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n. (context linguistics English) The use of kanji chosen primarily for their phonetic or semantic value to represent foreign or native Japanese words, or the kanji so used.


In modern Japanese, principally refer to kanji used phonetically to represent native or borrowed words with less regard to the underlying meaning of the characters. This is similar to man'yōgana in Old Japanese. Conversely ateji also refers to kanji used semantically without regard to the readings.

For example, the word sushi is often written with the ateji 寿司. Though the two characters have the readings su and shi respectively, the character 寿 means "one's natural life span" and 司 means "to administer", neither of which has anything to do with the food. Ateji as a means of representing loanwords has been largely superseded in modern Japanese by the use of katakana (see also Transcription into Japanese), although many ateji coined in earlier eras still linger on.