Odd Kanji Combos

Let’s share them here.

What do I mean by “odd kanji combos”? To me, they’re common words that one would have a hard time guessing even if they knew the constituent kanji.

I’ll start with 出前. Prounounced でまえ and it means “home delivery of food”.

Pretty odd, huh? Any more examples?

土木 - どぼく public works, civil engineering

Regarding this, a common source of “weird” kanji combos is when the meaning used in the word is just different from the main one we learn as beginners. One of the meanings of 前 is “allotment” or “portion.” This can be seen in the word 一人前 (いちにんまえ one serving of food).

Taken in that context, portions of food with 出 don’t seem that strange for 出前.

But yeah, if you haven’t been exposed to whatever meaning in question, it seems weird.

Other times, the kanji actually have no relation to the meaning, as in ateji, such as 寿司, In that case, if you don’t know the reading, it would be impossible to guess the meaning.


I don’t have very many leeches (yet) but 当たり前 is one and I think that’s why. Makes no sense to me, but that’s ok. I’ll just press the “i believe” button and move on.

That is a tricky one. I’m 8 for 10 on that one with a streak of four (full disclosure). But if you can conceptualize natural as “instinctive” that might help. We can think of instinct as the knowledge of something that is built into our DNA. So that knowledge – something we knew before (前) we learn it – means getting it right (当たり) comes naturally to us, it’s obvious, etc.


Yeah ()/rp>たり(まえ) only works for me by sounding it out (which is thankfully straightforward) and recovering the meaning from that (since I’ve heard it enough times). 運動(うんどう) also.

Recently I’ve run into more unguessable pronunciations than unguessable meanings though. 笑顔(えがお), 美味(おい)しい, 不味(まず) - easy to understand, but I have to work backward to figure out what the sound should have been.

Back to the original question, 味方(みかた) “ally” is one that gave me quite a lot trouble.

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生地 caused problems, so I looked it up and worked with it for a bit… talked with my wife about it, and so on. Now it’s fine.


This is a leech of mine, as well.

Not in WK I think but 蛇足 (だそく) is one that I found both odd and interesting.


i just accepted that it’s a homonym of 記事 (article, for example in a newspaper), and that it’s almost exclusively used for cloth, so i made up a story about cloth is a living material made of earth (like cotton), and there’s an article about it in the newspaper.

kind of a strange mnemonic, but it only has to last for a little while.

当たり前 comes easy for me, it’s such a commonly used word, i just put ‘of course’ as synonym, since that’s what comes to mind first.

美味しい is ‘beautiful taste’, the reading comes from exposure, similar to 当たり前, so it’s a simple connect the dots thing for me. i remember most kanji readings this way:

I like that one. It reminds me of 矛盾.

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Just came across one that is pretty hard to guess.

出家 (しゅっけ entering the priesthood)


I thought the word looked familiar, but then I realized I was thinking of 家出.

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来日 might make sense, but it’s not immediately obvious, if you don’t know the word.

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This comes from えむ 笑む so its not that odd.
You see it a lot in 微笑み ほほえみ which are both common words.
Other than that, I think you would read it as しょう though.


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