As we've discussed, the part of the character known as the radical (or 部首/bùshǒu in Chinese) can aid Mandarin learners in deciphering a character's meaning or pronunciation. In paper dictionaries, they are also used to arrange the order of the characters, so being able to recognize radicals is an important part of knowing the language.
This month, I'm going to introduce the "火," or fire, radical . This is not only a radical but a common character that means fire. In oracle bones, the form of the character is like the profile of a roaring fire. After metal language, the character became less hieroglyphic in form. Its meaning has been extended to encompass several other definitions, including arms and ammunition; very urgent; and prosperous. For example, we can say that a business is very 火: 生意很火 (shēngyì hěnhuǒ).
As a radical and a character, 火 appears in the following characters, words, and idioms.
远水救不了近火 yuǎnshuǐ jiù bùliǎo jìn huǒ
This is widely used idiom literally means water from afar cannot help a nearby fire. It means that a slow remedy cannot solve an urgent matter.
真金不怕火炼 zhēnjīn bùpà huǒliàn
Pure gold does not fear the furnace; true gold fears no fire.
火上浇油 huǒshàng jiāoyóu (idiom)
To put fuel on the fire; to make things worse.
a lamp or lantern
extinguish, put out, turn off. This is a very pictographic word: It looks like putting something on the fire to extinguish it.
magnificent, splendid, bright. Fire is certainly bright, so it's no wonder the fire radical appears (twice) in this phrase.
cook a meal, meal. In ancient times, fire was absolutely indispensible if you want to cook.
巧妇难为无米之炊 qiǎofù nánwéi wúmǐ zhīchuī
This is a wise and widely used idiom that says that even the cleverest housewife cannot cook a meal without rice.
hot, burning; (so hot that the character contains not one but two huos).