The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Katakana (片仮名, literally: "fragmentary kana") are a Japanese syllabary, one of four Japanese writing systems (the others are hiragana, kanji and rōmaji).

Katakana are characterized by squarish lines and are the simplest of the Japanese scripts.

Katakana are used for:

  • Emphasis, like italics in English.
  • Onomatopoeia, for example hii ヒー means "sigh".
  • Names of animal and plant species.
  • Transliteration of words from foreign languages (called gairaigo). For example, "television" is written terebi テレビ. Foreign phrases are usually transliterated with a middle dot separating the words.

If you have a font including Japanese characters, you can view the following charts of katakana together with their Hepburn romanization (otherwise visit the page for hiragana).

The first chart sets out the standard katakana (characters in red are obsolete):
ア a イ i ウ u エ e オ o
カ ka キ ki ク ku ケ ke コ ko キャ kya キュ kyu キョ kyo
サ sa シ shi ス su セ se ソ so シャ sha シュ shu ショ sho
タ ta チ chi ツ tsu テ te ト to チャ cha チュ chu チョ cho
ナ na ニ ni ヌ nu ネ ne ノ no ニャ nya ニュ nyu ニョ nyo
ハ ha ヒ hi フ fu ヘ he ホ ho ヒャ hya ヒュ hyu ヒョ hyo
マ ma ミ mi ム mu メ me モ mo ミャ mya ミュ myu ミョ myo
ヤ ya ユ yu ヨ yo
ラ ra リ ri ル ru レ re ロ ro リャ rya リュ ryu リョ ryo
ワ wa ヰ wi ヱ we ヲ wo
ン n
ガ ga ギ gi グ gu ゲ ge ゴ go ギャ gya ギュ gyu ギョ gyo
ザ za ジ ji ズ zu ゼ ze ゾ zo ジャ ja ジュ ju ジョ jo
ダ da ヂ ji ヅ zu デ de ド do
バ ba ビ bi ブ bu ベ be ボ bo ビャ bya ビュ byu ビョ byo
パ pa ピ pi プ pu ペ pe ポ po ピャ pya ピュ pyu ピョ pyo

The second chart sets out modern additions to the katakana. These are used mainly to represent the sounds in words in other languages.

イェ ye
ウィ wi ウェ we ウォ wo
ヴァ va ヴィ vi ヴ vu ヴェ ve ヴォ vo
シェ she
ジェ je
チェ che
ティ ti トゥ tu
テュ tyu
ディ di ドゥ du
デュ dyu
ツァ tsa ツィ tsi ツェ tse ツォ tso
ファ fa フィ fi フェ fe フォ fo
フュ fyu

Katakana are also sometimes used to write the Ainu language; there, consonants without a following vowel are indicated by writing the symbol for consonant+u (in the case of sh, consonant+i) small. Thus, for instance, a small プ represents p.


Katakana were developed by students who used parts of man'yōgana characters as shorthand when writing down words whose proper Chinese characters were unknown. For example, ka カ comes from the left side of ka 加 "increase". The figure below shows derivation of katakana from manyogana:


Up until a series of orthographic reforms immediately following World War II, katakana was used for okurigana in official documents, and frequently in other contexts.

Katakana in Unicode

In Unicode, Katakana occupy code points U+30A0 to U+30FF [1] :

    0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F

See also

Last updated: 02-08-2005 20:26:10
Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55