ひ 教科書体.svg
Type Syllabary
Languages Japanese and Okinawan
Time period ~800 AD to the present
Parent systems
Sister systems Katakana, Hentaigana
ISO 15924 Hira, 410
Direction Left-to-right
Unicode alias Hiragana
Unicode range U+3040-U+309F,
Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols.

Hiragana (平仮名, ひらがな or ヒラガナ?) is a Japanese syllabary, one basic component of the Japanese writing system, along with katakana, kanji, and the Latin alphabet (rōmaji). Hiragana and katakana are both kana systems, in which each character represents one mora. Each kana is either a vowel such as "a" (); a consonant followed by a vowel such as "ka" (); or "n" (), a nasal sonorant which, depending on the context, sounds either like English m, n, or ng ([ŋ]), or like the nasal vowels of French.

Hiragana is used to write native words for which there are no kanji, including particles such as から kara "from", and suffixes such as さん ~san "Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms." Likewise, hiragana is used in words for which the kanji form is obscure, not known to the writer or readers, or too formal for the writing purpose. Verb and adjective inflections, as, for example, be-ma-shi-ta (べました) in tabemashita (食べました?, "ate"), are written in hiragana, often following a verb or adjective root (here, "食") that is written in kanji. Hiragana is also used to give the pronunciation of kanji in a reading aid called furigana. The article Japanese writing system discusses in detail how the various systems of writing are used.

There are two main systems of ordering hiragana, the old-fashioned iroha ordering, and the more prevalent gojūon ordering.


Writing system

The complete hiragana syllabary consists of 48 characters:

  • 39 distinct consonant-vowel unions
  • 5 singular vowels
  • 1 singular consonant
  • 1 particle that is pronounced as a vowel in modern Japanese
  • 2 consonant-vowel unions that are pronounced as vowels and are obsolete in modern Japanese

These basic characters can be modified in various ways. By adding a dakuten marker ( ゛), a voiceless consonant is turned into a voiced consonant: kg, sz, td, hb and ch/shj. Hiragana beginning with an h can also add a handakuten marker ( ゜) changing the h to a p.

A small version of the hiragana for ya, yu or yo (ゃ, ゅ or ょ respectively) may be added to hiragana ending in i. This changes the i vowel sound to a glide (palatalization) to a, u or o. Addition of the small y kana is called yōon. を wo is included (although pronounced the same as vowel お o, [o]).

A small tsu っ, called a sokuon, indicates that the following consonant is geminated (doubled). For example, compare さか saka "hill" with さっか sakka "author". It also sometimes appears at the end of utterances, where it denotes a glottal stop, as in いてっ! ([iteʔ] Ouch!). However, it cannot be used to double the na, ni, nu, ne, no syllables' consonants – to double them, the singular n (ん) is added in front of the syllable.

Hiragana usually spells long vowels with the addition of a second vowel kana. The chōonpu (long vowel mark) (ー) used in katakana is rarely used with hiragana, for example in the word らーめん, rāmen, but this usage is considered non-standard. In informal writing, small versions of the five vowel kana are sometimes used to represent trailing off sounds (はぁ haa, ねぇ nee). Standard and voiced iteration marks are written in hiragana as ゝ and ゞ respectively.

Table of hiragana

The following table shows hiragana together with their Hepburn romanization and IPA transcription in the gojūon order. Hiragana with dakuten or handakuten follow the gojūon kana without them, with the yōon kana following. Obsolete and normally unused kana are shown in gray. For all syllables besides ん, the pronunciation indicated is for word-initial syllables, for mid-word pronunciations see below.

An early, now obsolete, hiragana-esque form of ye may have existed ( Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • hiragana — from Japanese hiragana, from hira “plain” + kana “borrowed letter(s).” …   Etymology dictionary

  • Hiragana — (Hirakana, eigentlich Firakana, Firagana, d. h. »ebene [gewöhnliche] geborgte Schrift«, nach andern Firogana, »breite geborgte Schrift«), die gewöhnliche Silbenschrift der Japaner, die unter dem Einfluß des Buddhismus etwa im 9. Jahrh. n. Chr.… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Hiragana — (Hirakana), Silbenschrift der Japaner, s. Japanische Sprache, Schrift und Literatur sowie Tafel: Literatur I, 13 …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • hiragana — hiragàna ž DEFINICIJA lingv. japansko kurzivno pismo izvedeno iz kineskog pisma i prilagođeno svakodnevnoj upotrebi (jedno od dva japanska pisma) ETIMOLOGIJA jap. ← hira: obično + kana: japansko slogovno pismo …   Hrvatski jezični portal

  • hiragana — [hir΄ə gä′nə] n. the more widely used portion of the Japanese kana, or syllabary, having characters that are cursive …   English World dictionary

  • Hiragana — Kana Gojūon w r y m h n t s …   Wikipedia Español

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