Kanji Tip 21: 忙 (busy), 忘 (forget)

It’s been quite some time since last post, so what better chance to make this kanji introduction.

When written 忙しい, it’s read “isogashii”, and it’s an adjective meaning “busy“. It also has an on’yomi reading of “bou”, as in 多忙 (tabou), having kind of the same meaning but maybe leveled up, as the first kanji 多 means “a lot”. Going even further in leveling up, you also have 忙殺 (bousatsu). The second kanji means “killing”, so you can imagine the level of busyness.

The character has a very interesting formation, as the left part means “heart” and the right one means “to disappear“, so the character origin can be understood as something like “you’re so busy that your hear disappears“.

However! Have a look at the following one.

Yes, the parts are the same, but their positions is different! This time the “to disappear” part is above, and the “heart” is below. The meaning of this character is “to forget” and it’s read 忘れる (wasureru). As a on’yomi reading, the word 忘年会 (bounenkai) is very famous. “Bounenkai” is a party/dinner that usually Japanese people have amongst friends or colleagues to say farewell to another year. It literally means “encounter to forget the year”, having the meaning of forgetting all the bad things that happened, to face a new year optimistically.

But why does the meaning of both kanji is different if the parts are the same? Well, I found a very good explanation.

In both characters, we have the same thing happening, right? The heart disappearing. But if their meanings are different, it must mean that this “disappearance” must be somehow different.

Well, it’s common for kanji having the “heart” part below, to refer to oneself, putting something above one’s heart. By one’s will, the heart became like this.

However, when the “heart” part is on the left side, it means that something external to us made something. The heart changed due to an incontrollable force.

And that’s it. When we are the ones making our heart disappear, we forget. When someone or something makes our heart disappear, we are busy! How fun can kanji get? 🙂


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