4 strokes
beginning, former time, origin
Jōyō kanji, taught in grade 2
JLPT level N4
192 of 2500 most used kanji in newspapers


Stroke order

On reading compounds

  • 元 【ゲン】 unknown (e.g. in an equation), element (of a set), yuan (monetary unit of China), New Taiwan dollar, Yuan dynasty (of China; 1271-1368), Yüan dynasty, Mongol dynasty
  • 原価 【ゲンカ】 cost price
  • 中元 【チュウゲン】 15th day of the 7th lunar month, (last day of) Bon lantern festival, mid-year gift, summer gift, Bon Festival gifts
  • 抗原 【コウゲン】 antigen
  • 元祖 【ガンソ】 originator, pioneer, inventor, founder, progenitor, primogenitor, founder of a family line
  • 元日 【ガンジツ】 New Year's Day

Kun reading compounds

  • 元 【もと】 origin, source, base, basis, foundation, root, cause, ingredient, material, base, mix, stock, (someone's) side, (someone's) location, original cost (or capital, principal, etc.), (plant) root, (tree) trunk, first section of a waka, counter for blades of grass, tree trunks, etc., and for falcons (in falconry), handle (chopsticks, brush, etc.), grip
  • 元 【もと】 former, ex-, past, one-time, earlier times, the past, previous state, formerly, previously, originally, before
  • 家元 【いえもと】 head of a school (of music, dance), head family of a school
  • 胸元 【むなもと】 breast, chest, pit of the stomach, solar plexus, epigastrium


Japanese names:
ちか、 はじめ、 はる、 ゆき、 よし
Mandarin Chinese (pinyin):


  • comienzo
  • principio
  • origen
  • jefe


  • começo
  • tempo anterior
  • origem


  • commencement
  • origine
  • ancien temps
68 A Guide To Reading and Writing Japanese (Florence Sakade)
117 A Guide To Reading and Writing Japanese 3rd edition (Henshall, Seeley and De Groot)
106 A Guide To Remembering Japanese Characters (Kenneth G. Henshall)
328 A New Dictionary of Kanji Usage
275 Classic Nelson (Andrew Nelson)
106 Essential Kanji (P.G. O’Neill)
121 Japanese Kanji Flashcards (Max Hodges and Tomoko Okazaki)
60 Japanese Names (P.G. O’Neill)
2.10 Japanese for Busy People
137 Kanji and Kana (Spahn and Hadamitzky)
137 Kanji and Kana, 2nd Edition (Spahn and Hadamitzky)
245 Kanji in Context (Nishiguchi and Kono)
141 Kodansha Compact Kanji Guide
2428 Kodansha Kanji Dictionary (Jack Halpern)
1226 Kodansha Kanji Learner’s Dictionary (Jack Halpern)
1690 Kodansha Kanji Learner’s Dictionary, 2nd Edition (Jack Halpern)
59 Les Kanjis dans la tete (Yves Maniette)
1340 Morohashi
1929 New Japanese English Character Dictionary (Jack Halpern)
343 New Nelson (John Haig)
59 Remembering The Kanji (James Heisig)
63 Remembering The Kanji, 6th edition (James Heisig)
408 The Kanji Way to Japanese Language Power (Dale Crowley)
89 Tuttle Kanji Cards (Alexander Kask)
3057 2001 Kanji
0a4.5 The Kanji Dictionary
2-1-3 SKIP code
1021.1 Four corner code
1-24-21 JIS X 0208-1997 kuten code
5143 Unicode hex code