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Alcedinidae
カワセミ科
kawa-semi ka

翠鸟科
cuì-niǎo kē

翠鳥科
cuì-niǎo kē

물총새과
mul-chong-sae-gwa

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General

Information is from dictionaries and other sources. Species list may not be current. Korean glosses are tentative. Comments and corrections welcome. Hover over Green Lettering Green lettering at this site hides a tool tip with glosses, further explanations, etc. Hover cursor to reveal. to see additional information.

The most common Japanese word for 'kingfisher' in a general sense is カワセミ kawa-semi. カワ kawa means 'river'. セミ semi means 'kingfisher', although semi never occurs by itself as an independent word. This name specifically refers to Alcedo atthis and is also extended to other alcedinid (or river) kingfishers.

The cerylid (or water) kingfishers are known in Japanese as ヤマセミ yama-semi 'mountain kingfisher'.

Although less familiar to the layman, ショウビン shōbin is an alternative name for カワセミ kawa-semi. In ornithological usage ショウビン shōbin is restricted to the halcyonid (or tree) kingfishers.

The writing of these names in Chinese characters is a complex and confusing affair.

Several methods have been used to write カワセミ kawa-semi 'river kingfisher':

(1) 翡翠, the traditional Chinese name for the kingfishers (pronounced fěicuì in Mandarin). 翡翠 can also be read in Japanese with a regular on-reading as ヒスイ hisui. While it can mean 'kingfisher' when read this way, the more common meaning (as for Chinese 翡翠) is 'jadeite'. Jadeite was originally so named out of a comparison to the iridescent red and (especially) blue feathers for which certain kingfishers were prized but has now become the primary meaning of 翡翠 fěicuì in Chinese and 翡翠 hisui in Japanese.
(2) 魚狗 'fish-dog' (Mandarin yú-gǒu), another Chinese name for the kingfishers.
(3) 川蝉 kawa-semi, literally 'river cicada'. Although セミ semi 'cicada' and セミ semi 'kingfisher' are different words, the character 'cicada' is used for the kingfishers due to the shared pronunciation.

The fact that 翡翠is used to write カワセミ kawa-semiindicates that the Japanese primarily identified the Japanese name カワセミ kawa-semi with the Chinese 翡翠 fěicuì. The word カワ kawa 'river' is not written separately as it is the entire name that is equated to the Chinese.

The name ショウビン shōbin, as a synonym of カワセミ kawa-semi, is also written 翡翠.

ヤマセミ yama-semi, on the other hand, is generally written with the character yama 'mountain' plus the Chinese names of kingfishers:

(1) 山翡翠, i.e., yama 'mountain' plus 翡翠 (Chinese 翡翠 fěicuì 'kingfisher').
(2) 山魚狗 i.e., yama 'mountain' plus 魚狗, 'fish-dog' (Chinese 魚狗 yú-gǒu).

The third possible method, 山蝉 yama-semi, literally 'mountain cicada', appears to be used only for cicadas.

The fact that ヤマセミ yama-semi is written by adding the extra character yama 'mountain' suggests that the cerylid kingfishers were less closely identified with the core 'kingfishers' as understood by the Chinese than the alcedinid kingfishers.

The result of this ad hoc use of Chinese characters is that:

The kingfishers provide perhaps the best illustration of why Japanese in the modern era adopted katakana to write bird and animal names in preference to the traditional Chinese characters.

