What is the correct word for sword in Japanese?
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Sword in Japanese?
I’ve been reading about Japanese swords, and I notice that they use two different kanji to refer to the word “sword”: 刀 and 剣. Some types of sword, like chokutou, tachi, ninjatou, use 刀. Some other, like bokken, use 剣. Not a sword per se, but other related term like shinken also use 剣 instead of 刀.
What I’m aware of, in military history (CMIIW though), 剣 refers to tsurugi, a double-edged sword type similar to European broadsword that is commonly used prior to Heian era. Post-Heian, single-edged sword that is now come to be known as katana became more popular, and 刀 refer to that sword.
Looking at Google Diary I found that “sword” translates to 刃 (yaiba), which makes me confused further (seems to be derived from 刀 though?). My knowledge of Japanese is entirely basic, if not uninformed at all.
So my question is,
- What is the correct word for “sword” in Japanese? Why there exists a separate 刃?
- Why some sword’s name use 刀, while others use 剣? Is there any other use of other kanji I’m not aware of?
What is the correct word of sword in japan?
I am no expert on swords, but here is my understanding:
- 刃 does not refer to a sword, but actually to a blade. It is also used in words like “scalpel” and “razor blade”.
- 刀 is a sword (pronounced “katana”/”gatana” or “tou”, or occasionally “sori”). It can also mean a saber, or sometimes a small knife / razor. It’s very literal. (It has a slight feeling of ‘cutting’ or ‘shaving’ to it.)
- 剣 is a sword (pronounced “tsurugi” or “ken”). It can also mean a saber or a bayonet, but it’s usually large. It can be literal (and has a slight feeling of ‘stabbing’ to it), but just occasionally it can also be figurative, meaning “swordsmanship”, and a few other things (an interesting one being 真剣, literally “true sword”, meaning serious / earnest / reliable).
What is the meaning of sword in japanese kanji?
Here are some words containing more than one of the kanji which might serve to clarify:
- 円刃刀 (literally, circle+blade+sword) = round-edged scalpel
- 両刃の剣 (literally, both+blade+sword) = two-edged sword
- 刀剣 = a sword, or swords (in general, as a collective noun: compare 河川 for rivers).
There probably isn’t much of a distinction between 刀 and 剣 in the case when they mean ‘sword’.
Adding to this, another anecdote from a non-expert: It seems to me that かたな of course is often used for a proper katana. For other, less usual styles of sword, とう seems to be the norm (as in a [something]-sword.) I don’t know the real distinction point – if it’s double-edged, or solid-bodied (not rapiers or other flexible blades) or if it would encompass them all.
刃 is more specifically the cutting edge. Scissor have 刃 as well, so it’s not specifically swords. I suppose you could compare it to ‘blade’ used in English.
剣（けん） is swords in general. 剣（つるぎ） is a straight double-edged sword used more for stabbing. 刀 is a curved single-edged sword mainly for slicing.
That’s what I got from a quick search. Hopefully that covers it.
Correct word of Sword in japanese hiragana?
刀 katana reading derives etymologically from 片刃 [kata + na] = single-edged. (note: na reading of 刃 is pre-modern, modern would be ha)
Note that 日本刀 refers specifically to a sword made in a traditional manner, by a known smith, using traditional iron. Generically a sword is formally called 刀剣, as in the the firearms and swords control law which refers to various bladed weapons as 刀剣類. 刀 typically refers to a Japanese sword, whereas a western sword would more likely be referred to as 剣 or using the specific name of the weapon.
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. The word 剣（けん）can mean sword in both the generic sense or any double-edged sword (the same as 剣（つるぎ）). 日本刀（にほんとう）is the generic term for single-edged Japanese blades of all makes. 刀剣（とうけん）covers both single- and double-edged swords but, in my experience, is the least common of these terms.
Post-Heian, single-edged sword that is now come to be known as katana became more popular, and 刀 refer to that sword.
Once you get into 日本刀, there are any number of appellations, most of which are ill defined, depending on the size, shape, and mountings. 刀（かたな）generally refers to a later sword designed for unmounted combat and mounted to be worn through a sash rather than slung.
Some other examples are: 太刀（たち）、脇差（わきざし）、大刀（だいとう）、大太刀（おおだち）、野太刀（のだち）、小刀（しょうとう）、小太刀（こだち）、短刀（たんとう）、鎧通し（よろいどおし）、打刀（うちがたな）
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