Kanji 目: useful expressions and words

Author Anna Baffa Volpe for article 'Kanji 目: useful expressions and words'

Anna Baffa Volpe

10 min reading time

The kanji 目 is part of many interesting expressions in the Japanese language. In fact, 目 by itself means eye, but when combined with other words and kanji its meaning changes completely.

Today we are going to learn many of these common expressions with the kanji 目.

Origin of the kanji 目

The shape of the eye was the model for this kanji. The character was rotated and from the horizontal position it developed vertically assuming the form we use today, ().

japanese language
Evolution of the pictogram in the eye ideogram

()(かく) the sight

As we see in the two kanji of the word that expresses one of the 5 senses, we find the eye element in the part that expresses the action of seeing, observing: ()る.

A definition of ():


A part of the body that we use when we look at objects.

  • ()(だま) the eyeball
  • (くろ)() black eyes
  • (きれ)(なが)() almond-shaped eyes

()(どう)() eye movements

Terms related to the movements we make with the eyes and which have a metaphorical meaning in translation:

(ちゅう)(もく) is attention; this is the verb meaning look carefully, watch or pay attention is a compound of suru which combines a noun (chūmoku in this case) with the verb suru (to do) (ちゅう)(もく)する.

There is another synonymous form of (ちゅう)(もく)する which always uses the verb suru and it is (ちゃく)(もく)する

When we examine the individual kanji that make up words a sense of amazement often emerges, the fascination of the ideographic system. The kanji, these small elements, miniatures that hide a world to explore, to interpret, not always easily deducible, but certainly fascinating, (かん)()()(りょく).

Words that indicate attention:

  • (ちゅう)(もく) chūmoku contains the ideogram of the verb (そそ)ぐ whose meaning is to pour, the image is therefore that of pouring the eyes, the gaze towards something and hence the meaning of paying attention to something
  • (ちゃく)(もく) chakumoku in this word the kanji that precedes the eyes, the gaze represents the verb ()く: arrive, reach


Get people's attention.

  • ()(もく) jimoku combines the part ears and eyes and emphasizes the concept of attention
  • (いろ)() irome roll eyes. For this expression we do not use the verb suru, do as we would expect, but the verb 使(つか)tsukau to use (いろ)()使(つか)
japanese movies
見えない目撃者, movie title The Invisible Witness
  • (もく)(げき) mokugeki means seeing firsthand, seeing and verifying with one's eyes, usually not pleasant things. For example, it refers to witnessing something criminal such as a murder. The translation then becomes to witness some event and the noun that indicates the eyewitness person is (もく)(げき)(しゃ) mokugekisha

(もく)(てき) the aim, the objective, the goal

mokuteki indicates the aim of something, the objective, also the target, the purpose and one's intention.


How nice it is to travel aimlessly!

(もく)(ひょう) mokuhyō:


Setting your purpose in life.

()(やす) the standard, the point of reference

meyasu also indicates intention and purpose, in the nuance of one's aim and intention according to one's standard:

japanese language
着こなしの目安 Image taken from a television program in which a guideline on the ideal clothing in relation to the temperatures of the external environment.

() such as stitch, seam, texture

me used to indicate the stitching or knitting point of a fabric: (あみ)() the weft of a network.

fabric fabrics
Fine knit 細い目 and loose knit 粗い目


Even in this word, if we analyze the combination of kanji, the meaning and sense emerge.

eye + 新 new means new to the eyes:


An original thing.

()(ことわざ) proverbs with the word eyes


My beloved nephew.

The literal meaning is even if you put it in the eye, it doesn't hurt.

It's a metaphor that expresses the way in which one loves one's children or grandchildren, loving a loved one in general so even if something stings in the eye, it doesn't hurt.

()つき the look

  • おそろしい()つき threatening look
  • ()つきの(わる)(ひと) person with dark stare
japanese manga
目つきの悪い, a grim look

()(うえ)の hierarchy

()(うえ) is an adjective that indicates a person superior in the hierarchy and also an older person than us.


How to formulate an email to a superior.

