In the last post, we have talked about the structures of Chinese characters. Today, let’s talk about how to tell their meanings. Speaking of meanings, radicals play important roles since in most cases they carry the main meanings. Radicals actually come from words that you might already know. Sometimes you don’t know them just because they adjust their appearances a bit when they are paired up with other components. Let’s learn some common ones today.
The radicals listed below have been categorized into different topics. For each radical, I will explain its meaning and offer some examples that you can easily tell their meaning from the radical.
土：Soil. E.g.在 [zài] (be at/in), 地 [dì] (groung)
山：Mountain. E.g. 出 [chū] (out), 岛 [dǎo] (island)
日：Sun or day. E.g. 旧 [jiù] (old), 早 [zǎo] (morning)
雨：Rain. E.g. 雪 [xuě] (snow), 雷 [léi] (lightening, electricity)
草（艹）：Grass or plants. E.g. 茶 [chá] (tea), 花 [huā] (flower)
水（氵）：Water. E.g. 汤 [tāng] (soup), 洗 [xǐ] (to wash)
火（灬）：Fire. E.g. 煮 [zhǔ] (cook), 热 [rè] (hot)
木（木）：Tree. E.g. 林 [lín] (forest), 枝 [zhī] (branch)
金（钅）：Metal. E.g. 银 [yín] (silver), 钱 [qián] (money)
父：Dad. E.g. 爸 [bà] (dad), 爷 [yé] (grandpa)
子：Son. E.g. 孩 [hái] (kid), 学 [xué] (to learn)
女：Female. E.g. 妈 [mā] (mom), 姐 [jiě] (sister, Miss)
人（亻）：People. E.g.你 [nǐ] (you), 作 [zuò] (to do)
目：Eye. E.g. 眼 [yǎn] (eye), 看 [kàn] (to look)
口：Mouth. E.g. 吹 [chuī] (to blow), 吵 [chǎo] (noisy)
手（扌）：Hand. E.g. 打 [dǎ] (to hit), 拿 [ná] (to take)
心（忄）：Heart. E.g. 快 [kuài] (happy), 急 [jí] (urgent)
足（）：Feet, leg. E.g. 跑 [pǎo] (to run), 跳 [tiào] (to jump)
肉（月）：Meet. E.g. 胖 [pàng] (fat), 肚 [dù] (stomach)
马：Hourse. E.g. 骑 [qí] (to ride)
鸟：Bird. E.g.鸡 [jī] (chicken), 鸭 [yā] (duck)
鱼：Fish. E.g. 鲜 [xiān] (fresh)
犬（犭）：Dog, animal. E.g. 狗 [gǒu] (dog), 猫 [māo] (cat)
车：Car. E.g. 转 [zhuǎn] (to turn), 轮 [lún] (wheel)
门：Door. E.g. 间 [jiān] (room)
食（饣）：Food. E.g. 饿 [è] (hungry), 饱 [bǎo] (full)
衣（衤）：Clothes. E.g. 被 [bèi] (quilt), 补 [bǔ] (to fix)
But still, there are many words that you might not be able to tell what radical they have because they are quite complicated, such as 肃. And there are some radicals that you really can’t tell what they mean. Even Chinese native speakers might not know. For example, 癶. So, I would recommend that if you just start to learn Chinese, start with the characters/radicals listed above because you can use them to recognize or remember many other characters. But, if you have learned Chinese for a long time, I would advise you not to learn other abstract radicals unless you are really interested in them. Instead, I would suggest you read more and find the rules hidden behind these characters. For example, some components/radicals are only put in certain places.
Ok, and that’s it for today. If you have any questions about learning Chinese characters, feel free to leave them down below. We’ll reply to you as soon as possible. See you in the next post!