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Kanji for fire and flame, 火 and 焔

Kanji for fire and flame, 火 and 焔

Kanji for fire is 「火」. It is a simple word, but therefore, there are many Kanji compounds, proverbs, and idioms. Let’s see how the Kanji is used in Japanese.

The origin of the Kanji “火”

火 is a pictogram of a flame. The 甲骨文字 looks like a flame for sure.

Basic data about the Kanji “火”

Summary of kanji

The meaning of 火

When the Kanji is used alone, it will merely mean “fire.” But in a particular context or when compounded with other Kanji characters, different meanings will appear.

  1. (a)The light and heat that comes out when something is burning.
    (b)Something that is burning, such as lamplight and torches.
    (c)Fire, when a building, forest, etc. is burning.
    (d)Something that gives out light.
    (e)The pattern of fire.
    (d)An intense emotion.
  2. One of the five elements (五行gogyō) in a theory in ancient China.
  3. To burn.
  4. To hurry.

Kanji for flame

There are two Kanji characters for “flame.” One is 炎, and another is 焰. Both are pronounced “honō” ほのお in Kunyomi and “en” in Onyomi. 炎 is more common today.

焰 could also be written as 焔. If you look at a Kanji dictionary, it says that “焔” is a 俗字(zokuji) 俗字 of “焰.” 俗字 means that the character is not a standard, but it is a shape that people have been used. However, if you try to type 焰 with your computer or smartphone, they suggest 焔 as a first choice. This occurs because the industrial standard registered 焔 for the Kanji. Both shapes are accepted in society, so don’t be too nervous.

Summary of kanji

    Words using 火

    Here are some Kanji compounds using 火.

    1. 火事(kaji) 火事: Fire (uncontrolled flames, light, and heat that destroy things such as houses or buildings)
    2. 放火(hōka) 放火: Arson
    3. 花火(hanabi) 花火: Fireworks. 花 means flower. It sure looks like a flower made of fire!
    4. 火花(hibana) 火花: Spark
    5. 火山(kazan) 火山: Volcano
    6. 噴火(funka) 噴火: A volcanic eruption
    7. 蛍火(hotarubi) 蛍火: Light of fireflies
    8. 火星(Kasei) 火星: Mars
    9. 火曜日(Kayōbi) 火曜日: Tuesday
    10. 火急(kakyū) 火急: Urgent.
      For example,「彼は火急の用事で出かけている」(Kare wa kakyū no yōji de dekaketeiru) 彼は火急の用事で出かけている means he is out on urgent business. Probably the most frequent situation you encounter when doing business is when Japanese people are asking to do something with a very short deadline.
      「火急のお願いとなり申し訳ございませんが、本日中にご回答をいただけますと幸いです。」(Kakyū no onegai to nari mōshiwake gozaimasenga, honjitsuchū ni gokaitō o itadakemasu to saiwai desu) 火急のお願いとなり申し訳ございませんが、本日中にご回答をいただけますと幸いです。 means “I’m sorry to give you such an urgent request, but your response within today is appreciated.”

    Let’s cook using Japanese! Words with 火 related to cooking

    Gas stove

    Most of the Japanese use gas stoves for cooking. There are some houses with IH stove but are still a minority.

    If you want to say “heat the ingredients thoroughly,” you should say「火を通す」(hi o tōsu) 火を通す.

    「火にかける」(hi ni kakeru) 火にかける means to put something like a pot or a frying pan on fire to cook.

    「火加減」(hikagen) 火加減 is for the “heat level.” 「加減」(kagen) 加減 means adjustment.

    強火(tsuyobi) 強火 is for high heat, 中火(chūbi) 中火 is for medium heat, and 弱火(yowabi) 弱火 is for low heat. とろ火(torobi) とろ火 is lower than 弱火. You must try to adjust the heat as low as you can.

    If you want to see a picture of the difference in the heat level, here is a good website that could be used as a dictionary for cooking. It also has various recipes for home cooking.

    On this page, you can understand the terms of heat with photos.


    Some sayings and idioms using 火

    1. のない所に煙は立たぬ (hi no nai tokoro ni kemuri wa tatanu) 火のない所に煙は立たぬ
      煙 means “smoke.” It is the same with the English proverb, “where there is smoke, there is a fire.” Every rumor has a grain of truth.
    2. 火を見るよりも明らか (hi o miru yorimo akiraka) 火を見るよりも明らか
      This idiom literally means “it is clear than seeing the fire.” It means the same as “be as plain as day” in English.
    1. 火がつく (hi ga tsuku) 火がつく
      (a)To start burning.
      (b)A dispute or something occurs for some reason. If you say 「やる気に火がつく」やる気に火がつく that means something lit a fire in you in terms of motivation.
    1. 火が出る (hi ga deru) 火が出る
      (a)A fire occurs. For example, 「台所から火が出る」(daidokoro kara hi ga deru) 台所から火が出る means the fire begun from the kitchen(台所).
      (b)When you say「目から火が出る」目から火が出る, it says that when you hit your head or forehead strongly, it hurts so much that you feel like sparks are coming out from your eyes.
    1. 火を噴く (hi o fuku) 火を噴く
      (a)Fire blows.
      (b)Something such as a scandal makes a huge fuss.
      (c)Base hits or home run continues in a baseball game.
    1. 飛んで火にいる夏の虫 (tonde hi ni iru natsu no mushi) 飛んで火にいる夏の虫
      “A summer bug heading for light is flying into a fire.” This proverb is expressing a person exposing himself to danger. It is similar to “who perishes in needless danger is the devil’s martyr.”
    2. 火に油を注ぐ (hi ni abura o sosogu) 火に油を注ぐ
      This idiom literally means to add oil to the fire. It means “to make a bad situation even worse.”
    3. 火のついたよう (hi no tsuita you) 火のついたよう
      A way to describe that a baby suddenly starts to cry in a loud voice. For example,「赤ん坊が火のついたように泣きだした」(Akanb ō ga hi no tsuita yō ni nakidashita) 赤ん坊が火のついたように泣きだした.

    These are the usage of 火 in Japanese.

    The meanings of the word “fire” differ between English and Japanese. In English, “fire” could mean “the shooting of guns or other weapons,” or “to cause a weapon to shoot bullets, arrows, missiles.” There are words for these kind of things in Japanese, such as 「発砲する(happōsuru 発砲する, to shoot a gun)」,「矢を射る(ya o iru 矢を射る, to shoot arrows)」, and 「ミサイルを発射する(misairu o hassha suru ミサイルを発射する, to fire a missile)」. These words don’t include 火.

    Probably that is because Japan is a country with strict gun control. No one could possess guns except police officers and self-defense officials. The only way that ordinary people could own guns is to get a license for hunting and get registered by the governor of the prefecture. Therefore, Japanese people are not familiar with firearms.

    Interestingly, the difference in the image or impression of the word “fire” seems to reflect the values and societies of English-speaking countries and Japan.

    I hope this article helps you to understand the difference between the two cultures.

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