I noticed the kangxi radicals all have two ways that people refer to them. For example: is sometimes called shuǐ, sometimes called 三点水. is sometimes called shí or 食字旁.

What are the correct names for the radicals as radicals?

there's lots of these on Wikibooks and in the other way at archchinese.com.

  • 1
    三点水 or 水字旁 both indicates radical names. 三点 helps you visualize the radical. 字旁 means the radical's position is at the side. 字头 means it is at the top.
    – 杨以轩
    Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 3:07

4 Answers 4


In my opinion, 三点水 and shui3 are all correct names for 氵, so for 饣.

Actually, 氵is also 水, just in another face. You can know this by comparing Chinese Seal Character(小篆) 河:http://www.zdic.net/z/1c/zy/6CB3.htm 水:http://www.zdic.net/z/1c/zy/6C34.htm

三点水 is more formal, shui3 is most used in computer world.

Hope my explanation can help you understand this further.

  • 1. isn't used only in the computer world. instead, it's rarely used. 2. /水部 is much more formal than 三点水. look at 《说文解字》 河 从水可聲. Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 4:38

They are called 部首. And, in antique dictionaries like 康熙字典, they are referred to as 部. It is very formal and scholarly to address the whole bunch of characters containing 氵 or 水(at the bottom) or other parts showing links to 水 as 水部. The logic here is ''the original character of the radical' + 部', following the rules of classical Chinese.

However, in everyday life, when we describe how to write an unfamiliar character or admiring calligraphy, we cannot address both 氵 and 水 as 水, because they are too vague for radicals in different positions. Popular names are called for, and here I enclose a list of popular name for radicals found on wikipedia.

Popular Names for Radicals(Chinese)


As a native Chinese speaker, My teacher told me that called 三点水 and called 食字旁.

Actually, we never call as . It's a little strange. The link wikibooks you gave is exactly the right answer to your question.

  • is never called in daily life. However, is much more formal than 三点水. Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 4:19
  • 1
    @MikeManilone when we call radicals we never call it 水.
    – einverne
    Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 4:23
  • I call it 水部 or X字从水 :-) Commented Jan 23, 2014 at 15:00

The wiki link is correct. 氵is 三点水 and 饣is 食字旁. I don't think [citation needed] 氵is a character with a real meaning. Didn't find it in the Kangxi Dictionary. I only use its pinyin "shui3" when I want to type it with a pinyin input method.

P.S. Almost all characters with the radical 氵is about water(河 river, 海 sea, 洋 ocean), and water(水) is pronounced shui3. And 饣-shi2-食 is about food/diet.

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