71. The "Crooked Heaven" Radical: 无 and 旡

See the Thematic Explorations essay "Sticky Stroke Counts" to learn about the shape of radical 71, whose parent is 无 and whose variant is 旡. While you're here, though, let's quickly examine other aspects of this radical.

Where Radical 71 Sees Action

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

既 (1126: already; previous)

By contrast, radical 71 is a mere component in these Joyo characters:

 (1070: to lament; resent)

 (1072: approximation; outline; general)

The Meanings of 无 and 旡

The non-Joyo character 无 is synonymous with 無, both meaning "nothing."

Meanwhile, 旡 is a separate non-Joyo character. Kanjigen defines it as "to clog; do completely; something clogs up because it gets filled; to eat up; the state of doing the previous things."

Though each is its own character, 旡 is treated as a variant of 无 because they look so much alike.

The Names of Radical 71

The parent 无 and the variant 旡 have several Japanese names:



The む (無) means "nothing," just as 无 does.

In the second name the -にょう suffix describes "surrounding" enclosures, which go down the left and across the bottom of a character, as explained in Radical Terms in the "Radical Positions" section. It does not appear, however, that 旡 surrounds anything in any kanji, so this name is puzzling. 

The last name, すでのつくり, literally means "the right side of 既." Although すで•に is the Joyo kun-yomi of that kanji, すで corresponds to the 既 part of 既に, which is why only すで appears in the name, not すでに. And -つくり is the position name for a radical on the right side of a character.

Some online sources identify なし as another name for radical 71, as does Nelson, who says that なし again means 無 (nothing).

As for the English radical name, "crooked heaven" alludes to 无 as a mangled version of 天, which can represent "heaven."

The Etymology of Radical 71

To understand what the radical contributes to 既 (1126: already), I consulted Henshall's etymology. He says in his newer edition that the right side has provided both meaning and sound, originally representing either "choke after eating" or "eat one's fill." In an early form of 既, the left-side 皀 symbolized "food vessel piled with food." All together, 既 meant "finish eating" or "eat one's fill," depending on which scholar you ask. One expert sees the character as meaning "to complete, have done," with "already" as an extended sense. 

Kanjigen says that the left side of 既 means "a delicacy" and that the right side depicts a man who has eaten so much that he is burping!

When I searched Amazon for book covers featuring 既, I kept encountering an unfamiliar term:

既読スルー (きどくスルー: reading but not responding to a text message (in a chat application))

What a great expression to have! The スルー bears no relation to する but is rather a slang word meaning "ignoring," coming from "through" in English. It's as if the message "went through" the recipient. We already know half of the title of the book shown above:

The More Your Messages Are Ignored After Being Read, the Happier You Can Become

数 (かず: number of times); 幸せ (しあわせ: happy)

Look-Alike Radicals

Be sure not to mix up 旡, the radical 71 variant, with the following radical:

牙 (radical 92: the "tusk" radical)