The Insect Radical 虫: Overview, Mnemonics and Vocabulary

The Insect Radical 虫: Overview, Mnemonics and Vocabulary

Welcome to our Pandanese radical series!

For those who are out of the loop, Chinese radicals are very important and useful for every Chinese learner. It’s because Chinese radicals often give you a hint of what the character means or how it sounds. 

In today’s article, we’ll introduce you to the insect radical, what it is, how to memorize it, and the vocabulary related to the insect radical.

What is the insect radical?

In Chinese, the radical for insect is pronounced as “chóng” and written as . This radical is composed of 6 strokes and is listed as radical 142 according to the Kangxi radical chart (a system of radicals of Chinese characters).

The radical models a worm or insect. However, characters of creeping animals such as reptiles, amphibians, and shellfish all include this radical as a prefix. For example:

  • 蜴 xīyì (lizard)
  • wā (frog)
  • háo (oyster)

Some Chinese learners argue that this radical chóng is nothing like a worm or insect while other radicals such as yī (one), jué (hook), or kǒu (mouth) are good examples of how the character and the object they describe are well related. This is because was originally a pictograph of a poisonous snake. This was observed in the Oracle Bone, Bronze, and Traditional forms of the character, where a wide flat structure resembles a cobra’s hood.

Shang (1600 BC – 1046 BC) Western Zhou (1045 BC – 771 BC) Shuowen Jiezi (compiled in Han)(202 BC – 220 AD)
Oracle bone script Bronze inscriptions Small seal script
Historical forms of the character

In ancient times, meant a poisonous snake, and its derivative character meant worm or insect. However, evolved to mean insects and worms. Therefore, a new character shé with the insect radical was created to mean “snake.”

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What is the stroke order of the radical 虫?

The insect radical has six strokes, written in the following order:

Source: Visual Mandarin

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How can you memorize the insect radical?

As mentioned above, this radical doesn’t evoke the image of any insect or worm. Therefore, it could cause us trouble if we’re trying to pin it into our memory. But, there’s a learning technique that helps learners digest information more effectively – the mnemonics technique.

At Pandanese, we employ mnemonics flashcards to help Chinese learners like you get the most out of your learning. Your Chinese learning journey couldn’t get any easier! Or could it? Have a look at how mnemonics works in this example. 

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Insect radical vocabulary list for you!

Want to know more about the insect radical and other related terms? Let’s learn some words that have this radical. 

Character Pinyin English meaning
cán silkworm
苍蝇 cāng ying fly
蚊子 wén zi mosquito
蜜蜂 mì fēng bee
甲虫 jiǎ chóng beetle
毛虫 máo chóng caterpillar
蚂蚁 mǎ yǐ ant
蝴蝶 hú dié butterfly
蜻蜓 qīng tíng dragonfly
蚱蜢 zhà měng grasshopper
蝗虫 huáng chóng locust
螳螂 táng láng mantis
萤火虫 yíng huǒ chóng firefly
蜗牛 wō niú snail
蚯蚓 qiū jǐn earthworm

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