Kanji reading hall of horrors

Inspired by this topic, I thought it would be… fun? to create a list of just plain weird readings that definitively show that there are no hard-and-fast rules for reading kanji, only guidelines.

So I would like the help of my fellow Wanikanians to assemble a list of kanji that defy your expectations for reading kanji (other than expecting the unexpected).

“Normal” readings

These are readings that follow the simplest guidelines for reading kanji.

  1. Single kanji, kun reading: 口(くち)
  2. Two kanji, on + on: 中央(ちゅう・おう)
  3. One kanji, kun + okurigana: 行く(い・く)
  4. Two kanji, kun + okurigana + kun: 生き物(い・き・もの)
  5. Two kanji, kun + kun + okurigana: 金持ち(かね・も・ち)

Less usual readings, but not particularly strange

  1. kun + kun: 月見(つき・み)
  2. on + kun: 台所(だい・どころ)
  3. kun + on: 太字(ふと・じ)
  4. on reading on its own: 本(ほん)
  5. It’s also not at all uncommon for one kanji to have a ton of kun readings. The kanji 生, which tends to mean “live”, “life”, “give birth”, and “raw”, has eight distinct kun readings. Eight is an unusual number however.
Kun reading Words
なま なま

Note that many of these readings are unusual or archaic. Which ones? The ones that WaniKani doesn’t teach you!

Here it gets weird (please help with this section!)

I’m not sure all of these exist, please help me to find these

  1. on + okurigana: 信じる(しん・じる)
  2. on + on + okurigana: 皮肉る(ひ・にく・る)、牛耳る(ぎゅう・じ・る)
  3. kun + on + kun: missing
  4. on + kun + on: missing
  5. kun + on + on: missing
  6. What else can you think of?

Was going to answer on the other thread, but this one seems a better fit. These are the ones I’ve found:

on + on + okurigana: 仰々しい、鬱陶しい*.
on + kun + okurigana: 素晴らしい、馬鹿馬鹿しい、馬鹿らしい

on + okurigana: (some?) なる・たる adjectives (e.g. 単なる)
on + okurigana: single kanji じる・ずる・する verbs and variations like 愛す、禁ず

*not sure if 鬱陶しい is on + on, or kun + on

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There are some that use neither reading, for example:


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Thanks for making this thread, I will definitely link this for newbies asking about the rules


Maybe you could add something about words like フランス人, where there’s katakana+on? I don’t know if that’s common for words in katakana. Still, there’s just one kanji, and it’s on reading.

It’s on-on

Yeah, exceptional readings are one thing to mention. And lastly, I’d mention ateji. Things like 寿司, which have no connection to meaning and were chosen for their phonetics.

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In this case 人 is acting as a suffix, which is pretty common.

しい / らしい doesn’t feel like true okurigana to me. That said, you could argue that my example for on + okurigana (信じる) is just a special/antiquated case of on + する, and therefore not true okurigana either.

But Wikipedia gave an example of true on + on + okurigana! 皮肉る (ひ・にく・る). Now that’s weird.

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Hey, sorry for the delay! Was pretty busy this past month (I’m still a bit)!

Yep! I don’t really disagree with you. Not really sure I share the same thoughts for ~しい, but I feel exactly the same thing for many ~らしい and most ~する endings. But as you hinted, it’s perhaps very easy to come up with good arguments against/in favor of those thoughts.

My point is that you won’t see many of those ~しいadjectives without their endings, and odds are that they won’t make any sense alone. Also, in the case of words like なる・たる adjectives, as you may know, are remanents from Old Japanese forms which are obsolete in Modern Japanese. They now represent words in itself and would change meanings (or maybe in some cases, make no sense at all) without those okurigana. (Not really acquainted with this topic, so forgive any mistakes and take this with a bit grain of salt)


Well noted!

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