Pronunciation of BIG kanji vs BIG vocabulary word

The Kanji for “Big” is 大 - Readings are たい and だい

However…they have an example for the word “Big” - 大きい

So I assumed this would be pronounced - ta-i-ki-i
however the reading of the vocab word “Big” is actually

So the question i guess is - why did the reading for the Big kanji become おお for the word ‘Big’? What’s the point in learning the kanji pronunciations if they change inside of a word? Why is there a ‘vocabulary word’ and a Kanji that are both for ‘Big’?

I just learned hiragana and katana and so far this has been my first major point of confusion.


1 Like

Kanjis have, more often that not. at least two readings that are used depending on circumstances.
Some are used when the kanji itself is used together with another kanji to form a compound word, other readings are used when the kanji is alone or when hiragana/katakana is attached to hit (like ookii) and so forth.

I encourage you read about the japanese language itself before starting wanikani - using WK alone wont teach you much!

Because 大 exists in other words and does use a reading of たい or だい.

大事 - だいじ
大した - たいした

You also probably need to look up the concept of on-yomi and kun-yomi to explain the multiple readings.

たい and だい are on readings and おお is the kun reading.

1 Like

Tofugu blog has interesting article on different kanji readings:

You can also find in in their podcast.

In short, in most cases (there are always exceptions) a kanji plus hiragana means kun’yomi (japanese) reading, while for kanji itself WaniKani teaches on’yomi (chinese) reading, again barring exceptions.

You have to know both readings, on three and more in some cases, and a lot of experience, to correctly read new vocabulary.


Ah yes, I forgot to look at both readings. The vocab used the kun reading. I’ll have to look out for that. Wanikani didnt include the Kun reading in the mnemonic so I didnt even notice.

Thank you!


What do you do when you see something really, really big? You say おお because you can’t believe your eyes. Imagine something really large and say おお out loud to help seal the memory in that brain of yours.

That’s the reading mnemonic. It mentions the おお reading.

1 Like

I’m referencing the大
The actual BIG Kanji didn’t have the Kun reading, so I’ll have to keep an eye out.

Yeah it only teaches you one reading at a time. You should be prepared to learn the other reading(s) through the vocab lessons. Also keep in mind the most common kanji tend to have the largest number of readings. Stuff like 人 or 日 have way more commonly used readings than your typical kanji. Many of the kanji in later levels only have two main readings, so that might be a bit easier.


This topic was automatically closed 365 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.