Why 白鳥 is readしらとり and not しろとり?

Hi everyone!

Someone told me that 白鳥 “swan” in Japanese can be read both はくちょう (using onyomi) and しらとり (using kunyomi), even though the onyomi reding is more popular.
But why does it become しとり?
白 isn’t しろ? What’s the rule behind this change?

Thank you all!


There is an interesting phenomenon in japanese that many word that usually end with a え or お sound sometime turn to あ in some compound. There is a list here:

I’m not sure if there is any real rule or pattern, it’s probably best to just memorize those words. Another example with 白=しら is 白雪姫 (しらゆきひめ) Snow White (from the fairy tale)


Yes. And later, at lv 46 WK, will teach you

白菊 【しらぎく】 (n) white chrysanthemum, (P)

as another example of how ろ becomes ら instead. :slight_smile:


Yes, he was confused too

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蝦夷ギク Ezo Giku, kind of flower.

There are some combinations of sounds that are strange to Japanese people for reasons only known to them. They address these issues with the nature of your question or rendaku.


ah… I thought rendaku happens only when a unvoiced consonant becomes voiced, like 青空 - あお

That is what rendaku is.

What would we ever do without such critical vocab?

Well, some would say 鰐蟹 is not the most important word there is, but WK teach that as well. :eyes:

runs away and hides before the :crabigator: finds me! :running_woman:


I don’t remember the name of the phenomenon at all, but I think someone shared some information about it on the forums previously. There was a link to a post on Japanese Stack Exchange or something… I think the discussion was about why 酒 is さか in some compounds when it’s さけ on its own. The explanation was something along the lines of the fact that さか is the original form, because it used to be that this word could not exist in isolation. (There’s a name in Japanese for these types of words/forms, and it was mentioned on Stack Exchange, but I don’t remember what it was.) At some point though, the ending was changed for the case in which the word would be used alone, and that’s how we got さけ. Same thing with 白 being both しろ and しら, I imagine.

Ah, turns out the post is still in my history. Here you go:

The original form ending in A is called a 露出形, while the form after vowel modification is called a 被覆形. I can’t confirm that we’re seeing exactly the same phenomenon for 白, but that’s my best guess.

EDIT: Ah, I see that @Arzar33 linked to the thread where this discussion was shared. Oops. Well, just in case you missed it while browsing that thread, here it is.


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