Trip's Kanji Reading Questions

What does On’yomi, Kun’yomi, and Nanori mean? What’s even the point of having three different parts to a kanji reading (are there any others)? I mean in the end aren’t they all just readings? Why do they call On’yomi a “chinese reading?” Why are we comparing Chinese to Japanese?

starts to overthink and brain shuts down

Give it just a sec - @Leebo is furiously typing :smile:


訓読み kunyomi, literally “meaning reading” - These readings come from applying words that existed in Japanese before kanji were imported to kanji. They are the native Japanese words that then got kanji to go along with them.

音読み onyomi, literally “sound reading” - These are borrowed from Chinese. The ancient Chinese had their own pronunciations for the kanji and when the Japanese borrowed the kanji, they also borrowed the pronunciations. But Chinese and Japanese have very different pronunciation schemes, so these don’t sound like ancient Chinese all that much, and Chinese has changed since then so they don’t sound like modern Chinese either.

名乗り nanori - these are basically like kunyomi, but just for names


Phew thanks I was struggling with that.

No problem.

So, as you can see the reason there can be many kunyomi is because one kanji concept could overlap with many native words potentially.

The reason you can have multiple onyomi is because different words got imported at different times or from different parts of ancient China, resulting in the imported pronunciations also being different.

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