Species names

› ABOUT THIS TABLE‹
ALCEDININAE
SCIENTIFIC & WESTERN
JAPANESE
CHINESE
KOREAN
Alcedo
Latin
Eng, Fr, Ger, Ru
Japanese
Other J
Chinese
Chinese (Taiwan)
Other Ch
Korean
Alcedo atthis
link to photolink to photolink to photo
Common kingfisher
River kingfisher

Martin-pêcheur d'Europe
Eisvogel
Обыкновенный зимородок
カワセミ
(翡翠 ~ 川蝉 ~ 魚狗)
kawa-semi
'river kingfisher₁'
ヒスイ
(翡翠)
hisui
'kingfisher', from Chinese fěicuì; also means 'jadeite'
ショウビン
(翡翠)
shōbin
'kingfisher₂'
ソニドリ
()
soni-dori
'soni bird' (old name, used as a poetic qualifier for 'blue')
ソニ
()
soni
'soni' (old name)
普通翠鸟
(普通翠鳥)
pǔtōng cuì-niǎo
'common kingfisher-bird'
(翠鸟)
翠鳥
cuì-niǎo
'kingfisher-bird'
翡翠
(翡翠)
fěicuì
'kingfisher'
小翠鱼狗
(小翠魚狗)
xiǎo cuì yú-gǒu
'small kingfisher fish-dog' (FS)
小翠鸟
(小翠鳥)
xiǎo cuì-niǎo
'small kingfisher-bird'
翠鸟
(翠鳥)
cuì-niǎo
'kingfisher-bird' (FS)
翠鸟儿
(翠鳥兒)
cuì-niǎor
'kingfisher-bird' (31)
鱼狗
(魚狗)
yú-gǒu
'fish-dog' (FS)
小鱼狗
(小魚狗)
xiǎo yú-gǒu
'small fish-dog'
天狗
(天狗)
tiān-gǒu
'heaven dog' (FS)
水狗
(水狗)
shuǐ-gǒu
'water dog' (FS)
水雀
(水雀)
shuǐ-qiǎo
'water sparrow' (FS)
翠雀儿
(翠雀兒)
cuì-qiǎor
'kingfisher sparrow' (northern) (FS)
钓鱼郎
(釣魚郎)
diào-yú-láng
'fisherman' (FS)
打鱼郎
(打魚郎)
dǎ-yú-láng
'fisherman' (FS)
金鸟仔
(金鳥仔)
jīn niǎo zǎi
'golden bird' (southern) (FS)
鱼虎
(魚虎)
yú-hǔ
'fish tiger' (Materia Medica) (FS)

()

'kingfisher' (literary) (FS)

()

'kingfisher' (old)
翠碧鸟
(翠碧鳥)
cuìbì-niǎo
'kingfisher blue bird'
鱼师
(魚師)
yú-shī
'fisher'
翠奴
(翠奴)
cuì-nǔ
'kingfisher fellow'
信天缘
(信天緣)
xìn-tiān-yuán
'believe heaven fate' (also used for albatross)
青翰
(青翰)
qīng-hàn
'green/blue feathers'
青庄
(青庄)
qīng-zhuāng
'green/blue fields'
青羽雀
(青羽雀)
qīng yǔ què
'green/blue-feathered sparrow'
衔鱼翠鸟
(銜魚翠鳥)
xián-yú cuì-niǎo
'hold fish kingfisher-bird'
물총새
mul-chong-sae
'water chong bird'
 
CERYLINAE
SCIENTIFIC & WESTERN
JAPANESE
CHINESE
KOREAN
Megaceryle
Latin
Eng, Fr, Ger, Ru
Japanese
Other J
Chinese
Chinese (Taiwan)
Other Ch
Korean
Megaceryle lugubris
Ceryle lugubris
link to photo
Crested kingfisher
Greater pied kingfisher
Crested pied kingfisher
Pied kingfisher

Martin-pêcheur tacheté
Trauerfischer
Большой пегий зимородок
ヤマセミ
(山翡翠 ~ 山魚狗)
yama-semi
'mountain kingfisher₁'
カノコショウビン
(鹿の子翡翠)
kanoko-shōbin
'deer-kingfisher₂'
冠鱼狗
(冠魚狗)
guān yú-gǒu
'crested fish-dog'
  水葱花
(水葱花)
shuǐ cōng-huā
'water shallot-flower'
大啄鱼
(大啄魚)
dà zhuó-yú
'large fish-pecker' (FS)
斑鴗
bān lì
'striped kingfisher'
花鱼狗
(花鱼狗)
huā yú-gǒu
'flowery fish-dog' (FS)
花钓鱼郎
(花釣魚郎)
huā diào-yú-láng
'flowery fisherman' (FS)
뿔호반새
ppul-hoban-sae
'horned lakeside bird'
 
