonics resources instead?
    – dROOOze
    Commented Feb 9, 2020 at 2:27
  • That's a very valid point ! Do you know any resource that would let me browse mnemonics for a kanji of my choice ?
    – Mysterry
    Commented Feb 12, 2020 at 23:27
  • I don't know of any that I've evaluated myself - I don't personally believe in the usefulness of inaccurate mnemonics, so never bothered to explore them. Glyph origins seems much more valuable to me, as it imparts the correct concept of how Chinese characters actually work. I can only recommend Outlier Kanji for that purpose.
    – dROOOze
    Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 9:15
  • On this site you can click on "previous posts and search" and then enter a kanji, kanjiportraits.wordpress.com It is not fully comprehensive but has lots of kanjis. Commented Feb 18, 2020 at 5:43

2 Answers 2


Wiktionary has a lot of them. Here is the origin of 木, for example:


I'm not sure how comprehensive Wiktionary's coverage is.


I found a resource much like what I was looking for: http://nihongo.monash.edu/Etymological_Dictionary_of_Han_Chinese_Characters.pdf

It seems very comprehensive (another answer mentioned wiktionary.org, which indeed has great etymological descriptions, but only for very few characters).

It seems also quite accurate, referring to bronzeware and earthenware glyphs, even though I'm not in a position to judge about that.

Control + F lets you search for any character very easily, much more quickly than with a book !

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