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Kanji for death, read or die!

Kanji for death, read or die!

Although there are many words to indicate “death” or “die” in Japanese, for example,「死亡(する)」,「崩御(only used for the Emperor)」,「他界(する)」,「没する」,「不幸」,or「永眠」…and so on. However, in this article, let’s stick to the most basic word for “death,” and “to die” - 「死」for the noun and 「死ぬ」for the verb.

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The meanings of the character 死

If you use 死 alone, the meaning will be “death” or “to die.” In Kanji compounds, the meanings from No.2 to No.8 will appear.

  1. Death, or to die
  2. The dead
  3. To execute capital punishment
  4. Being not used anymore. To disappear.
  5. To risk one’s life
  6. An extreme danger that is a matter of life and death
  7. The body of a dead person
  8. To lose one’s sense, or to rot

The origin of the Kanji

This Kanji is a combination of two pictograms. The left part is a pictogram of skeletal remains. The right part is that of a person. Therefore, this Kanji is like a picture of “a body lying in front of a person got down on his or her knees.” Thus, it became a character for “death.”

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Basic data about kanji “死”

  • Pronounce - OnyomiWhat is Onyomi?
    Reading based on old Chinese pronunciation.
  • Pronounce - KunyomiWhat is Kunyomi?
    Reading based on Japanese to express the meaning of kanji.
    There are some Kanji characters that need to be fed, such as “嬉しい”.
  • Strokes What is Strokes?
    The stroke order is the order of writing kanji.
    Created with the aim of unifying the stroke order as much as possible so as not to cause confusion in learning instruction.
  • Radical What is Radical?
    Radical is a part of a kanji used to classify kanji.
    In radical classification, at least one radical is assigned to all Kanji characters.

Do you find「死ね」in Japanese comics or animation? Never use that in front of Japanese people.

If you want to say “death” as a noun, that would be simply “死”(shi). The verb “die” is combined with Hiragana and written「死ぬ」(shinu). As you may know, in Japanese you have to modify the shape of the verb by what word comes next, or whether you are going to end the sentence neutrally, or whether you want to order someone to do that.

When you want to order someone to die, you need to say「死ね」(shine)…But this is seldom heard in Japan.

If you are a big fan of Japanese comics or animation, you should have seen this word many times. However, the characters in the stories are saying this line because they are trying to kill each other. But a matter of course, it’s not the same in the real world.

「死ね」is indeed a rude word and some people will be astonished to hear that word from you. I don’t recommend using it, because probably you are going to be in big trouble.

It is certain that some Japanese (not most of them!)  use「死ね」when someone else gets on that person’s nerves. But everyone else around that person will feel unpleasant and think, “Wow…this person has a dirty mouth and is very classless.” You will lose trust and respect from everyone else. That is the reason why I don’t recommend using that word.

Another verb to express that someone has died

There is another word to express that someone has died. That is 「亡くなる」(nakunaru). This verb is quite close to “pass away” in English and would not be used for yourself.「亡くなる」is politer than「死ぬ」. If you hear a news program that someone has killed by a natural disaster or a traffic accident, the announcers will use this word. For example, if there is a news that “This torrential rain has already killed sixty people,” you will hear an announcer say 「この豪雨で既に60人が亡くなりました。」(Kono gōu de sudeni rokujū nin ga nakunarimashita) この豪雨で既に60人が亡くなりました。.

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Some usage of 死

As explained above, the Kanji死 doesn’t just mean “death” or “to die.”

If it is used with other Kanji, then it will work as different meanings.

  1. Death, or to die:死、死ぬ
  2. The dead:死者(shisha) 死者
  3. To execute capital punishment:「死刑」(shikei) 死刑 is the word for “capital punishment” in Japanese. 「刑」(kei) is for the punishment that is judged by the court. In Japan, capital punishment exists. There is always a discussion about whether the death penalty should be abolished or not. However, there is no indication by the government to abolish right now.
  4. To be not used anymore or to disappear:「死語」(shigo) 死語 means an old-fashioned word that nobody uses anymore.
  5. To risk one’s life: 「死守」(shishu) 死守 means to defend to the death. 「守」(shu in Onyomi and mamo-ru in Kunyomi) is the Kanji for “to defend.” 「死闘」(shitou) 死闘 means a struggle to the death or mortal combat. 「闘」(tō in Onyomi and tataka-u in Kunyomi) is a Kanji that means “to fight.”
  6. An extreme danger that is a matter of life and death: For example, 「死線をさまよう」 (shisen o samayō) 死線をさまよう means to hover between life and death. 「死線をくぐる」(shisen o kuguru) 死線をくぐる means “to survive a life-or-death crisis.” 「線」(sen) is a character for “line.”
  7. The body of a dead person…死体(shitai) 死体 is for the body of a deceased person. 「体」 (tai in Onyomi and karada in Kunyomi) is for the body in a usual context, that of people still alive. However, the politer way of saying it is 「遺体」(itai). 「遺」(i in On-yomi and noko-su in Kun-yomi) means “to leave behind.”

By the way, 「死に体」(shinitai) しにたい is a Japanese word for “lame duck.” It is already dead for sure.

死 used at baseball games

If you are watching a baseball game on TV, you might see some words using「死」. “Hit by pitch” is called デッドボール in Japan, which came from the Japanese word 「死球」(「球」is for“ball”) and translated into “dead ball” inside Japan. There is no such word as “dead ball” in English. This kind of words is called 和製英語(wasē ēgo) in Japan, literally “English made in Japan.”

If you hear「二死満塁」(nishi manrui) 二死満塁, it means “the bases loaded and two outs.”「二」is “two,” 「満」 means “full,” and 「塁」means “base.” This one might not be difficult to understand because two players cannot play anymore.

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Other exaggerated expressions

“Death” is something extreme. Therefore, it could be used for exaggerated expressions when someone wants to complain that he or she is feeling tough.

  1. 死にそう(Shinisou) 死にそう
    「暑くて死にそう」(atsukute sinisō) 暑くて死にそう means “I feel as if I am dying because of the heat.” This expression is quite close to “This heat will be the end of me” or “It’s so hot I feel like I’m going to die” in English.
  2. 死ぬほど(shinuhodo) 死ぬほど
    「死ぬほど辛い」(shinuhodo tsurai) means that the person is feeling extremely tough and feels like he or she is going to die. For example, 「彼女にフラれて死ぬほど辛い」(kanojo ni furarete shinuhodo tsurai) 彼女にフラれて死ぬほど辛い means that the person feels so because a girlfriend dumped him or her. 「死ぬほど頑張った」(Shinuhodo ganbatta) 死ぬほど頑張った means “I made such a great effort that I felt I’m almost going to die.”
  3. 死んでも(shindemo) 死んでも
    「そんなこと、死んでもやりたくない」(Sonnakoto, shindemo yaritakunai) そんなこと、死んでもやりたくない means “I don’t want to do that even though I die.” It is a strong word for refusal.
  4. 必死(hisshi) 必死
    必死means “desperate.”「あの頃は生活費を稼ぐので必死だった」(anokoro wa seikatsuhi o kasegunode hisshi datta) あの頃は生活費を稼ぐので必死だった means “I was desperate to earn money for living at that time.” Maybe it could be translated, “I was struggling to make ends meet then,” as well.

Did you get the image and the usage of the Kanji for death?

It is a handy word to describe when you feel like dying because of the severe environment. But be careful, don’t use 「死にそう」「死ぬほど」「死んでも」in in front of your boss or older people. It is a very casual expression and not suitable for formal situations.