「辛い」と「辛い」が見分け辛い / Vocab with same kanji and kana, different readings and meanings

This topic mostly for fun. I was doing some reading today and happened to see つらい (difficult) written in kanji (辛い), which is rare. I felt like I was going crazy for thinking it looked exactly like からい (辛い) (spicy), and decided to finally look them up to remember what the difference was. Turns out there isn’t one. They really do share the same kanji, and accompanying kana, and the pronunciation/meaning only differs based on context.

In daily reading this isn’t really a problem, since つらい is written in kana 90 percent of the time, and the other 10 percent you have context, but I’m pretty sure this is a unique case among the words I’ve actually studied so far. There are plenty of cases where multiple kanji can be used for one word (often with slightly different nuance), but I can’t think of any others where the same kanji and kana are used for different words.

But I’m sure it’s not unique within the language, so what are some others? Higher-level speakers/learners especially, what other “pronunciation/meaning only determined by context” vocab have you encountered? And are any pairs like this still in regular use without one usually being written in kana?


I know of 開く・あく・ひらく and 額・がく・ひたい besides (does no okurigana count?).


I’ve learned this one recently
避ける: さける / よける
Tbh I’m still not sure of the difference

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The multiple readings for 開く never even occurred to me, though I’ve certainly encountered both. I think, like からい and づらい, my brain just figured there was some minor difference I’d figure out with more vocab study.

I also only knew 額 from its “price” meaning, so I didn’t realize it had two readings as a stand-alone word. (Though in this case it’s apparently an onyomi vs. kunyomi thing.)

You make me wonder, so I run a script… Well, multiple readings for a vocab isn’t all that unusual, even in WaniKani.

Kanji Reading Meaning
なな, しち Seven
く, きゅう Nine
し, よん Four
日本 にほん, にっぽん Japan
ふん, ぶん Minute
ほう, かた Way
早々 そうそう, はやばや As Soon As
申し申し もしもし, もうしもうし Telephone Hello
毎月 まいげつ, まいつき Every Month
毎年 まいとし, まいねん Every Year
行き いき, ゆき Train Direction
なん, なに What
かね, きん Gold
かど, かく Angle
全日本 ぜんにほん, ぜんにっぽん All Japan
うち, いえ Home
海魚 うみざかな, かいぎょ Ocean Fish
身体 からだ, しんたい The Body
工場 こうば, こうじょう Factory
他所 たしょ, よそ Another Place
あいだ, ま Interval
日本酒 にっぽんしゅ, にほんしゅ Japanese Style Alcohol
注ぐ つぐ, そそぐ To Pour
良い いい, よい Good
根本 こんぽん, ねもと Root
流行 はやり, りゅうこう Trend
きゅう, たま Sphere
早口 はやぐち, はやくち Fast Talker
今年 ことし, こんねん This Year
近々 ちかじか, ちかぢか, きんきん Before Long
研究所 けんきゅうしょ, けんきゅうじょ Research Institute
皆さん みなさん, みんなさん Everyone
詩歌 しいか, しか Poetry
わたし, わたくし I
昨日 きのう, さくじつ Yesterday
ひん, しな Article
その, えん Garden
全治 ぜんじ, ぜんち Complete Recovery
不治 ふじ, ふち Incurability
私自身 わたくしじしん, わたしじしん Personally
悪口 わるぐち, わるくち, あっこう Verbal Abuse
鼻血 はなぢ, はなじ Nosebleed
借家 しゃっか, しゃくや Renting A House
禅寺 ぜんでら, ぜんじ Zen Temple
かたき, てき Enemy
あたい, ね Value
反応 はんおう, はんのう A Response
施行 せこう, しこう Enforcement
株式会社 かぶしきかいしゃ, かぶしきがいしゃ Corporation
河豚 ふぐ, ふく Fugu
逆効果 ぎゃくこうか, ぎゃっこうか Opposite Effect
白旗 しろはた, はっき, しらはた White Flag
翌朝 よくあさ, よくちょう The Next Morning
翌年 よくねん, よくとし The Next Year
既存 きぞん, きそん Existing
泥水 でいすい, どろみず Muddy Water
暖かい あったかい, あたたかい Warm Place
いな, いや, いえ, いいえ No
縮まる ちじまる, ちぢまる To Shrink
縦横 じゅうおう, たてよこ Length And Width
べに, くれない Deep Red
明日 あした, あす, みょうにち Tomorrow
親子丼 おやこどんぶり, おやこどん Parent And Child Bowl
依存 いぞん, いそん Dependence
給油所 きゅうゆじょ, きゅうゆしょ Gas Station
抱く だく, いだく To Hug
避ける よける, さける To Avoid
描く えがく, かく To Draw
免れる まぬがれる, まぬかれる To Escape From
埋める うずめる, うめる To Bury
称える となえる, たたえる To Praise
〜畑 はたけ, はた Field
包む くるむ, つつむ To Wrap
故郷 こきょう, ふるさと Hometown
え, がら Pattern
横綱 よこづな, よこずな Yokozuna
牧野 ぼくや, まきの Pasture Land
擦れる こすれる, すれる To Chafe
沼田 ぬまた, ぬた Marshy Rice Field
辛い つらい, からい Spicy
元凶 がんきょう, げんきょう Ringleader
ごろ, ころ Approximate Time
悪霊 あくれい, あくりょう Evil Spirit
潜る くぐる, もぐる To Pass Through
擦る する, こする To Rub
鈍い にぶい, のろい Dull
綿 わた, めん Cotton
下唇 したくちびる, かしん Lower Lip
上唇 じょうしん, うわくちびる Upper Lip
〜狩り がり, かり Hunting
紛れ まぎれ, まぐれ Fluke
たけ, だけ Height
唯一 ゆいいつ, ゆいつ Only
少女 しょうじょ, おとめ Young Lady
がわ, そば Side
連中 れんぢゅう, れんちゅう, れんじゅう Colleagues
一日 ついたち, いちにち One Day
布地 ぬのじ, きれじ Cloth
奥深い おくふかい, おくぶかい Profound
左腕 ひだりうで, さわん Left Arm
三角形 さんかっけい, さんかくけい Triangle
洗濯機 せんたっき, せんたくき Washing Machine
空き瓶 からびん, あきびん Empty Bottle
平壌 ぴょんやん, へいじょう Pyongyang
清浄 しょうじょう, せいじょう Pure
経緯 けいい, いきさつ Details
肯く うなずく, うなづく To Nod
細胞 さいほう, さいぼう Cell
同胞 どうほう, どうぼう Brethren
ぽ, ほ Shop
蓮根 れんこん, はすね Lotus Root
かむり, かんむり, かん Traditional Cap
阿呆 あほ, あほう Fool
呆ける ぼける, ほうける To Grow Senile
銀杏 ぎんなん, いちょう Ginkgo Nut
疾風 はやて, しっぷう Gale
はた, そば Near
老舗 ろうほ, しにせ Old Shop
賓客 ひんかく, ひんきゃく Guest Of Honor
寂しい さみしい, さびしい Lonely
げん, つる Bowstring
柴犬 しばけん, しばいぬ Shiba Inu
疎か おろか, おろそか Neglect
逸れる はぐれる, それる To Stray
かえで, ふう Maple
楓糖 ふうとう, かえでとう Maple Sugar
粗塩 あらしお, あらじお Sea Salt
わた, ちょう, はらわた Guts
絹糸 けんし, きぬいと Silk Thread
鶏肉 とりにく, けいにく Chicken Meat
堪える こたえる, こらえる, たえる To Endure
きも, たん Guts
帆船 ほぶね, はんせん Sailboat
分泌 ぶんぴつ, ぶんぴ Secretion
湧水 ゆうすい, わきみず Spring Water
一昨日 おととい, いっさくじつ Day Before Last
両腕 もろうで, りょううで Both Arms
右腕 みぎうで, うわん Right Arm

