Graphical etymology
wish; sense; idea; thought; feeling; desire; attention
on: NEN
kun: omou nenjiru
strokes: 8
radical: 心, 忄,⺗ (no. 61) (Nelson uses , 亻,𠆢, no. 9)
to read; to study (a subject); to attend (a school); to read aloud; to miss (sb); idea; remembrance; twenty (banker's anti-fraud numeral corresponding to 廿, 20);
pinyin: niàn
strokes: 8
radical: 心, 忄,⺗ (no. 61) (Nelson uses , 亻,𠆢, no. 9)

Graphical etymology

Early meanings for 念 are “to think of, remember, remind.”¹ The modern form of 念 consists of heart 心 (probably for its extended meaning “mind”) and 今. The original meaning of 今 is not known for certain² but scholars seem to agree that 今 functions as phonetic in 念, lending its sound.³ However, bronze inscriptions show both 念 (with 今) and 𢗁 (with 亼).⁴ Also, the early sounds of 今 and 念 are different.⁵ Could 念 possibly be a semantic compound?⁶



  1. Schuessler, p. 400. He quotes as sources bronze inscriptions, and the Shījīng 詩經.
  2. See 今 on this site, or the longer discussion here.
  3. Lǐ, p. 927 (referenced in Outlier); Seeley et al., p. 194.
  4. See 金文 for 念 on <http://xiaoxue.iis.sinica.edu.tw>.
  5. OCM kəm versus OCM nə̂ms or nêms (Schuessler, p, 314 & p. 400).
  6. Some scholars think that 今 represents inverted speak 曰 and 亼 represents inverted mouth 口, both of which can relay the idea of speech. “Speech in one’s mind”?
  7. 心 can really refer both to the heart and the mind; 今 often gives the “notion of containment” in compound graphs (Qiú, 2000, p. 260).

Additional details for 念

Morohashi: 10390 4.0981
Item no. in Henshall: 561
SKIP code: 2-2-6
Four corner code: 8033.2
Korean reading: nyeom
Unihan English meanings (for Chinese):
think of, recall, study
Unihan on: NEN
Unihan kun: OMOU NENJIRU
Unihan pinyin: niàn
Unihan kZVariant: