Possible rule of thumb for 物?

In my reviews, I constantly happen to find that when guessing the correct reading of 物, apart from kun’yomi or on’yomi, ぶつ is often the reading when it concerns living things, whereas もの is used with inanimate objects. Is this just coincidence or is there some logic/etymology behind this?

I looked around in the dictionary a bit and I can’t say I see that connection.


are all inanimate things with the ぶつ reading. keep in mind that ぶつ is the onyomi while もの is the kunyomi and at some point you will get a feel for where it doesn’t make sense to have a kunyomi reading in a given word compound. Unfortunately 物 has tons of exceptions so it’s one of the harder kanji to read I think but with experience it will get much easier. I think the early wanikani levels also introduce a lot of exception readings too so you may feel like there is less of a logic to it then there actually is at this stage. Keep doing your best!

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And then sometimes they just smash もの and ぶつ together and get もつ, like some sort of undead Frankenstein’s monster hiding in your 荷物


Just to be clear, both ぶつ and もつ are onyomi, but ぶつ is the Kanon onyomi and もつ is the Goon onyomi.

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I know this is go-on, but I quite like the idea that Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe have invented their own system for how to read kanji. :slightly_smiling_face:


the pattern you should look out for is that kun-readings and on-readings tend to stick together… of course the exceptions… but as a rule of thumb

kun then on, roughly the same meaning
食べ物 tabemono 食物 shokumotsu food
生き物 ikimono 生物 seibutsu living thing
腹切 harakiri 切腹 seppuku cut up your belly
山登り yamanobori 登山 tozan mountain climbing
人殺し hitogoroshi 殺人 satsujin murder

… and the list goes on.


The only exception I can think of off the top of my head (for 物) is a word so common that I doubt anyone would have trouble remembering it.


もの is one of my favourite Japanese words :slight_smile:

魔物 is another one. It’s semi common, I would say, if you watch enough anime. But I won’t be able to come up with a third one, I think.

can you tell us about the difference between these two types of onyomi? I’ve never heard the terms embarassingly enough.

Basically refers to when the reading was introduced into Japanese. Go-on = 5th-6h centuries, Kan-on = 7th-9th centuries, To-on = 10th century onwards, while kan’yo-on is readings that were changed after they arrived in Japan.

Kan-on is most common. Go-on readings tend to feature in Buddhist terminology (for example 極楽 = ごくらく instead of, say, きょくがく).


I see had to be more clear, but what I was trying to say was, when a word with 物 refers to a living thing, it (in all the cases I have checked) has ぶつ as reading. Inanimate objects can have both the ぶつ as the もの reading, so it is only a tell for when you’re confronted with a word that has something living as meaning.

So the counterexample which would undermine this rule of thumb would be a 物-word that refers to a living thing, yet has もの as reading.

若者 (わかもの)Young person. Double kun’yomi

But in this case もの is reading for 者, not for 物.

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true, sorry!

Aside from 生き物 mentioned by tessberg? 化け物 feels animate to me.

獲物 (えもの) - can be used on things that are still alive (i.e. 逃した獲物 prey that got away)
大物 (おおもの) - since it’s a general word, humans and animals could be called this

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