Readings on single Kanji

I have noticed that when learning certain Kanji, in the vocabulary form, it will say

“Since this word is made up of a single kanji, it should use the kun’yomi reading. When learning the kanji, you didn’t learn that reading, so here’s a mnemonic to help you with this word:”

Which is fine by me, I can use that rule and apply it to Kanji, until there is an exception, but it is rarely told whether or not the Kanji that I am learning is an exception, or if it was taught to me using the kun’yomi reading.

For example 市 is written as し in both the Kanji and Vocabulary listings, which is the on’yomi reading, but it doesn’t mention that it is an exception. In the reading explanation, it just says:

“The reading for this word is the same as the one you learned when learning the kanji.”

The same type of sentence is also written for Kanji that is learned with just the kun’yomi readings. The example I am providing being 戸 written as と in both the Kanji and vocabulary listings, but also isn’t mentioned as being an exception. The reading explanation just reads:

“This has the same reading as the kanji you learned, meaning you know the reading!”

So I suppose, I am really just looking for some clarification on when certain kanji are getting certain readings and why. It just seems confusing the way that it listed. Why even mention that single kanji should be read a certain way without pointing out when other kanji are exceptions? I hope I wrote this in a way that was easy to follow and understand where I am coming from.

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と is the kunyomi for 戸, so… not an exception to the rule of thumb mentioned.

市 is technically possible as a lone kanji, but it’s rarely seen in that form, so I wouldn’t worry about it much. Usually it’s a suffix, in other words, the end of a compound that contains the rest of the city name (e.g. 神戸市 Kobe City). When you just want to talk about a generic word for city, 都市 is more common.

Anyway… there’s lots of exceptions in Japanese. I don’t really like it when people try to explain rules with lots of exceptions to beginners, but that’s just how it is, I can’t stop it at this point.

Just check the kunyomi and onyomi for yourself when in doubt.

Quick tip : During kanji lesson, you can see whether the given reading is on’yomi or kun’yomi.

WaniKani - Lessons - Chromium_019

In general, the reading you learn with the kanji is the “most useful” one. Other readings are taught through vocab.


I know that it is the kun’yomi reading, I mentioned that in my original post. It’s just that the exception is that usually on’yomi readings are the ones given with the kanji, but this is an exception to that.

It’s interesting that you give that example because I think it illustrates the OP’s point pretty well. I think it would be helpful to mention that the on’yomi reading is being reused or that a kanji doesn’t have (or commonly use) a kun’yomi reading.

The poison kanji (毒; どく on’yomi) is often used in poison-related compound words (e.g., food poisoning, addiction, etc.). However, as a solo kanji vocab word, 毒 is still read as どく. WaniKani doesn’t explicitly tell you that the on’yomi is still used despite the word being on its own.

The most common reading is the one given when learning the Kanji. It’s that simple. 戸籍 is probably the only common word I can think of that uses the Onyomi reading of 戸.

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