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Unicode block Hiragana
Codepoint U+306C
See also:


Stroke order


Etymology 1[edit]

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


(Hepburn romanization nu)

  1. The hiragana syllable ‎(nu), whose equivalent in katakana is ‎(nu). It is the twenty-third syllable of the gojūon order, and its position in gojūon tables is (NA-gyō, U-dan; “row NA, section U”).

Related terms[edit]

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.


‎(romaji -nu)

  1. 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) ‎(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 4-385-13905-9
  3. 3.0 3.1 1995, 大辞泉 (Daijisen) (in Japanese), Tōkyō: Shogakukan, ISBN 4-09-501211-0