Understanding monolingual definitions
A typical entry in a monolingual dictionary looks similar to this:
あした  【明日・朝】 （名） （１）今日の次の日。 （２）夜が終わって，明るくなった時。あさ。
Every dictionary usually has its own, unique system of notation.
On this page I primarily use
大辞泉 as an example.
If you need help finding monolingual dictionaries, see the
Dictionaries resources section.
Back of the book
If your dictionary has an EPWING version, chances are that you can open the back of the book section in Qolibri. The back of the book will tell you exactly what symbols the dictionary uses and what they mean.
If you're out of luck, try searching the web.
The keywords that should work are
followed by the name of the dictionary.
First you see the word in kana.
The number to the right in square brackets
 is pitch accent.
You'll find about pitch accent at the end of the page.
If next to the hiragana reading you see a slightly different reading in katakana, it likely indicates how the word was spelled before World War II.
きのう ｷﾉﾌ  【昨日】
Inside the fat brackets
【】 you see how it can be written in kanji.
Different kanji spellings are separated with a
It means that the word can be written multiple ways.
Inside the kanji notation you may see triangles like this.
×mean that the kanji character is not standard, not a 常用漢字.
▽means that the kanji reading is not standard.
Parts of okurigana may be inside round brackets.
This means that the okurigana inside the
（…） can be omitted. E.g., 売り上げ becomes 売上げ.
熟字訓 is when a Japanese reading is assigned to a kanji compound.
In other words,
it means that there's no relation between the reading of a word and the kanji used to write it.
‐indicates that this reading is listed in the 「付表」 section of 常用漢字表.
＝means this reading is not listed in the 「付表」 section.
There is no clear reason why kanji end up in 付表. It's just another way Japanese people like to shoot themselves in the foot.
熟字訓 can be seen in words such as:
In addition to
in other dictionaries
熟字訓 can be marked as
〈word〉, like this.
Parts of speech
After the kanji reading inside round brackets the entry is telling you the part of speech.
名 means it's a noun,
動五 means it's a
五段活用 verb, etc.
The part of speech notation can be a bit complex and has to do with 学校文法,
so I recommend getting familiar with that.
If you have recursive lookups enabled
in Yomichan, hover over the part of speech to see what it means.
[文] it tells you what part of speech this word was in classical Japanese.
In the example below it says that the
下一段 verb was
下二段 in classical Japanese.
たす・ける  【助ける・扶ける】 （動カ下一）[文]カ下二 たす・く 力を添えて人や動物を，死の危険や苦痛・災難から逃れさせる。
Different parts of speech, from デジタル大辞泉.
Meanings are usually shown as numbered lists.
After each definition there may be one or more example sentences in
When there's only one meaning, it's not numbered.
ひるがえ・る ﾋﾙｶﾞﾍﾙ  【翻る】（動ラ五［四］） （１）ひらりと裏がえる。「木の葉が風に―・る」 （２）旗などが高く上がってひらひらと動く。「校旗が―・る」 （３）今までの態度や言動が急に変わる。「悪心たちまち―・りて/仮名草子・伊曾保物語」
You may want to grab the example sentence when making Anki cards. If you see a slash inside the brackets, the sentence comes from a piece of literature, and the name of the work is written after the slash. Contrary to normal example sentences, such sentences often come from pretty old literary works. They tend to be quite difficult, and you probably don't need to bother trying to understand them.
Symbols found inside definitions.
Understanding pitch accent
The pitch accent number that you see in dictionaries indicates where the pitch drop occurs, counting by moras.
A mora can be defined as
a single kana character except small kana (
ょ but not
optionally followed by a small kana.
Each mora is given the same amount of time when pronounced.
にゃis one mora.
あis one mora.
ー(long vowel mark) and small
っeach count as one mora.
東京(とうきょう)has 4 moras:
せいけん-ほうそう【政見放送】 has accent
which means that the drop occurs on the 5th mora.
In other words, all moras after
ほ should be pronounced low (セイケンホ↓ウソウ).
Sometimes a dictionary entry contains several pitch accent numbers. It means that the word can be pronounced with either of them.
The 5th version of Shinmeikai may list two pitch accent numbers separated by a colon. This means that only the second one tells you the pitch accent of the word in its dictionary form and the other one you can ignore because it tells you the pitch accent of the word when it modifies a noun.
Tags: dictionaries, epwing