Kanji reading = Onyomi?

Hey all, this may have been covered in previous thread, but the labelling of ‘Kanji reading’ and ‘Vocab reading’ had me a little confused.

Just to confirm,

Kanji reading = Onyomi
Vocab reading = Kunyomi

Thanks all!

On’yomi = The chinese reading of the kanji. Typically used in words made up of multiple kanji.
Kun’yomi = The Japanese reading. Typically used when the kanji is on it’s own, or with kana.

This is a general rule of thumb, but not absolute.

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If the reading is in カタカナ it is always an on’yomi reading. If the reading is in ひらがな it is a kun’yomi reading.

Rule of thumb: If the word is made up of two or more kanji, it’s better to err on the side of on’yomi.

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Sorry guys, maybe I didn’t convey what I meant properly :stuck_out_tongue: I know what Onyomi and Kunyomi are :slight_smile:

I was only confused about the terminology that WaniKani uses,

They use “Vocab Reading” and “Kanji Reading”

Just wanted to clarify that “Kanji reading” is simply meaning Onyomi
And Vocab reading is simply meaning Kunyomi

Thanks all for your replies :slight_smile:

It isn’t always that clear a connection. Sometimes WK teaches the Kun’Yomi as the kanji reading, and reuses it for the vocab.

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Kanji reading can be either On or Kun, depending on what the most common reading is. 人 uses on’yomi, but other kanji use kun’yomi, like 枕 (a later one, but the first that popped into my head)

Vocab reading is simply how that particular word is read.

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WK teaches the most common readings of each kanji, and it will specify whether those are kun or on when you learn them.

Vocab can use either kun or on, depending on if it’s a compound, if it has okurigana, etc as people said above (again, those are not hard and fast rules though)

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I seeeeee! Thank you all for clarifying this, I am a little silly for not thinking this way.

So really whatever WaniKani taught me is the most useful Kanji reading is what it expects to be entered as “Kanji reading”

“Vocab Reading” is just how ever it is read when in a word, Kunyomi unless accompanied by other Kanji in the word… as a loose rule of thumb.

Thank you all, super helpful!


No problem, good luck in your studies! 頑張って

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On and Kun readings don’t exactly change based on what’s popular or not, and that’s an absurd and bizarre way to teach anything.

Like sure, talking about temporal terms, 年 would be almost always read as ねん, but that’s not what the reading actually is, and it’d be misleading to teach on’yomi terms as the norm.

WaniKani never claims that readings change. The reading it gives in kanji lessons are the ones that you will likely see more often, it even tells you whether the reading it teaches is onyomi or kunyomi. I don’t see the problem here.

The problem is that “What you see more often” is entirely subjective to the whole subject matter of your reading et.c. It’s important to teach both common kun and on readings and not just pick one based on arbitrary statistics.

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In the kanji lessons WK doesn’t really explicitly state in the text if it’s ON or KUN, but (when it is not obvious) you can check it on the reading page, on the left sidebar it is mentioned.

You might also want to start your userscript lifestyle and install katakana madness, you will see katakana for ON everywhere then.

You do end up learning several of the kanji’s readings eventually, but only one reading is taught in the kanji lessons. You learn the other readings as you learn vocab containing that kanji. The reason why it’s done this way is so you’re not bombarded with learning so much new information at once. I’d say it’s generally pretty effective since even when I’m learning new words outside of WaniKani that I know the kanji for, 9 times out of 10 I can guess the reading because of WaniKani.


It’s more efficient to learn the most common items first though, right? Then go back later and fill in the gaps. When you learn English you don’t need to know 10 words for saying “good” you just learn that “good” is a word that is commonly used and reasonable. Later on i can learn the less common words and do some linguistic gymnastics.

There are ways to determine what words are most commonly used. I don’t know what, if any, method WK uses to do this, but it is certainly possible. You can find lists on the net of the top most common words, how do you think they compile this? It’s not a guesstimate, they are normally based on computer analysis of huge mountains of text of all types.

A couple of people beat me to this but WK does teach both On and Kun readings for many of the kanji on the site. Certainly most of the kanji that have fairly common On and Kun readings will have readings from both categories taught as you progress far enough. What may be confusing at first is that they usually only teach one reading at a time to avoid presenting too much information at once. The others are taught through vocabulary and not at the time the kanji is introduced.

That’s not to say that there aren’t readings missing from WK. 秋 doesn’t even list シュウ as an onyomi on its page, for example.

Yes they do.


That’s just a dictionary convention. Really, there’s no hiragana or katakana involved. If you ask someone how to read a kanji, they can’t say it in hiragana or katakana… they just say it. And yet they would still be saying the on’yomi or kun’yomi reading because the reading is independent of hiragana and katakana.

That’s what I meant with the side bar, but it’s not really written as “and now we learn the ON yomi because …”

Oh, I see. I thought you were talking about the kanji’s page, not the reading tab of the lesson.

Wanikani’s “kanji reading” (the ones introduced first, with the kanji, during lessons) are mostly onyomi readings, but it’s whatever they deem more useful for broader reading, so that’s not always the case.

Similarly, stand-alone kanji presented as vocabulary mostly use their kunyomi reading, both in terms of Japanese and on Wanikani, but there are exceptions.

This is exactly what Wanikani does. Kouchi pops in to say this once in a while, but Wanikani’s vocab list is based on common usage.

What people sometimes take issue with/get confused by is that it’s not necessarily a great vocabulary resource because it can’t present the most common words for things at lower levels because it’s structured around kanji complexity. (And with a small kanji pool, you can only do so much, so the site picks what it can to reinforce readings.) So, expectedly, the usefulness of its vocabulary tends to rise with the level, at least up to a certain point. It’s also always going to be incomplete as a vocabulary resource because it doesn’t teach you non-kanji words (such as all the many adverbs based on onomatopoeia).

So it’s not structured around being a comprehensive vocabulary site. It’s very much kanji first. But that doesn’t mean its words aren’t selected for their frequent usage. I’d assume they pull from similar resources for selecting onyomi or kunyomi when introducing kanji.