145. The "Clothing" Radical: 衣 and 衤

In kanji with the "clothing" radical, 衣, the nomenclature of that radical is somewhat tricky. Take, for instance, 衷 (1585: innermost heart). Some sources say the radical name is ころも, whereas others call it ころもへん. The second name seems strange; へん means "radical on the left side," and in 衷 the radical sits squarely on the bottom of 衷, a position known as あし. Nevertheless, there's no such term as ころもあし. 

Positions of the "Clothing" Radical

The "clothing" radical can occupy three positions in a kanji:

1. In kanji such as 裂 (1930: split) and 袋 (1546: bag), we find 衣 on the bottom.
2. In characters such as 複 (783: compound) and 被 (1729: to be subjected to), the radical becomes衤and sits on the left. 
3. In the kanji 衷 (1585: innermost heart), 衰 (1456: to decline), and 裏 (992: rear), the 衣 splits into upper and lower parts. Other components insert themselves between the two.

Some dictionaries call all three groups ころもへん, whereas other sources use ころも for groups 1 and 3, reserving ころもへん for group 2. 

Stroke Count of the "Clothing" Radical and Its Variant

Incidentally, the "parent" radical 衣 has six strokes, whereas the "variant" 衤 has just five. (Radical Terms explains the word "variant.") If you consult the chart of historical radicals at the front of Nelson's dictionary, you'll need to scan the list of six-stroke kanji to find 衣 in slot 145, immediately followed by the listing for 衤.

A Look-Alike Radical

If you remove the final stroke from 衤, you get the look-alike 礻. This is the variant form of the "showing" radical 示. According to Henshall, the independent character 示 (695: to show) no longer means "altar," as it once did. However, the radical 示 and its variant 礻 tend to mean "related to the gods," as in 祭 (283: festival), 神 (324: god), and 祈 (1124: to pray). For most of us, clothing and prayer are worlds apart, so it's a good idea to keep 衤 and 礻 straight. Perhaps you can remember the extra stroke or dot as an armband of sorts—a decorative addition to clothing.