A handy list of all 214 Chinese radicals, and what they mean

Are the Chinese radicals the missing piece to your language-learning puzzle? Let’s investigate!

Every Chinese learner goes through different stages of understanding the Chinese characters. Perhaps you’re a heritage learner, having some prior exposure to the language, or maybe you’re learning Chinese from scratch.

Whatever the case may be, you’ll likely consult a number of sources as you make sense of these fascinating logograms: your teacher, some textbooks, online resources, and maybe even friends and family. One suggestion that rings true across the board is to learn the Chinese radicals.

So, are the radicals really the key to learning Chinese? Probably not, as they alone won’t make you proficient — but they will give you a serious boost no matter where you are on your learning journey. If you’re just getting started, knowing the radicals can help you better categorize the characters and make sense of this unique writing structure. And if you’re further along in your journey, learning them can help you get a hint of the meaning of obscure or less frequent characters.

So, how can you learn radicals? We’ll show you right below!

What are Chinese radicals?

Beautiful girl reading a book about Chinese radicals whilst lounging.

Chinese radicals are components of characters. They often provide clues on the meaning or pronunciation (or both!) of a particular character, so studying them well can definitely pay off.

For example, the Chinese radical 女 () means woman. If you spot that radical in another character, it generally means that the character is related to women in some way. For example, the Chinese word for mom is 妈妈 (māma). Spot something familiar? That’s right! The 女 () radical is there to give you a hint about the meaning of those characters you may have forgotten about!

However, this doesn’t always work. Sometimes, characters will include radicals that have absolutely nothing to do with the meaning of the word. In fact, radicals may sometimes represent the pronunciation of the character rather than allude to its meaning. For example, the radical 乙 () means second, and the word 艺 () means skill. “Second” has nothing to do with “skill,” but the radical gives you a hint on how it’s pronounced!

With that said, radicals aren’t always reliable. There are many instances where a radical won’t help you gain any insights into the meaning or the pronunciation, so you should proceed with caution. Radicals can be friends, but they can’t be trusted 100% of the time!

A complete list of all 214 Chinese radicals and their meaning

Without further ado, here is a complete list of all the radicals! Some of them have multiple forms, which we’ve conveniently included in the radical column. We’ve also included some example characters for each radical to help you see what the radical looks like in practice.

