Japanese

How to Say Moon in Japanese. There’s 3 Ways You Should Know.

How many of you enjoy a good Sci-Fi story? Count me as one of you because when I was a kid, I was obsessed with shows like Star Wars, Gundam Wing, Aliens, and many more that I can’t even remember!

In fact, I just finished watching an other amazing Science Fiction Anime called Outlaw Star just the other day!

So what do all of these things have in common? They take place in outer space! And let me tell you, when you’re watching one of these kinds of shows and you think you see a moon, you might want to think again.

“That’s no moon it’s a space station!”

But speaking of moons and Japanese, why don’t we go over it and some of the other words that are related to the kanji. Read on to learn how to say moon in Japanese!

That’s (actually) a Moon

The Japanese word for moon is (tsuki) and the kanji for it is actually a pictograph of a crescent moon hidden behind the clouds (those two lines).

Here is an illustration of it from inception, to its current kanji:

Evo-yuè

The interesting thing about the moon kanji is how often it shows up in other kanji and brings the meaning or nuance of “night” to it. Let’s look at a few of them now:

  • (yuu) = Evening; not to be confused with the Katakana タ (ta) which basically looks identical. I think they just removed a cloud (line) from moon  to make Evening.

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  • (na) = Name; these are the radicals for “evening” and “mouth.” The story is that you would have to yell out your name at night when you tried to enter into town, since the guards had a hard time seeing you.

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  • 多い (ooi) = Many; much. Originally they added one evening to a second evening to mean “many evenings” but eventually the meaning changed slightly to just mean “many.”

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  • (soto) = Other; outside. Back in olden times, the shamans (or necromancers) would come outside at night with their divining rods to communicate with others in the spirit world.

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  • 明るい (akarui) = Bright. These two kanji radicals are the “sun” and the “moon”. It’s bright when the sun reflects its light off of the moon

What’s also interesting is that when they “squared off” all of the kanji to make them fit better alongside one another on parchment, another kanji ended up looking exactly the same as moon!

Do you know which one it is?

Here is a hint: it’s used in the kanji for “to have; to exist (non-living)” 有る (aru).

If you know some of the original meanings of the kanji, you will recognize the two lines in the top and left part of this kanji represent a hand. And that part that looks like the “moon”, is actually the kanji for meat (like a nice t-bone steak).

Hand + Meat = To Have.

That “moon” radical in  is the smaller, radical version of the kanji (niku) which means “flesh; meat.”

Even though it looks like the moon… But I guess it wouldn’t make any sense for it to be a hand holding the moon. Unless you were using that famous quote while trying to impress a girl… Moving on!

Actually, before we move on, if any of you are interested in learning kanji by understanding their original meanings, then you might want to check out the book Read Japanese Today which I did a review on. It’s actually pretty cool.

The Moon is Used to Tell Time

The word for moon has several different pronunciations when it is used differently. Sometimes it’s in compound words, and other times it’s just a different meaning. Let’s take a look at some of the most common and useful ones.

First of all, you’re going to need to know that the way you say it changes from つき (tsuki) to げつ (getsu) when  is used as a day of the week.

Do you know which day it is? Here’s a hint: it’s the same as in English – believe it or not!

Click To See The Answer
Yep! It is 月曜日 (getsu yōbi) which is Monday! (moon’s day, day of the moon)

>More on the days of the Japanese week can be found by reading this post.

Otherwise you should just know that it gets abbreviated to just 月曜 (getsu yō) most of the time when people are talking to one another. And when you see a calendar in Japanese, it will probably just have  on it to signify Monday.

Of course, the most common way that the moon has been used to tell time throughout most (all?) of the world’s cultures is to signify a month.

It makes sense, right? Back then they figured that the full moon showing up was a good way to tell time. You do what works, I guess.

This is one area where Japanese is actually EASIER than English!

I know, try not to pass out.

In English, we have a fancy name for each and every month of the year. And the names don’t really make any sense unless you know the history of them and how one man’s vanity messed it all up.

As an example, September is our ninth month, but the word Septem (which is where it comes from) means the number seven in Latin. Not the number nine… like the month… Ugh!

ANYWAY!!!

The Japanese were all like, “whatever, let’s just use basic numbers for our months.”

Below are the months of the year in Japanese, starting in January and ending in December (of course).

