From Old Japanese. Derived as the passive or intransitive conjugation of Old Japanese root verb 分く (waku, “to separate, to break into pieces; to be separable or distinguishable”). Compare transitive 分ける (wakeru).
As the passive or spontaneous conjugation of waku, the verb wakaru could be translated more directly as something like "it comes apart [for me / he / she / etc.]", roughly analogous to English "I can see how it comes apart" → "I can see how it is put together".
- 分かる, 解る: to be understandable, to understand
- Hai, wakarimashita.
- Yes. I understood.
- 分かる: to tell (one thing from another), to distinguish
- 分かる, 判る: to be recognized, to be realized
- 分かる: to become known, to turn out
- I've got it! / I know!
In recent usage, this term may be more commonly spelt in hiragana.
The Japanese verb wakaru is most often glossed as to understand. However, wakaru is intransitive, and it takes the thing that is understood, distinguished, or recognized as the subject (usually marked by particle が (ga)), and not the object (usually marked by particle を (o)). Strictly speaking, wakaru is thus closer to English to be understandable, as the verb wakaru describes the thing itself, unlike English to understand, which describes the action of the person doing the understanding, distinguishing, or recognizing.
Despite the above, the form with を and transitive usage also exists, although this may be proscribed, and is not reflected in some dictionaries.
- *私が分かる (incorrect, ❌)
- 私に分かる (correct, ✔)
- Fukuzatsu de mo, (watashi ni) kono jijō ga wakaru.
- Although it's complicated, this situation is understandable (to me).
Compare the difference in usage of transitive verb 知る (shiru, “to know”).
- 分ける (wakeru)