Occasionally I stumble on things that WK doesn’t cover at all that are interesting or useful, so I figured I’d start a little series.
空 is a kanji that is taught in level 5, and it (currently) only has the meaning of “sky,” with no synonyms by default.
But it does have some other meanings, such as “empty,” which is seen in some other WK vocab like 空席 (くうせき empty seat) and 空車 (くうしゃ open taxi). Though I just realized that WK doesn’t teach 空手. Go ahead and see if you can figure out what that one means if it’s new for you. Answer: (からて karate)
But today I want to focus on another use of 空, where it is used as a prefix meaning “fake,” and is read そら.
The following words are relatively common and should be usable in conversations with natives
空耳 (そらみみ) - mishearing; hearing something that isn’t actually there
空目 (そらめ) - seeing something that isn’t actually there
空似 (そらに) - coincidental resemblance between unrelated people (usually as 他人の空似)
空事 (そらごと) - fake; fabrication (often in 絵空事 えそらごと meaning the same thing, or extended to “pipe dream” and the like)
空恐ろしい (そらおそろしい) - having vague fears
空返事 (そらへんじ, からへんじ) - absent-minded response [both readings exist in the dictionary, but からへんじ seems to be more common]
These other words are in the dictionary, and were kind of understood by natives I asked, but don’t seem to be as common. They are included because some are amusing.
空泣き (そらなき) - fake crying; crocodile tears [a more common word is 嘘泣き]
空涙 (そらなみだ) - fake crying; crocodile tears
空寝 (そらね) - feigned sleep; playing possum [a more common word is 狸寝入り]
空言 (そらごと) - falsehood, lie
空頼み (そらだのみ) - vain hope
空箸 (そらばし) - touching food with one’s chopsticks, then removing them without taking it (a breach of etiquette) [a related, seemingly more common word is 迷い箸]
空うそぶく - to feign ignorance or unconcern
空とぼける - to feign ignorance; to play dumb
空恥ずかしい - embarrassed without knowing why