Question about Kanji with multiple Onyomi/Kunyomi readings

So almost getting to level 4 when a thought sparked up my curiosity: When it comes to kanji, I already know that onyomi is used when there are no hiragana and kunyomi is used when there is hiragana attached to kanji. But let’s say that someone was testing you on kanji. Let’s use 下 for example. 下 has multiple onyomi readings but also multiple kunyomi readings. On WaniKani itself, they have a specific reading when defining it. For 下 they use か.

My question is there a defined reading for a kanji that describes the kanji itself when referencing it? Or can you just look at a kanji, say any of its onyomi/kunyomi readings, and still be correct in which kanji you referenced?

Sorry, just a bit confused here and some clarification would help, thanks.


If you’re describing a kanji to someone else, no. You need to reference it in context for people to understand what you mean. For example 地下鉄ちかてつの「か」 to reference 下


This isn’t entirely right, incidentally. Although when the reading appears partly as extra attached hiragana it’s a kunyomi, not all kunyomi have extra attached hiragana. For instance for 下, した is a kunyomi and the word when written with kanji is only 下.

There is no defined ‘this is the key reading’, because identifying kanji by reading is not a common thing to do. This is because kanji aren’t words, they’re just how words are written, so the only time you really need to say “this particular kanji” is if you’re explaining how to write something. (This comes up a lot with names.) In that case the usual strategy is to say something like “toukyou no kyou”, i.e. “the kyou kanji in the word Tokyo”. Note that readings are not unique, so just saying a reading is usually not enough to identify which kanji you mean.


Thank you kindly

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ah I see what you did there

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