What is with the characters 覆, 復, 複, 复? Are they all the same? They appears to have overlapping meanings in dictionaries but not 100% equivalent for some reason.

Normally characters may have 1 tradition and 1 simplified... Though I'm not sure what the relationship of the mentioned chars above is such.

  • 覆, 復, 複 are traditional characters, look them up in a dictionary, and you can find the difference, The fourth character 复 is the simplified version of 復 and 複
    – Tang Ho
    Feb 10, 2023 at 0:24

2 Answers 2


On page 631 of 王力's 《古代汉语2》,

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That is




1 and 2 both simplified to 复 according to the current simplified Chinese characters standard.

By an earlier standard (invalid now), 覆 is also simplified to 复. So you might also find 复 used for 3 in earlier publications.

《汉字源流字典》 enter image description here

Accordingly, 復 and 複 both derived from 复. That is along the semantic evolution of 复, some of its meanings were assigned to its derivatives 復 and 複 to reduce ambiguity.

(《漢語變調構詞考辨》) enter image description here

The original meaning of 覆 is to pour. Therefore 覆 is etymologically different from, though still related to, the 復, 複, 复 group. 復 is both a semantic and a phonetic component of the glyph 覆.


For simplified Chinese, all three words can be represented by “复”, however, traditionally each does have its own meaning and specific uses.

- tip over; cover; reply. 同“复”.

- return; restore; repeatedly. 同“复”; 通“覆”; 通“複”; 通“腹”.

- repeat; double; overlap.

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