Radical number Radical Pinyin Meaning Examples
1 One 丁 万 上 下
2 gǔn Line 个 中 丰 串 临
3 zhǔ Dot 丸 义 丹 为 主
4 丿 乀 乁 piě Slash 乂 乃 久 乇 乎
5 乙 乚 Second 九 乞 乩 乱
6 jué Hook 了 争 事
7 èr Two 亍 于 云 五 亚
8 tóu Lid 亡 亢 交 产 京
9 人 亻 rén Person 你 他 仕 仙 例
10 rén Legs 兀 元 兄 先 克
11 Enter 內 全 氽
12 八 丷 Eight 兮 公 兰 关 兴
13 jiōng Down box 内 冋 再 冏 最
14 Cover 写 军 农
15 bīng Ice 冰 况 冼 凊
16 Table 凡 凤
17 qiǎn Open box 凶 凸 凹 出 击
18 刂 刁 刀 dāo Knife 刅 分 切 划 刚
19 Power 劝 办 加 务 动
20 bāo Wrap 勺 勾 匀 包
21 Ladle/Dagger 化 北 匙
22 fāng Right open box 匛 匤 匡 匢 匜
23 Hiding enclosure 匹 区 医 匼
24 shí Ten 千 升 午 半
25 Divination 卟 占 卡 卢 卤
26 jié Seal/Joint 卫 卬 卯 印 却
27 hǎn Cliff/House 厄 厅 历 厉
28 mǒu/sī Private 去 县 参
29 yòu Again 叉 友 双 发 受
30 kǒu Mouth 吃 叹 品 吵 叫
31 wéi Enclosure 围 团 国 囚 困
32 Earth 在 地 城 地 型
33 shì Scholar 壮 仕 壬 声 志
34 zhǐ Go 处 复 备 冬
35 suī Go slowly 夌 复 変
36 Night 外 多 夜 夠
37 Big 天 太 夫 央 头
38 Woman 妈 好 始 姓 安
39 Child 孔 字 季 学 孩
40 mián Roof 宁 它 安 定 容
41 cùn Inch 对 寺 寻 寿 导
42 小 ⺌ ⺍ xiǎo Small 少 尔 尚 尝
43 wāng Lame 尤 尧 就 尴 尬
44 shī Corpse 尼 尽 局 居 层
45 chè Sprout 屯 屰
46 shān Mountain 岀 峰 岁 岛 岳
47 川 巛 chuān River 州 巡 巢
48 gōng Work 左 巧 巩 巫
49 Oneself 纪 记 忌 改
50 jīn Towel 巿 币 市 师
51 gān/gàn Dry/Do 平 年 并 幸
52 yāo Youngest 幻 幼 幽
53 广 guǎng Shelter 座 庄 床 店
54 yǐn Stride 延 廷 建
55 gǒng Hands joined 开 异 弃 弄
56 Shoot with a bow 式 弑
57 gōng Bow 弟 引 张 弘 弯
58 彐 彑 Snout 归 当 录 彖
59 shān Hair 形 彦 彩 影
60 chì Step 行 徐 律 很 往
61 心 忄 xīn Heart 必 忆 忘 忙 快
62 Spear 我 成 戒 战 或
63 戶 户 Door 房 所 扁 扇 扉
64 shǒu Hand 扔 扬 扛 扱 抱
65 zhī Branch 攰 攱 攲
66 攴 攵 Rap/Beat 收 改 政 故 敌
67 wén Script 齐 斌 斑 斓 斋
68 dǒu Vessel 料 斛 斟 斜
69 jīn Axe 斧 断 斯 新 斩
70 fāng Square 施 旁 旋 旅 旗
71 无/旡 wú/jì Not/Choke on something eaten
72 Sun 时 早 明 是 晩
73 yuē Say 曲 更 曾
74 yuè Moon 服 朋 青 朝 明
75 木 朩 Tree 森 林 相 根 本
76 qiàn Lack 次 欢 欣 歆 欲
77 zhǐ Stop 正 此 步 武 歧
78 dǎi Death 死 歾 殃 殉 殆
79 shū Weapon 段 殷 殴
80 Mother 每 毒
81 Compare 毕 庇 毙
82 máo Fur 毫 毡 笔 毯 毫
83 shì Clan 民 氓
84 Steam 氲 氧 氢
85 水 氵 氺 shuǐ Water 海 河 湖 江 洗
86 火 灬 huǒ Fire 灯 炎 热 点 然
87 爪 爫 zhǎo/zhuǎ Claw 爬 爱
88 Father 爷 爸
89 yáo Lines on a trigram 爼 爽
90 pán Half of a tree trunk
91 qiáng Slice 版 牌
92 Tooth
93 牛 牜 ⺧ niú Cow 牟 牤 牧 物 牲
94 犬 犭 quǎn Dog 犮 犯 犷 狂 狗
95 xuán Profound 率 玆
96 王 玉 wáng/yù King/Jade 珍 现 琴 莹 玺
97 guā Melon 瓢 瓣
98 Tile 瓶 瓷 瓮
99 gān Sweet 甚 甜 某
100 shēng Life 甠 甡 甥
101 yòng Use 甬 甭 甫
102 tián Field 男 甸 画 畅 界
103 疋 𤴔 Foot 胥 疍 疏 疎
104 Sick 病 疔 疤 疫 疯
105 Unbalanced footsteps 癷 癸 登
106 bái White 百 的 皇 皁 皓
107 Skin 皱 皲
108 mǐn Dish 盂 益 盆 监 盈
109 Eye 盯 相 盲 看 眠
110 máo Spear 矜 䂊
111 shǐ Arrow 矣 知 矩 矫 矬
112 shí Stone 码 破 硌 硏 硬
113 示 礻 shì Spirit 礼 社 视 禁 祭
114 róu Rub 禹 禺 离
115 Grain 秀 秋 种 秒 租
116 xué Cave 穷 究 空 穿 突
117 Stand 站 竞 章 竖 端
118 竹 ⺮ ケ zhú Bamboo 笑 笛 第 竿 等
119 Rice 粮 类 粉 粤 籽
120 糸 纟 Silk 红 纪 组 系 紧
121 fǒu Jar 缺 缸 罂
122 网 罒 罓 wǎng Net 罗 罚 罢 罪
123 羊 ⺶ ⺷ yáng Sheep 美 着 羞 群 羚
124 Feather 翠 翁 耀 翔
125 老 耂 lǎo Old 者 耄 者 考
126 ér And 耍 耐
127 lěi Plaw 耔 耗 耕 耘
128 ěr Ear 聊 聆 聒 联 耿
129 Brush 肃 肆 肄 肇
130 肉 月 ròu Meat 肖 肘 肚 腐
131 chén Minister 卧 藏
132 Oneself 臬 臭
133 zhì Arrive 致 臻
134 jiù Mortar 臾 舀 舂
135 shé Tongue 舍 舐 舔
136 chuǎn Contrary
137 zhōu Boat 航 船 般 舱 舫
138 gèn Mountain 良 艰 根 跟
139 Color
140 cǎo Grass 花 菜 茶 茬 草
141 Stripes on a tiger 虏 虎 虐 虔 虑
142 chóng Insect 蛇 蚊 蛋 蚤 蚀
143 xuè Blood 恤 衅
144 xíng Walk 衍 衔 街
145 衣 衤 Clothes 表 袋 袓 衷 袄
146 Cover 要 覆 覃
147 jiàn See 观 规 觉 览
148 jiǎo Horn 解 触
149 yán Speech 计 讨 记 讲 识
150 Valley
151 dòu Bean 豌 豉
152 shǐ Pig 豚 豪 象
153 zhì Legless insect 豹 豺 貌
154 bèi Shell 贞 负 贡 责 财
155 chì Red 赦 赫
156 zǒu Walk 赶 起 超 越
157 Foot 跃 跑 路 跳
158 shēn Body 躬 躺 躲
159 chē Cart 轧 轨 软 轮 轻
160 xīn Bitter 辜 辣 辞 辟
161 chén Day time 晨 辱 振 震
162 chuò Walk 边 达 过 运 远
163 邑 阝 City 那 邦 邮 郊 邕
164 yǒu Wine vessel 酒 酱 酷
165 biàn Distinguish 采 釉 释
166 Village/Unit of distance 重 野 量
167 金 钅 jīn Metal 银 钉 钟 钥 鉴
168 cháng Long 张 帐 账
169 mén Gate 间 闪 闯 闭 闹
170 阜⻏ Mound 陡 陆 防 际 队
171 Slave
172 zhuī Short-tailed bird 难 雀 集 雇
173 Rain 雪 零 雷 雾
174 qīng Blue/Green 靓 靖 静
175 fēi Wrong 靠 靡
176 miàn Face 靥 腼
177 Leather 靴 鞋
178 wěi Soft leather 韧 韩 韫
179 jiǔ Leek
180 yīn Sound 章 竟 歆 韵
181 Page 顶 项 须 顺
182 fēng Wind 飒 飓 飘
183 fēi Fly -
184 食 饣 shí Eat 饥 饮 饱 饰 餐
185 shǒu Head
186 xiāng Fragrant 馥 馨
187 Horse 驰 驹 骂 骇 驳
188 Bone 骸 骷 骰
189 gāo High
190 biāo Long hair 髦 鬃 鬓
191 门/鬥 mén/dòu Fight 鬧 鬦
192 chàng Sacrificial wine -
193 Cauldron 鬳 鬴 鬵 鬷
194 guǐ Ghost 魂 魄 魅
195 Fish 鲜 鲈 鲑
196 niǎo Bird 鸡 鸦 鸭
197 Brine
198 鹿 Deer 麒 麓 麋
199 mài Wheat
200 Hemp 麾 磨 魔
201 huáng Yellow 横 磺 簧
202 shǔ Millet 黎 黏
203 hēi Black 墨 黔 默 黛
204 zhǐ Embroidery
205 měng Frog
206 dǐng Tripod
207 Drum
208 shǔ Rat
209 Nose 鼾 齁
210 Neat 挤 剂 济
211 齿 chǐ Tooth 龄 龅
212 lóng Dragon 龚 笼 珑
213 guī Turtle
214 yuè Flute


