Kanji of the Day: 空 (そら/くう/あ(く)/から) sora/kū/a-ku/kara (sky/emptiness)

Today’s Kanji is a tricky one because 空 means two completely different things: sky and emptiness. To understand that better, let me explain to you the origin of the character 空.

So if you look closely, you notice that 空 consists of two characters which are 穴 (ana, meaning a hole or hollow) and 工 (kō, meaning craft or piercing something using tools to be specific). So together it represents the concept of emptiness or pointlessness, like hammering a nail into a hole. Then later, 空 also became the word that means the sky, because the sky is also a gigantic “emptiness” up above. Get it?


Here are some common phrases that contains 空:

  • 上の空 (uwa no sora): absent-minded
  • 空耳 (sora mimi): mishearing or pretending not to hear
  • 空元気 (kara genki): pretending one is fine when is not, false courage
  • 空き缶 / 空きビン (akikan / akibin): empty cans / empty bottles
  • 空模様 (sora moyou): the look of the sky

Except 空模様, all phrases describe a state of lacking something when there should be the something. For instance, 空元気 can be used to describe someone who went through a horrible breakup yesterday, but is pretending to be completely fine today. In this case, his/her 元気 (genki meaning energy) is lacking even though he/she is pretending there is.


Again, 空 is used for both meanings so it is highly recommended that you memorize both at once! Good luck studying and let us know if there are any questions 🙂

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Post by nanami

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