Chinese Radicals

Radical (Chinese character)
From Wikipedia (with some modifications by me)

The left part of 妈 mā, a Chinese character meaning “mother”, is a radical nü, which means “woman” (or “female”). A radical (from Latin radix, meaning “root”) is the semantic root (i.e., portion bearing the meaning) of an inflected European word. Early Western sinologists borrowed this term to refer to the semantic component of a Chinese character (Hanzi). Later, the term was also borrowed for a second meaning, the 部首 (Pinyin: bùshou), literally meaning “section header”, under which a character is listed in the dictionary.

For example, in the character 妈 mā or “mother”, the left part 女 (pronounced nü) happens to be the semantic component and also the section header under which dictionaries list the graph.

In the characters 姐, 妈, 她, 好, 姓 and 妾 (sister, mother, her, fine, surname and concubine respectively), each character has a common graphical element: 女. In 妾, it is somewhat deformed in order to make the whole character fit into a unit square, but it is in each case present. 女 is also an independent character (Pinyin: nü), signifying a woman or the concept of femininity. This meaning is in some respect reflected in most of the characters above. The other part of each of the above characters is used either for its phonetic value, playing no part in the meaning of the character but indicating something about its pronunciation; or as an indicator of meaning which has in some way been modified by the addition of 女.


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