43. The "Crooked Big" Radical: 尢

The "crooked big" radical 尢 is on duty in just one Joyo kanji:

就 (890: to start)

And it serves as a mere component in just one other Joyo kanji:

蹴 (2032: kick)

This shocked me because surely the following two kanji also feature our radical on the right:

沈 (1601: to sink; melancholy; quiet)

 (2115: pillow; bolster)

No, says my proofreader, the Japanese perceive 尢 and 冘 as significantly differerent in both shape and yomi:

尢 (オウ)

冘 (イン, ユウ, ユ)

I'll grant that the readings differ, but are the shapes miles apart?!

He notes that Kanjigen considers 尢 to have the variant 尣, a shape that plays no role in any Joyo kanji. 

Our radical pops up in this title in 成就 (じょうじゅ: completion):

Completion of Life

人生 (じんせい: life)

This appears to be a sci-fi novel in which the government advises elderly people to opt for a 人生の成就, which brings on a "death of supreme bliss."

The Vitals on 尢

The primary English name of our three-stroke radical is "crooked big"—a reference to 大 (radical 31: "big") and the odd look of the last stroke in 尢. An alternative name is "lame," which I imagine anthropomorphizes 大 and characterizes that crooked "leg" as unsound.

In Japanese the 尢 radical has the following names:




The まげあし means "crooked" (曲げる, まげる) "leg" (足, あし). 

The だいのまげあし more specifically says that だい (大) has the twisted leg. 

And おうにょう refers to オウ as the on-yomi of the non-Joyo character 尢. That pronunciation combines with にょう, which is radical position 7, an enclosure going down the left and across the bottom of a character, as in the non-Joyo 尨 (shaggy hair; shaggy dog). What a great kanji! I wish it were Joyo!

Nelson mentions that another name for 尢 is もっとも. That's not a reading of 尢 but rather of the look-alike 尤, which is non-Joyo. The word 尤も means "(1) but then; although; though; (2) reasonable; natural; just."

Etymological Matters

So what about that crooked leg? Could that be what 尢 actually represents?

No, Henshall says in his newer edition that 尢 means "excel." He calls this shape a phonetic in 就 (890: to start), which is eye-opening because I've filed 就 under the 尢 radical. Kangxi (an ancient Chinese dictionary) has, too.

In 蹴 (2032: kick), the whole of 就 serves as the phonetic, says Henshall, telling us nothing more about the particular role of 尢 there.

As for the 尢 in 沈 (1601: to sink) and  (2115: pillow), he notes that that shape originally depicted a "person carrying a heavy object such as a weapon or agricultural implement." So that's more proof that 尢 and 冘 are separate entities, though I still struggle to perceive the difference visually!