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Seeing Things with 鏡 kagami

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In today's lesson, we will look at five words using the kanji for mirror: 鏡 kagami

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You may remember this kanji by looking at its three parts: 金 (gold) 立 (stand) 見 (to see) = You stand to see yourself as gold.


Kagami by itself means "mirror" and is thought to have come from shadow (影) and to look (見). Shadow, 影 kage, also can have the meaning of reflection or image. So kagami may have come from kagemi--looking at one's image.

Anyway, kagami means "mirror" today and is the basis for our words in this lesson.

  • 私が鏡を見ると、鏡が割れます。
  • watashi ga kagami wo miruto, kagami ga waremasu.
  • When I look at a mirror, the mirror breaks.

Another reading for kagami is kyou and when stuck at the end, it acts kind of like the English suffix "-scope"

Here are the three main words:

  • 望遠鏡 bouenkyou telescope
  • 双眼鏡 sougankyou binoculars
  • 顕微鏡 kenbikyou microscope

望遠鏡 bouenkyou telescope

You'll recognize the 鏡 as kyou. The first two characters 望遠 bouen mean "to see at a distance." So, 望遠 bouen plus kyou means telescope.


双眼鏡 sougankyou binoculars

双眼 sougan means both eyes and when kyou is added, it becomes binoculars.


顕微鏡 kenbikyou microscope

The first kanji 顕 means "exposed," "unconcealed". The second is "something very small." With kyou, you are exposing something very small.


Here are two bonus words that you may already know.

眼鏡 megane (eye) glasses
虫眼鏡 mushi megane magnifying glass


Bimyo-na Nihongo

If you like this kind of lesson, you may enjoy this book: Bimyo-na Nihongo or check out our other books on building vocabulary.

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