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Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

from Japanese hiragana, from hira "plain" + kana "borrowed letter(s)."


n. 1 (context uncountable English) The main syllabary for the Japanese language, used to represent native Japanese words, including particles, and when kanji is used, to represent verb and adjective endings. 2 A letter of this syllabary.


is a Japanese syllabary, one basic component of the Japanese writing system, along with katakana, kanji, and in some cases rōmaji (the Latin-script alphabet). It is a phonetic lettering system. The word hiragana means "smooth kana".

Hiragana and katakana are both kana systems. With one or two minor exceptions, each sound in the Japanese language (strictly, each mora) is represented by one character (or one digraph) in each system. This may be either a vowel such as "a" (hiragana あ); a consonant followed by a vowel such as "ka" (か); or "n" (ん), a nasal sonorant which, depending on the context, sounds either like English m, n, or ng , or like the nasal vowels of French. Because the characters of the kana do not represent single consonants (except in the case of ん "n"), the kana are referred to as syllabaries and not alphabets.

Hiragana is used to write native words for which there are no kanji, including grammatical particles such as kara "from". Likewise, hiragana is used to write words whose kanji form is obscure, not known to the writer or readers, or too formal for the writing purpose. There is also some flexibility for words that have common kanji renditions to be optionally written instead in hiragana, according to an individual author's preference. Verb and adjective inflections, as, for example, be-ma-shi-ta in , are written in hiragana, often following a verb or adjective root (here, "") that is written in kanji. When Hiragana is used to show the pronunciation of kanji characters as reading aid, it is referred to as furigana.

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

Hiragana (Unicode block)

Hiragana is a Unicode block containing hiragana characters for the Japanese language.

Usage examples of "hiragana".

It was Japanese portable with a keyboard the length of a cricket bat, a complex mess of ASCII, kanji, katakana, hiragana and arcane function keys.

So they took to hiragana and katakana and, in the process, created the country's first true written literature, The Pillow Book of Seishonagon and the classic Genji Monogatari, both dating from the beginning of the eleventh century.

A word would be typed in Hiragana, the fifty-one-letter Japanese phonetic alphabet, and on the screen would appear the corresponding Chinese ideogram in Kanji.

Each page is a grid, a table with hiragana or katakana or kanji in one box, a group of digits or Romanji in another box, and the pages all cross-referenced to other pages in a scheme only a cryptographer could love.