In the sentence we found ()(かた), kakikata noun formed by verb in its stem form or base B2 joined to kata which means way, manner.

It is a form that is often found in daily conversation and published in the media, when it comes to explaining how to do something, the way of doing something:

  • (かん)()()(かた) how to read kanji
  • てんぷらの(つく)(かた) how to make tempura
  • (あたら)しい(たん)()(おぼ)(かた) how to learn new words

()()まし the alarm clock

Also called ()()まし()(けい) clock, alarm clock or from the English loan alarm clock アラームクロック written in katakana, as for all foreign terms.

Visual 視覚 and tactile 触覚 alarm clock

()()める wake up

Used in the sense that it connects us to the wake-up clock, the act, the moment in which one wakes up from the state of rest and sleep. It is also used in a metaphorical sense as spiritual awakening, redemption, becoming aware, opening the eyes and seeing the things in a new way.


The state of spiritual awakening.

目 and Keigo, the honorific speech

There is a useful and common expression containing the word 目 and belongs to the Keigo language, the honorific language.

  • (けい)() keigo
  • 敬 respect, reverence, esteem
  • 語 language, speech



The meaning is meet a person in a humble form. It is the honorific expression equivalent to 会う au, meet.


Yesterday I met the President's wife for the first time.


Well, we look forward to seeing you tomorrow.

This kind of sentences is used in formal or official situations. We generally use the verb 会う when talking to our friends or family.

()(かく)し blindfold, blinders, shield

From the verb (かく)to hide, the word refers to an object that shelters or covers the eyes, but also to an element that shelters from light or that acts as a dividing panel between one space and another, a fence.

japanese houses
Shutter ルーバーlouver, blackout 目隠し

()()き judgment, evaluation

The verb that originates from this noun is ()()きする assess, estimate, judge and also indicates a expert, a connoisseur.


Mekiki means correctly identifying the value of an item.

()(うつ)りする difficulty deciding

Being attracted, distracted by many things; distraction; difficulty in choosing; inability to decide:


There were various things and I didn't know what to choose.

()(くば)りする watch over

The kanji that follows () me is (くば)distribute, deliver and expresses the fact of being vigilant, supervising, staying in guard.

There are other expressions that use a noun + (くば)り:

  • ()(くば)care, attention
  • (こころ)(くば)care for others, concern

()()つ stand out

Eyes that rise up (立つ) express well the fact of standing out, making an impression, being noticed, attracting attention, standing out.

Colors that stand out and draw attention.


What is the combination of colors that makes a sign stand out?

()()す aspire to

To aspire to something, to pursue something, to have something as a goal:


Aspire to a promotion abroad.

  • (はい)(ゆう)()()aspire to become an actor
  • 早稲田(わせだ)(だい)(がく)()()aspire to enter University Waseda

You may also like 👇

Learn Origami and Japanese
Learn Origami and Japanese

Let's learn how to make the origami of a shell from an original Japanese guide, at the same time learning the language from the video!

5 Strategies to Learn Japanese Kanji
5 Strategies to Learn Japanese Kanji

How can you learn Japanese Kanji faster? We share 5 unique strategies to better learn Japanese Kanji.

7 Tips for Self-Taught Japanese Study
7 Tips for Self-Taught Japanese Study

Do you want to learn Japanese but don't know where to start? Here are 7 tips to start learning Japanese on your own.

Guide to Adverbs of Frequency in Japanese
Guide to Adverbs of Frequency in Japanese

Let's learn the most common adverbs of frequency in the Japanese language, how to use them, and how they work: いつも, 普通, 普段, 時々, たまに, めったに, 決して, 絶対.

Guide to Adverbs of Time in Japanese
Guide to Adverbs of Time in Japanese

Let's learn the most common adverbs of time in the Japanese language, how to use them, and how they work: 中, 先, 去, 前, 来, 再, 後.

Causative form in Japanese - させる and せる
Causative form in Japanese - させる and せる

The causative form in Japanese, conjugated using the suffix させる or せる, is used to express obligations, permissions, emotions, and much more.