182. The "Wind" Radical: 風

The "wind" radical 風 has a great deal in common with the following kanji:

風 (198: wind; customs; style; appearance; elegance; scenery)

This is the sole Joyo character with an on-duty 風 radical.

Though the nine-stroke radical and kanji look identical, the radical assumes its variant form in the non-Joyo concoctions 颪 (wind), 颱 (typhoon), and 颶 (storm).

One can read the 風 kanji with four Joyo pronunciations. Of those, the kun-yomi かぜ has influenced the following radical name:


This means "wind."

The Etymology of 風

Henshall supplies an etymology of 風 in his newer edition. He explains that scholars generally take early forms of 風 to contain an enclosure around a pictograph of a "phoenix" or some other "large bird." (He doesn't say exactly that, but I think this is what he means.) Most experts believe that the ancient shape contained a phonetic component corresponding to the modern 凡, he says. 

As for the connection between wind and birds, Henshall informs us that ancient people perceived a fierce wind, including a typhoon, "as a harmful bird bringing danger"! Long ago in China, people therefore adopted 風 to represent "strong winds" and "winds in general." 

At the seal-script stage, he says, the Chinese replaced the interior "bird" with 虫, "insect, reptile." He comments that the phonetic in 風 may be onomatopoetic for the "sound of a typhoon" or could have the associated meaning "big" or "shake."

Photo Credit: Eve Kushner

In the etymology, I mentioned 凡 (1827: mediocre), and here is the same shape, now as a component on the second Taiwanese tea canister from the left. The word there is 風帆, which means "billowing sail; boat with billowing sails" in both Chinese and Japanese. The 帆 consists not only of 凡 but also of 巾 (radical 50: "cloth").

Differentiating the "Wind" and "Table" Radicals 

The vertical arrangement of 風 over 帆 on the tea canister helps us appreciate that our radical and 凡 essentially share the 几 shape. That happens to be another radical:

几 (radical 16: "table")

Its variant is the enclosure that wraps around 風. In fact, that variant is a simplified form of 風. 

As I've written in Radical Note 16, the Japanese have two names for the 几 radical, one being かぜかんむり. The かぜ in that word alludes to 風. As かんむり (冠: crown) is a position name for radicals that sit atop a character, かぜかんむり refers to the variant as the "radical that crowns a character with the shape from 風." Examples include 凧 (kite) and 凩 (biting winter wind), both non-Joyo kokuji (characters that the Japanese created). It intrigues me that the variant of the "table" radical pops up in characters related to the wind—and means "wind" in such kanji! 

Given their connection to wind, one might think that those two kanji belong in the radical 182 category. But for that to be true, they would need to contain the whole 風 shape. Thanks to this rule, 凮, which is a non-Joyo variant of the 風 kanji, features radical 16, not radical 182!