8 Replies ・ Started by JKF at 2021-02-09 11:47:22 UTC ・ Last reply by JKF at 2021-02-10 15:36:34 UTC

Sakura vs Zakura

Konnichiwa everyone!
Quick question regarding the spelling of cherry blossom. Why is it sometimes spelled with a s and sometimes with a z? I usually see it written as sakura (さくら) but in this case the hiragana (or katakana) writing could also be read as “horse meat” and other meanings. Is that correct?

So my question is when I would write it as zakura (ざくら) the meaning is only cherry blossom, correct? So in order to not get confused with other meanings I could write ざくら and then people will only read it as cherry blossom.

Thanks for your help! :)

Leebo at 2021-02-09 12:11:46 UTC

You're talking about when it comes at the end of a compound word? That's called rendaku. It's the same thing happening in "tokidoki" or "origami" (ori, fold + kami, paper).

You wouldn't say "zakura" just on its own. It happens as a result of rendaku.

You can read more about rendaku here.


JKF at 2021-02-09 17:09:04 UTC

Oh, I see! Thank you for pointing that out. I was actually wondering about only the word, not in a sentence.

So could I add hana after sakura in order for it to be clear that I mean the cherry blossom flower? And if so would it be correct to write it like this (in hiragana): さくらのはな
Thanks again for your help!

Leebo at 2021-02-09 21:29:53 UTC

Rendaku is about compound words (like やまざくら), not sentences, but yes, if you wanted to be clear about the meaning of cherry blossom flower you could say さくらのはな, or for cherry tree you could say さくらのき.

I would say, the most common non-flower meaning is the second definition... for instance, in like, fake accounts on a dating site or something. But the context would be obvious that you're not talking about flowers.

JKF at 2021-02-10 12:23:04 UTC

I see! I also read on that website you sent the link (which was very informative thank you!!) that for example person hito becomes bito when added to a word. So sakura person then becomes sakurabito instead of hito, right? Would then sakura flower without the “no” become sakurabana? Because sakura no hana literally means the flower OF cherry blossom, doesn’t it?

And would you say these two words are correctly written like this:
さくらびと (sakura person = someone who really likes cherry blossoms)

さくらはな (=cherry blossom flower)

Leebo at 2021-02-10 12:30:05 UTC

さくらばな is indeed a word that exists. It's one of two ways to read 桜花, the other being おうか (which uses the on'yomi readings). So yes, はな changes due to rendaku there.

JKF at 2021-02-10 15:12:48 UTC

Great, thank you very much!
Indeed I also saw online that sakurabana can be written in these three ways, although when written as おうか there are several meanings to the word whereas さくらばな and 桜花 mean only cherry blossom (that’s how I understood it).
And these two words can be used on their own right?
I’m asking because a friend of mine wants to get the word cherry blossom (without the possibility of reading it as a different word) tattooed and my Japanese is not yet that well in order for me to say it’s correct for sure. In that case I would recommend using さくらばな. Would you, too?

Leebo at 2021-02-10 15:25:16 UTC

I'm not aware of any other meanings in modern Japanese for 桜花 other than cherry blossom, regardless of whether you read it おうか or さくらばな. I know that さくらばな is also a "makura kotoba" (a type of word used in classical literature or poetry) to basically mean "something as beautiful as a cherry blossom," but that's not so far from the original meaning that it's odd or anything.

I generally refrain from giving advice on people's Japanese tattoo ideas. I personally would not get a tattoo of something if I didn't have a good handle on the full context of every aspect of it, but that's just me.

JKF at 2021-02-10 15:36:34 UTC

Yes, you’re right. Thank you anyway for helping! I personally learnt a lot just thinking about the different characters and how they change depending on where they stand (this whole rendaku thing) etc. :)

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