HALCYONINAE
SCIENTIFIC & WESTERN
JAPANESE
CHINESE
KOREAN
Halcyon
Latin
Eng, Fr, Ger, Ru
Japanese
Other J
Chinese
Chinese (Taiwan)
Other Ch
Korean
Halcyon coromanda
link to photolink to photo
Ruddy kingfisher

Martin-chasseur violet
Feuerliest
Рыжий зимородок
アカショウビン
(赤翡翠)
aka shōbin
'red kingfisher₂'
ミズコイドリ
(水恋鳥)
mizu-koi-dori
'water-loving bird'
ミヤマショウビン
(深山翡翠)
miyama shōbin
'deep mountain kingfisher₂'
赤翡翠
(赤翡翠)
chì fěicuì
'red kingfisher'
(赤翡翠)
赤翡翠
chì fěicuì
'red kingfisher'
  호반새
hoban-sae
'lakeside (?) bird'
Halcyon pileata
link to photo
Black-capped kingfisher

Martin-chasseur à coiffe noire
Kappenliest
Зимородок ошейниковый
ヤマショウビン
(山翡翠)
yama shōbin
'mountain kingfisher₂'
  蓝翡翠
(藍翡翠)
lán fěicuì
'blue kingfisher'
(黑头翡翠)
黑頭翡翠
hēi-tóu fěicuì
'black-headed kingfisher'
蓝翠鸟
(藍翠鳥)
lán cuì-niǎo
'blue kingfisher-bird'
蓝鱼狗
(藍魚狗)
lán yú-gǒu
'blue fish-dog' (FS)
蓝翠毛
(藍翠毛)
lán cuì-máo
'blue kingfisher feather' (FS)
喜鹊翠
(喜鵲翠)
xǐquè-cuì
'magpie kingfisher' (northern) (FS)
黑顶鱼狗
(黑頂魚狗)
hēi-dǐng yú-gǒu
'black-topped fish-dog' (FS)
黑帽鱼狗
(黑帽魚狗)
hēi-mào yú-gǒu
'black-capped fish-dog' (FS)
秦椒鸟
(秦椒鳥)
qín-jiāo-niǎo
'Qin pepper bird' (FS)
山鴗
(山鴗)
shān-lì
'mountain kingfisher'
山翊
(山翊)
shān-yì
'mountain kingfisher' (FS)
청호반새
cheong-hoban-sae
'blue lakeside-bird'
Todiramphus
Latin
Eng, Fr, Ger, Ru
Japanese
Other J
Chinese
Chinese (Taiwan)
Other Ch
Korean
Todiramphus chloris
Todirhamphus chloris
Halcyon chloris
link to photolink to photo
Collared kingfisher
White-collared kingfisher

Martin-chasseur à collier blanc
Halsbandliest
ナンヨウショウビン
(南洋翡翠)
nan'yō shōbin
'south seas kingfisher₂'
  白领翡翠
(白領翡翠)
bái-lǐng fěicuì
'white-collared kingfisher'
(白领翡翠)
白領翡翠
bái-lǐng fěicuì
'white-collared kingfisher'
白领翠鸟
(白領翠鳥)
bái-lǐng cuì-niǎo
'white-collared kingfisher-bird'
 

翡翠 fěicuì is an ancient name signifying 'red feathers' () + 'blue feathers' (), for which certain kingfishers were prized. In modern times Chinese ornithologists have for mostly restricted the name 翡翠 fěicuì to the halcyonid kingfishers, although Taiwan still uses it for a cerylid kingfisher.

翠鸟 cuì-niǎo, literally 'bluefeather-bird', using the second character in 翡翠 fěicuì, is a long-standing general kingfisher name most closely associated with the widespread Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis. As a modern ornithological name it is also extended to other members of the genus Alcedo.