After reviewing all 214 Chinese characters, you surely have some questions! Here are some of the most commonly asked questions.

1. What are the most common Chinese radicals?

As you now know, the radicals can help you figure out the meaning or pronunciation of a character, which is invaluable for anyone studying Chinese. But which ones should you prioritize?

Here are the 10 most important ones to give your Chinese a serious boost.

Radical Pinyin Meaning Examples
Woman 妈 好 始 姓 安
水 氵 氺 shuǐ Water 海 河 湖 江 洗
人 亻 rén Person 你 他 仕 仙 例
刂 刁 刀 dāo Knife 刅 分 切 划 刚
心 忄 xīn Heart 必 忆 忘 忙 快
yuè Moon 服 朋 青 朝 明
chì Step 行 徐 律 很 往
Child 孔 字 季 学 孩
mián Roof 宁 它 安 定 容
yán Speech 说 话 语 讲 试

2. How many Chinese radicals are there?

There are 214 in total. Keep in mind that some of them have several forms, and some traditional characters have been altered with the introduction of simplified characters.

Though that sounds like a lot, rest assured that many of them aren’t used at all in modern Chinese — and many more are not used in daily conversations.

3. Should I learn all the radicals before I start learning characters?

No! You don't need to learn all 214 radicals before you start learning characters. In fact, you most definitely shouldn’t — many of them are so sparsely used that you won’t run into them until you’re far more advanced in your studies. Instead, incorporate some radicals into your Chinese study routine so that they can help complement your learning.

If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at our list of the 10 most common ones above. Knowing just those 10 will make a difference in your Chinese learning, but definitely don’t let the radicals get in the way of learning simple phrases like how to say hello in Chinese.

4. Can radicals be used on their own?

Certainly! Many radicals can also be used as characters on their own. This is something to keep in mind — although all of them have their own meaning, not all of them can be used on their own as stand-alone characters.

Here are some examples of radicals that can be used as characters on their own:

Radical Pinyin Meaning
yòu Again
gōng Work
gān/gàn Dry/Do
shí Stone

Now you know what’s so radical about Chinese characters!

214 radicals later, and now you’re well on your way to becoming a prolific Chinese speaker! As a key component to most Chinese characters, spending some time reviewing the radicals is essential for every learner. Whether you use this to your advantage or not is up to you!

Our recommendation? Make learning work for you. Instead of thinking of them as another thing to learn before you can really start speaking Chinese, think of them as helpful aids in your studies. With enough practice, you’ll soon start recognizing radicals in your day-to-day studies!

Make sure to check out our Mandarin blog if you enjoyed this guide. We publish handy grammar and vocabulary guides to help you level up your Chinese studies. And best of all? They’re all free! Save our blog to your bookmarks and let us help you grow your Mandarin skills.

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