numbers and money

Digits

# kanji kun-yomi on-yomi
1 ひと 一つ one, only いち one, best, first
どういつ どう一 unity
2 ふた 二つ two two
たん 二男 second son
3 みっ 三つ three, tri- さん three, tri-
4 よっ 四つ four four
よん four
四人 four persons
5 いつ 五つ five five
6 むっ 六つ six ろく six
7 なな 七つ seven しち seven
なな seven
8 やっ 八つ eight はち eight
9 ここの 九つ nine nine
きゅう nine

comments: suggestions to memorize some of these kanjis.

  • 六 (6) looks like a combination of the digits of the roman number 6, i.e., VI
  • 七 (7) is an upside-down 7 crossed out the European way

Numerology

We count with on-yomis: いち, に, さん, し, …. Unfortunately, the on-yomi of 4, し, means ‘dead’ in Cantonese, so it is considered an unlucky number, which is why Chinese families dislike buying houses whose number includes a 4 [WP]. Thus, the Japanese modified the kun-yomi よつ into よん, to have an alternate way to count 4 without the unlucky implication: いち, に, さん, よん, ….

Likewise, the on-yomis of 7 and 9 – しち and く, sound like ‘near-certain death’ and ‘pain and suffering’ in Japanese, so they were given the alternate names なな (a modification of ななつ) and きゅう (a modification of く that sounds as ‘relief’) [WP].

What version of the number to use is sometimes a choice but sometimes it isn’t, e.g., 7:00 is always しちじ, while 7000 is always ななせん.

Going Shopping

# kanji kun-yomi on-yomi
10 とお ten じゅう ten
11 もも hundred ひゃく hundred
12 thousand せん thousand
13 かね お金 money, metal きん gold
かなづち 金づち hammer
14 まる circle, round えん yen

comments: suggestions to memorize some of these kanjis.

  • 十 (10) is the roman number 10, i.e., X, standing on a leg.
  • 百 (100) looks like ‘100’ rolled 90° to the right

All the multiples of 10, 100 and 1,000 are the first digit followed by the multiplier, e.g., 20 is ni-juu, 200 is ni-hyaku, and 2,000 is ni-sen; the following are the only exceptions:


number
300
600
800
3,000
8,000


romaji
sanbyaku
roppyaku
happyaku
sanzen
hassen


hiragana
さんびゃく
ろっぴゃく
はっぴゃく
さんぜん
はっせん


kanji
三百
六百
八百
三千
八千


八百や (やおや, ya-o-ya)

八百屋 (やおや, vegetable shop)

The suffix や (ya) indicates a store of some kind, or a person that works at that store. For example, さかなや is either a store that sells fish, or the person that works at that store. The same goes for パンや (bread store, a.k.a. bakery), 本や (book store), にくや (meat shop), 花や (flower shop), and many others. Well… with this background we would be at a loss with a store called 八百や (the 800-store) that is pronounced, of all things, やおや. What does it sell?

It turns out that in English we use the word ‘zillion’ to describe a large number, while Japanese used to use the number ‘800’, so the 800-store is a store that sells a large number of ‘things’, and it turns out to be… a produce shop; yeap… a store that sells vegetables. The pronunciation appears to be a combination of the abbreviation of やさい (vegetable), and おや (respectable shop), i.e., やさいおや, reduced to やおや. What throws us off is that the pronunciation and the writing have nothing to do with each other.

Vocabulary

These are basic words that use only kanken-10 kanjis:


kanji
一人
一人で

一月
一月, 1月

一日, 1日
一年生, 1年生

二人
二日, 2日


二つ, 2つ

三つ子
三つ, 3つ



円い


kana
ひとり
ひとりで

ひとつき
いちがつ

ついたち
いちねんせい

ふたり
ふつか

ふたご
ふたつ

みつご
みつ

かね
きん

えん
まるい


English
one person
alone (one-person manner)

one month
January (1 month)

1st of the month
1st-year student

two persons
2nd of the month

twins (two children)
two years of age

triplets (three children)
three years of age

money
gold (metal, color)

Yen (the Japanese currency)
round, circle, spherical