In the same way that some English words like "read" or "bow" can have more than one meaning, some kanji words also have more than one reading and more than one meaning as well, depending on the context. For example, 大人気 can be read either otonage (おとなげ), meaning "adultness", or daininki (だいにき), "very popular". The kanji 実 can be read either mi (み), meaning "fruit", or jitsu (じつ), meaning "truth". 本館 can be read as honkan (ほんかん), "main building", but it is also a surname, pronounced Motodate (もとだて).
In the same way that English speakers can distinguish between the bow in "bow-tie" and "a deep bow", Japanese people distinguish these readings from the context.Here is a table of some common examples:
|市場||ichiba||A market selling groceries|
|shijō||A financial market|
|一文字||ichimonji||A shape like a kanji "one".|
|ichimoji, hitomoji||One character|
|一寸||issun||A unit (see What are the old Japanese units like shaku?)|
|大字||ōaza||Used in addresses (see How does the Japanese addressing system work?)|
|daiji||A large character|
Some people's names and place names may also be words with different pronunciations, for example
See also How do Japanese names work?
Copyright © 1994-2021 Ben Bullock