Multiple readings, definitely not. But multiple readings and meanings? Most entries in that list offer multiple readings only; essentially synonyms.

(Some are also just rendaku/no rendaku variations.)

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I’ve been going through the Core 10k anki deck and one of the early examples is 陸(りく)and 陸(おか). Different readings, but the same kanji and the same context for usage, pretty much. And in a SRS format, I always have to say the two readings since I have no way of knowing which one the program wants at that moment.


The first example that comes to mind is 行く (いく) and 行う (おこなう). When conjugated in te-form or past tense, they both become 行って and 行った, so you need to differentiate by context (which is usually easy). Interesting thing is, apparently there is an alternative spelling for 行う as 行なう. I came across this one in a novel and thought it was nice to be able to tell them apart, but I don’t think that’s the most common spelling.


よける refers to avoiding a THING (物). If you have a fight with a friend and are trying to avoid them because it’s awkward, that’s よける. You can よける a friend.

さける refers to avoiding a MATTER (事). If you refrain from making a negative comment to your friend to avoid starting a fight, you are さける. You can さける a fight. However, if you are walking away from two people punching each other, you are よける. :laughing:

@gabweeb From my experience, 丘 replaces 陸 when the reading おか is used unless you’re playing Mahjong, where 陸符 is typically used.




Weird, I just posted a sentence that uses that word like an hour after you made your post. Quite the coincidence.

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Surprised 紅葉 isn’t here yet

Can we agree to exclude names from this post? I have enough trauma from having students with the same kanji but different names to last the rest of life. :persevere:

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Oh, yeah. Names don’t count. Name kanji are just whatever and the same name will even use different phonetic kanji based on the region (and time of day, and alignment of the planets, and…).


In wk this means pattern and is read がら or え. But you can also read it as つか and then it means the handle of the sword (at least the handle of the katana… i don’t know about rapiers and longswords and such).


I just think of いそがしい and せわしい. What’s the difference?

I noticed you have かど and かく for 角, but not つの

I got one, and a useful one too!

WK has 表 as おもて, meaning “face [of a building]”
BUT you can also read 表 as ひょう, meaning “table [of data]”


In wk means edge and is read ふち. In the context sentence 縁が無い眼鏡 is rimless glasses. But if you read it えにし it mean karma or turn of fate or something along those lines. Considering this it makes more sense to me why 縁談 is marriage proposal.

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I’ve been coming across 月日 as がっぴ and つきひ lately, but it seems like the later is more common.