Why is 安心 あんしん and not あんこころ/やすこころ?


I am a beginner in Japanese language and I just read the vocab 安心。While most of the vocab that I have read so far which contains a body part have the kun’yomi reading, why doesn’t this follow the same pattern?


Perhaps because 心 isn’t a body part(although you’ll notice that the “rules” for readings are often broken randomly for some unknown reason). 心 refers to the figurative heart, so it can also be translated as spirit or something like that. The word for the physical organ is 心臓 although this also uses the on yomi haha. In general it’s hard to know exactly why or when onyomi or kunyomi are used. My advice is to not to get too caught up on it and just do your best to memorize! Hope this helps :slight_smile:


If you expected kunyomi, it would be やすこころ or やすごころ or something, no? Anyway, 心 appears in many words with its onyomi.

My guess for the real reason is that this word simply came from Chinese, rather than Japanese. Kunyomi words typically existed in Japanese before the kanji were imported, and やすごころ or whatever it would be, wasn’t already a word in Japanese.

Sure, you could import a word and then apply a kunyomi to it, but that is an extra step necessary.


Oh yes, but I still haven’t read the kun’yomi for 安。So I just typed with whatever I knew :sweat_smile:

Thank you for the explanation. Makes a lot of sense.

Haha, yeah. That’s what I have learnt so far. It’s full of exceptions. But then I felt there might have been some reasoning behind this and wanted to ask it as a question. Is there a good resource through which we can find the reasoning behind the readings? Or a place where I can find the origin for the words?



There is an extensive literature on the history of the Japanese language and the complexity of the development of its system of writing, and I’m sure that all this information is available digitally, although as a 年輩 I still prefer paper. Basically the difficulties encountered in determining the pronunciation of Japanese words written in character are due to the characters themselves being largely borrowed from Chinese (at different stages in the development of those languages) and the fact that an extremely high percentage of the Japanese vocabulary is also borrowed from the Chinese.
The convoluted history of the Japanese language and its orthography is one of the reasons why it is classed as extremely difficult, especially for native speakers of Indo-European languages.

Another quick and dirty rule would be that when the meaning has to do with a feeling 安 will most likely be read あん versus when the word means something is cheap then it would be read やす. Not 100% of the time but it is just a quick and dirty rule.

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While there are various etymological reasons that could help explain the distinction, it’s probably easiest (and most instructive, down the line) to just remember that 心 has basically an entirely figurative meaning, as the first reply notes. Only in combination with 臓, for “organ,” as 心臓 (しんぞう), does it refer literally to a physical heart.

In that vein, there are lots and lots of phrases where it indicates a mental state or feeling, and would be translated without using “heart” at all. Mind-reading in Japanese? That’s 心を読む, for example. Mind and body? 心身 (しんしん).

(I honestly think “heart” as the default translation is kind of misleading, but it’s what’s stuck. “Spirit” or “mind”/“mentality” are a lot closer for the majority of its uses. Of course we have the figurative “heart” in English too, but it’s not as sharply divided as it is in Japanese, where 心 outside of 心臓 doesn’t really invoke the physical organ at all.)


This word was directly imported from (Mandarin) Chinese.

Mandarin: 安心 (ān xīn)
Japanese: 安心 (an shin)

Same meaning and almost identical pronounciation.


Not Mandarin, Middle Chinese. Mandarin is a much newer version of the Chinese language. The Japanese imported it long before Mandarin was a thing. 安心 - Wiktionary

(Mandarin probably also inherited it from Middle Chinese as well.)

@akihikoo I recommend this Tofugu article about the history of kanji in Japan, it’s a good primer to begin exploring the topic:


*sigh *

No. I think you’re confusing Mandarin with Standard Chinese.

Most likely, the pronunciation “an shindid not come from Middle Chinese. The shi (し) consonant wasn’t present in early Japanese.

Instead, “an shin” was likely imported (or re-imported) during the Late Middle Japanese (LMJ) period – starting around the 12th century. This corresponds to the Jin and Yuan dynasties in northern China.

And the language they spoke at the time is known as… (old) Mandarin.

I was indeed confusing Mandarin with Standard Chinese. Other than that, I just read the etymology on wiktionary as “Middle Chinese”. If you have knowledge of a different etymology, I won’t question it, since I’m not a scholar on this topic.

The main point though, is that it’s loaned from some version of Chinese centuries ago, which is the idea I wanted to transmit. In this case the modern pronunciation is similar in both languages, but there are characters who sound completely different, like say 国, but that’s a whole other discussion for another time.

So to the OP: it’s あんしん because it’s a Chinese loanword, if it were a native Japanese word it’d be やすごころ or something like that.

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