FYI, the kanji changes pronunciation yet AGAIN for months! This time to がつ (gatsu).

  1. 一月 (ichi gatsu)
  2. 二月 (ni gatsu)
  3. 三月 (san gatsu)
  4. 四月 (shi gatsu)
  5. 五月 (go gatsu)
  6. 六月 (roku gatsu)
  7. 七月 (shichi gatsu)
  8. 八月 (hachi gatsu)
  9. 九月 (ku gatsu)
  10. 十月 (jū gatsu)
  11. 十一月 (jū ichi gatsu)
  12. 十二月 (jū ni gatsu)

Yeah, so those of you who know your Japanese numbers 1-10 can easily tell that this list of vocabulary just says “one month, two month, … … … ten month, ten-one month, ten-two month.”

Seriously, I struggled with our months of the year in English when I was a kid. I could get from January to April no problem, but everything after that was a crap-shoot. If only it had been this easy!!!

I know, I know: #FirstWorldProblems.

Ahem!

Some Vocabulary Using the Moon

Of course that one dreaded weekday and all of the months are good words to know, but they were already listed above. Here’s some others for ya:

  • 何月?(nan gatsu?) = What month?
  • 満月 (mangetsu) = Full moon
  • 月給 (gekkyuu) = Monthly salary

I just gotta say something about this last one. Am I crazy for thinking one paycheck a month is not often enough!?

If it were up to me, I would get paid everyday! Make it rain!

Also, here’s something that you’ll want to note: the counter for months is ヶ which looks like a small version of the Katakana ケ (ke), but it is actually different, and it is pronounced か (ka).

So like, 二ヶ月 (ni ka getsu) would mean “two months” which you could use if you were telling someone how long you’ve been studying Japanese.

  • 日本語を勉強して一ヶ月になります。
    nihongo o benkyou shite ikkagetsu ni narimasu.
    I’ve been learning (studying) Japanese for one month.

Phrasing it this way sounds a little more natural in Japanese than what you might think at first. Here’s each month and their pronunciation so that you can swap them in and out:

Kanji Hiragana Rōmaji
1ヶ月 いっかげつ ikka getsu
2ヶ月 にかげつ ni ka getsu
3ヶ月 さんかげつ san ka getsu
4ヶ月 よんかげつ yon ka getsu
5ヶ月 ごかげつ go ka getsu
6ヶ月 ろっかげつ rokka getsu
7ヶ月 ななかげつ nana ka getsu
8ヶ月 はっかげつ hakka getsu
9ヶ月 きゅうかげつ kyū ka getsu
10ヶ月 じゅっかげつ jukka getsu
11ヶ月 じゅういっかげつ jū ikka getsu
12ヶ月 じゅうにかげつ jū ni ka getsu
20ヶ月 にじゅっかげつ ni jukka getsu
21ヶ月 にじゅういっかげつ ni jū ikka getsu
30ヶ月 さんじゅっかげつ san jukka getsu

And here are the final two vocabulary words for you:

  • 正月 (shō gatsu) = New Year
  • 毎月 (mai tsuki) = Every month

Hey! That last one went back to the kun’yomi for !

I think that’s a good place to end it for today. Just to sum it up, the three ways that you should know how to say moon in Japanese are:

  1. (tsuki) for the moon
  2. (getsu) for Monday
  3. (gatsu) for the months of the year

What did you think? Did you learn something new? Are there any other great words that use that you want to share with everyone?

Join the conversation by leaving a comment below!

2 Comments

  • Pamela

    Coming from a culture that is not only geographically close to Japan, but was heavily influenced by the Japs. At first glance, I almost thought I was ready my first language, lol

    These kanji isn’t foreign to me, but I found it interesting to read the detail & thorough story behind these kanji.
    You are right on, each word has its own meaning and has a long history of how it evolved became the modern character.

    You are so good. I am so impressed that I did not take Japanese lessons, but, I can read about 90% of what you have in kanji.

    • Nick Hoyt

      Yeah, I also think it’s pretty cool how people from countries besides Japan can read the words since the kanji carry the same meaning. 

      I’ve actually got a brother-in-law who is fluent in Mandarin Chinese, so when he started to learn Japanese, the kanji were a piece of cake for him!

      It’s a pretty sweet advantage to have for anyone who is studying Japanese. 

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