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The radical is used for categorizing the kanji in Japanese kanji dictionaries, much like the alphabet is used in English dictionaries. Each radical has a name, which is also shown below. Some radicals have 2 or 3 different names.
The radical is often the left-side part of the kanji, but the radical can appear anywhere in the kanji. If you plan to take the Kanji Aptitude Test (Kanken), studying radicals and radical names is essential.