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Japanese Hiragana kyokashotai NU.png
U+306C, ぬ



Stroke order
2 strokes


Etymology 1[edit]

Derived in the Heian period from writing the man'yōgana kanji in the cursive sōsho style.


(romaji nu)

  1. The hiragana syllable (nu). Its equivalent in katakana is (nu). It is the twenty-third syllable in the gojūon order; its position is (na-gyō u-dan, row na, section u).
See also[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From Old Japanese.[1][2][3]

Many monolingual Japanese dictionaries[1][2][3] derive this as a contraction of Old Japanese 往ぬ (inu, to go away; to pass (such as time); to pass away, to die); however, the meaning does not seem to make sense in the context of the verb ending -nu.

More recent work by Bjarke Frellesvig and others suggests that -nu may have originated from an ancient copular or stative verb.


(rōmaji -nu)

  1. (jodōshi) marks the end of action:
    1. (after the 未然形 (mizenkei, incomplete form) of a verb) the negative: indicates negation of the action, ending without starting or occurring -- not
       (かぜ) ()
      kaze ga tatanu
      the wind does not rise / does not pick up
    2. (after the 連用形 (ren'yōkei, continuative or stem form) of verb) the perfective: indicates completion of the action, ending after starting or occurring -- has done, has happened
       (かぜ) ()
      kaze ga tachinu
      the wind has risen / has picked up

Usage notes[edit]

In Old Japanese and continuing in classical and later Japanese, the ending -nu and the ending -ta have both been used to mark the completion of an action, with two key differences:

  1. -ta was not used after the 未然形 (mizenkei, incomplete form) of a verb, and thus was not used in negation contexts;
  2. -nu was used mainly for verbs that indicated intransitive, naturally occurring, or unintentional actions, while -ta was used mainly for verbs that indicated transitive or intentional actions.

In modern Japanese, -nu is rarely encountered, and it often imparts a formal or archaic sense.


(negative verb ending):

  • (very casual, also archaic, also dialectal) (n)
  • (casual) ない (nai)
  • (formal) ません (masen)
  • (written formal) (zu)
  • (Kansai) へん (hen)

(perfective verb ending):


  1. 1.0 1.1 1988, 国語大辞典(新装版) (Kokugo Dai Jiten, Revised Edition) (in Japanese), Tōkyō: Shogakukan
  2. 2.0 2.1 2006, 大辞林 (Daijirin), Third Edition (in Japanese), Tōkyō: Sanseidō, →ISBN
  3. 3.0 3.1 1995, 大辞泉 (Daijisen) (in Japanese), Tōkyō: Shogakukan, →ISBN



Cognate with mainland Japanese (no).


(romaji nu)

  1. possessive particle