Question about the kun'yomi reading of 上

Hi all, I’m a fairly new learner here and came across something that was perplexing me. I recently learned the vocab for above (上 read うえ) and the verb, to rise (上がる read あがる). The reading notes offered by the site say that both of these use the kun’yomi (and this follows from the fact that the former word is a lone kanji and the latter word is modified by hiragana), but the kanji is being read differently between these two words. What’s the explanation?


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There’s no limit to the number of on’yomi or kun’yomi a kanji can have.

For 上, you’ll also see 上る (のぼる, to climb), 上着 (うわぎ, coat)


Welcome to Japanese, where the apparently simplest words tend to have the most readings and/or meanings. 上 has six kun’yomi, though you’ll pretty much never see one of them. うえ, うわ, かみ, あ, のぼ and たてまつ.


たてまつ as in 奉る (たてまつる)?
Wow, never saw that indeed, but it does make sense.

Edit: by the way ほとり also appears to be a kunyomi of 上

Just to add to this, many kanji have no kunyomi at all.


Thanks for the explanations all, I suspected it might have to do with alt readings, but it’s nice to have confirmation (as well as the fact that there can be many, many kunyomi or none at all!). Time to buckle down!


I would suggest just learning the ones on WK; if you encounter the kanji out in the wild with another reading, I would then suggest just learning that vocab.
Most kanji have one or two common readings and then whatever other readings tend to be specific to certain vocab.

二 for example is either に or ふた unless its being used for 20, then in some specific uses its は.
二十日 はつか
二十歳 はたち

Just to be clear, はつか and はたち are just exceptional readings for 二十日 and 二十歳 as groups of kanji, respectively, as opposed to being able to assign reading to individual kanji there. Like how 大人 is おとな, but you can’t say that it’s お+とな or おと+な or something. It’s just an exceptional reading for that compound.


Right, I should have clarified that は is not a reading of 二, but just an exceptional case; the point I’m trying to make is just learn the readings and vocab on WK and then learn any exceptional cases when they come up.

If you can do the WK reviews, you are 90% of the way there for most kanji.

Just to further clarify, words like 大人 and 二十日 are Japanese words (that presumably existed before the importation of kanji) where kanji with the appropriate meaning was used to visually represent the word irrespective of the actual kunyomi. These words are known as 当て字 (あてじ). 下手(へた) is another good one.

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We had a discussion on that subject the other day (what to call that particular category of words). This is the post where it started.


Some Kanji have no On’yomi at all.

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