It's possible I'm reading too much into this, but there seems to be a lot of body parts which contain the 月 radical:

(tuǐ) = leg
(jiǎo) = foot
(yāo) = waist (also 腰部 (yāobù))
(liǎn) = face
(xiōng) = chest
(gǔ) = thigh (also 大腿 (dàtuǐ))
胳膊 (gēbó) = arm
脂肪 (zhīfáng) = body fat
肝脏 (gānzàng) = liver
膀胱 (pángguāng) = bladder
脖子 (bózi) = neck
肚子 (dùzi) = abdomen
脑子 (nǎozi) = brain
腋下 (yèxià) = armpit
膝盖 (xīgài) = knee
肌肉 (jīròu) = muscle
手腕 (shǒuwàn) = wrist
肩膀 (jiānbǎng) = shoulder
屁股 (pìgu) = bottom
皮肤 (pífū) = skin
手肘 (shǒuzhǒu) = elbow

Also: , , , , , . You get the idea; there's lots.

Question: Is there a reason the 月 radical occurs many times in body part names?

There's others that don't have it, e.g., (tóu) = head, 眼睛 (yǎnjing) = eyes, 耳朵 (ěrduo) = ear. Nevertheless, 月 does seem surprisingly common among body parts.


Similar questions have been asked in both Chinese and Japanese StackExchange before. In summary, what appears as in printed text is actually the graphical merger between (simplified form of (meat; flesh)) and 月 (moon). Traditionally, you wouldn't handwrite characters with the ⺼ radical with two horizontal lines as the inner two strokes; they would be diagonal.

The similarity in appearance is normally not a source of confusion, as the vast majority of characters which contain a ⺼ component does not have ⺼ appearing on the right, and the vast majority of characters which have a proper 月 component appears on the right, with some rare exceptions (see this).

As a final note, if you wish to understand why characters are written a certain way, looking at the Simplified Chinese form is generally not helpful. has undergone a very contrived simplification from the traditional (see this excellent answer on Zhihu), and like 頭, characters to do with 'head' may be written with the component instead of ⺼ (e.g. , neck).

  • What is the significance of the moon? Moon and meat are somehow related??
    – Pedroski
    Nov 18 '17 at 21:58
  • No, they're not related; they looked similar and were eventually merged into one form in print. Some typefaces make an effort to distinguish the two (specifically, those typefaces following the Taiwan Ministry of Education rules).
    – dROOOze
    Nov 19 '17 at 3:45

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