ショウビン shōbin is used ornithologically for the halcyonid kingfishers. All Japanese kingfisher names can be written 翡翠, a Chinese name for the kingfishers. In addition to ショウビン shōbin, 翡翠 can be read as カワセミ kawa-semi, ヒスイ hisui, and セミ semi (in the name ヤマセミ yama-semi only), all meaning 'kingfisher'. (To distinguish the names here, ショウビン shōbin is called 'kingfisher₂'. セミ semi is 'kingfisher₁'.)

カワセミ kawa-semi, literally 'river kingfisher', is used ornithologically for the alcedinid kingfishers. Traditionally written in at least three ways:
1. 翡翠, a Chinese name for the kingfishers, which may also be read as ショウビン shōbin, ヒスイ hisui, or (in ヤマセミ yama-semi 'mountain kingfisher') as セミ semi, all meaning 'kingfisher'. 2. 川蝉, literally 'river cicada', using the character for the homonymous word meaning 'cicada' (セミ semi). 3. 魚狗 'fish-dog', another Chinese name for the kingfishers. 1. and 3. both use a Chinese name as a whole to write カワセミ kawasemi. Neither thus contains an individual character representing 'river' (カワ kawa).
(To distinguish the names here, セミ semi is called 'kingfisher₁' and ショウビン shōbin is 'kingfisher₂')

ヤマセミ yama-semi, made up of ヤマ yama 'mountain' plus セミ semi 'kingfisher', is used ornithologically for the cerylid kingfishers. Traditionally written either 1. 'mountain' + 翡翠 'kingfisher' (the latter a Chinese word meaning 'kingfisher'), or 2. 'mountain' + 魚狗 'fish-dog' (the latter being another Chinese word for 'kingfisher'.) 翡翠 is also used to write the kingfisher names カワセミ kawa-semi, ショウビン shōbin and ヒスイ hisui. 魚狗 is also used to write the name カワセミ kawa-semi.

中国鸟类种和亚种分类名录大全(修订版) 郑作新 著 科学出版社 北京 2000年
A Complete Checklist of Species and Subspecies of the Chinese Birds (Revised Edition) by Cheng Tso-Hsin, Science Press, Beijing 2000

中国鸟类分类与分布名录 主编:郑光美 科学出版社 北京 2005年
A Checklist on the Classification and Distribution of the Birds of China Chief editor: Zheng Guangmei, Science Press, Beijing 2005

中国鸟类野外手册(中文版)约翰・马敬能、卡伦・菲利普斯,合作者:荷芬奇,翻译:卢和芬 湖南教育出版社 长沙 2000年
A Field Guide to the Birds of China (Chinese translation) by John MacKinnon, Karen Phillipps, in collaboration with He Fen-qi, translated by Lu Hefen, Hunan Jiaoyu Chubanshe (Hunan Educational Press) Changsha 2000

世界鸟类分类与分布名录 主编:郑光美 科学出版社 北京 2002年
A Checklist on the Classification and Distribution of the Birds of the World Chief editor: Zheng Guangmei, Science Press, Beijing 2002

世界鸟类名称(拉丁文、汉文、英文对照)第二版 郑作新等 科学出版社 北京 2002年
Birds of the World (Latin, Chinese and English Names) 2nd ed. by Cheng Tso-Hsin et al, Science Press, Beijing 2002

汉蒙名词术语分类词典(自然科学部分) Mongolian (Cyrillic): Хятад Монгол нэр томъёоны зүйл хуваасан толь (байгалийн шинжлэх ухааны бүлэг) (Chinese-Mongolian classified terminological dictionary, natural sciences part) by 《汉蒙名词术语分类词典》编纂委员会 Mongolian (Cyrillic): "Хятад Монгол нэр томъёоны зүйл хуваасан толь" найруулах комисс (Chinese-Mongolian classified terminological dictionary editorial committee), Inner Mongolian People's Press, Hohhot 1990