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剣 by itself can be read either way. What's the difference?

Clarification: In particular, when 剣 refers to a 諸刃 sword, which reading are natives more likely to use?

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they are the same. –  oldergod Jul 10 '13 at 1:11
    
Even though I think it's usually ken, I often end up typing turugi because it's easier to input that way :-) –  snailboat Jul 25 '13 at 0:34

2 Answers 2

A little research leads me to believe that つるぎ refers exclusively to double-bladed swords (諸刃{もろは}の剣{つるぎ}) while けん can refer to any sword, including single- or double-bladed, as well as a bunch of other metaphorical meanings and referring to sword arts and whatnot.

See the answer here:

http://detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp/qa/question_detail/q1035588605

As for which is more common, it's けん.

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From what I understand, moroha just means any kind of double bladed sword, not a particular subset of double bladed swords. If this understanding is correct, then tsurugi and ken are applicable to double bladed swords (most swords...), and ken is applicable also to single bladed swords or dull swords like scimitars or practice swords. That still leaves me with the question: for a generic (double bladed) sword, which reading is more common? –  無色受想行識 Jul 24 '13 at 16:15
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I never see any word for it except けん, and I feel like a good many of the swords I see referred to as けん are double bladed... –  ssb Jul 25 '13 at 8:27

tsurugi = native (ancient) Japanese word

ken = (ancient) Chinese pronunciation that came with Kanji

These two types of pronunciation are called 訓読み(和語) and 音読み(漢語)

We usually read 剣 as ken. tsurugi is not common.

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