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Kōjien (Japanese: 広辞苑?, lit. "Wide garden of words") is a single-volume Japanese dictionary first published by Iwanami Shoten in 1955. It is widely regarded as the most authoritative dictionary of Japanese, and newspaper editorials frequently cite its definitions. As of 2007, it had sold 11 million copies.[1]

Izuru Shinmura[edit]

Kōjien was the magnum opus of Shinmura Izuru, 1876–1967, a professor of linguistics and Japanese at Kyoto University. He was born in Yamaguchi Prefecture and graduated from the prestigious Tokyo University, where he was a student of Kazutoshi Ueda (上田万年?, Ueda Kazutoshi, 1867–1937). After studying in Germany, Ueda taught comparative linguistics and edited foreign-language dictionaries in the latter part of the Meiji era. Through his tutelage, Shinmura became involved in Japanese language lexicography. Even Kōjien editions published after his death credit Shinmura as the chief editor.


The predecessor of Kōjien originated during the Great Depression in East Asia. In 1930, the publisher Shigeo Oka (岡茂雄, Oka Shigeo, 1894–1989) wanted to create a Japanese dictionary for high school students. He asked his friend Shinmura to be chief editor, and they chose the title Jien (辞苑 "Garden of words") in a classical allusion to the Ziyuan (字苑, "Garden of characters") Chinese dictionary. Shinmura appointed his son Takeshi Shinmura (新村猛, Shinmura Takeshi, 1905–1992) as an editor, and in 1935, Hakubunkan (博文館) published the Jien dictionary. It contained some 160,000 headword entries of old and new Japanese vocabulary, as well as encyclopedic content, and quickly became a bestseller. The editors began working on a revised edition, but the 1945 Firebombing of Tokyo destroyed their work. After the war, Shinmura and his lexicographers began anew in September 1948. Iwanami Shoten published the first Kōjien in 1955.

Kōjien is currently in its sixth edition, which was released on January 11, 2008.[1]

Edition Publication Date ISBN
1st 25 May 1955
2nd 16 May 1969
3rd 6 December 1983
4th 15 November 1991 ISBN 4-00-080101-5
5th 11 November 1998 ISBN 4-00-080111-2
6th 11 January 2008 ISBN 978-4-00-080121-8

The 1st edition Kōjien (1955) entered approximately 200,000 headwords, about 40,000 more than the Jien. The 2nd edition (1969) deleted about 20,000 old entries and added about 20,000 new ones, especially scientific terms. On December 1, 1976, a hoteiban (補訂版 "revised expanded edition") of the 2nd was published. The 3rd edition (1983) added 12,000 entries, and was published in CD-ROM format in 1987. Three major Japanese publishers released new dictionaries specifically designed to compete with the Iwanami's popular and profitable Kōjien: Sanseidō's Daijirin (大辞林 "Great forest of words", 1988), Shōgakukan's Daijisen (大辞泉 "Great fountainhead of words", 1995), and Kōdansha's Nihongo Daijiten (日本語大辞典 "Great dictionary of Japanese" 1989). In response, the 4th edition Kōjien (1991) was a major revision that added some 15,000 entry words, bringing the total to over 220,000. The CD-ROM version was published in 1993 and revised with color illustrations (like the Nihongo daijiten) in 1996. In 1992, Iwanami published both an e-book format 4th edition and a useful Gyakubiki Kōjien (逆引き広辞苑 "Reverse dictionary Kōjien"). The 5th edition (1998) enters over 230,000 headwords, and its 2996 pages contain an estimated total of 14 million characters. Iwanami Shoten currently publishes Kōjien in several printed and digital formats, and also sells dictionary subscription services for cell phone and Internet access. Various manufacturers of Japanese electronic dictionaries have licensed the digital Kōjien, and it is the core dictionary in many models.

Shinmura's preface to the 1st edition stated his hope that the Kōjien would become regarded as the standard by which other dictionaries would be measured. This has largely been fulfilled; many people regard the Kōjien as the most authoritative Japanese language dictionary on the market. It remains a bestseller in Japan. According to Iwanami, the 1st edition Kōjien sold over one million copies, and the 5th edition brought cumulative total sales to over eleven million in 2000.

The new sixth edition includes more than 10,000 new entries, bringing the total to approximately 240,000. It also contains an additional 1,500 quotations.[1]

Lexicographical characteristics[edit]

The Kōjien, like most Japanese dictionaries, writes headwords in hiragana syllabary and collates them in gojūon ("50 sounds") order. Baroni and Bialock (2005) describe the Kōjien as "an old standard that gives extensive definitions, etymologies (as always take care with these), and variant usages for words, places, historical and literary figures, and furigana for difficult or old terms."

This dictionary is notable for including current Japanese catchphrases and buzzwords. For instance, the 4th edition added furītā (フリーター "a part-time worker by choice"), which blends two loanwords: furī (フリー "free", from English, as in furīransu フリーランス "freelance") and arubaitā (アルバイター "part-time worker", from German Arbeiter "worker").

The Kōjien dictionary had a censorship policy before it became politically correct (see kotobagari), and omitted taboo words such as sexual slang or offensive terms. It includes encyclopedic information such as 2700 illustrations and maps, and mini-biographies of notable people (both living and dead foreigners, but only deceased Japanese). The appendices include Japanese grammar notes, kanji with difficult readings, Japanese calendar and Gregorian calendar charts, and lists of gairaigo acronyms.

Gally (1999) says, "Koujien is a fine dictionary with a sterling reputation. Because it gives definitions in historical order, it is the best single-volume choice for people interested in how the meanings of words have changed over time." However, he notes, "In my experience as a translator of contemporary Japanese, though, I have found Koujien less useful than Daijirin."


  1. ^ a b c 「うざい」「いけ面」も登場、広辞苑10年ぶり改訂 (in Japanese). Yomiuri Shimbun. 2007-10-23. Archived from the original on 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2007-10-24. 


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