I wanted to know if there is any reference source or authoritative material about kanji pronunciations and when they were first imported into Japanese? Any book or electronic source, English or Japanese.

I would like something like this (data are wrong here, it's just a sample of what I need to see):

  • カイ -- imported into Japan during the Tang dynasty, 12th century, for the word 会議
  • エ -- imported during the Ming dynasty, 15th century, for the word 仏会
  • Just buy a 漢字辞典. It should contain all 訓読み and 音読み information.
    – hello all
    Aug 16, 2013 at 8:49
  • As an online resource, you can try wiktionary, sometimes, but not always, it lists these readings. en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E8%A1%8C ja.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E5%BE%A1
    – blutorange
    Aug 16, 2013 at 13:19
  • What's the difference between 漢字辞典 and 漢和辞典? And which Japanese dictionary would be the most highly regarded, one containing the information that snail boat mentioned?
    – OOEngineer
    Aug 16, 2013 at 14:41
  • 1
    @OOEngineer: There is not much difference between 漢字辞典 and 漢和辞典. The former literally means dictionary of Chinese characters where as the latter is Chinese-Japanese dictionary, and they are more or less the same thing after all. As for the most highly regarded dictionary, I would say that is 大漢和辞典 by 諸橋轍次, but it is not the kind of dictionary that casual users of Japanese want to own.
    – Pteromys
    Aug 17, 2013 at 5:58
  • Indeed, a dictionary split into 13 big volumes is really too much to handle for me... @snailboat: there probably won't be any other response with better references. So if you want to write something else than a mere comment, I'll gladly accept it as a response.
    – OOEngineer
    Aug 17, 2013 at 13:45

1 Answer 1


On readings are usually divided into four categories:

The first three categories represent three broad periods of borrowing from Chinese. The fourth category represents "customary" readings--generally variations on readings from the above three categories which have nonetheless been accepted as part of the Japanese language. You can read more about these categories on Wikipedia in English or in Japanese.

Some kanji dictionaries written in Japanese (called 漢和辞典{かんわじてん}) show which readings fall into which categories, but others do not; I don't know of any kanji dictionaries with English definitions that have this information. Generally speaking, larger 漢和辞典 are more likely to mark readings this way. (In addition, larger 漢和辞典 are more likely to contain less common readings.)

Here are a couple dictionaries which do mark readings this way:

  • 新漢語林(しんかんごりん) (published by 大修館書店)
  • 新選漢和辞典(しんせんかんわじてん) (published by 小学館)

Some 国語辞典{こくごじてん} have entries for kanji too, and some of these indicate 呉・漢・唐・慣用 as well. For example, 大辞泉 is available free online, and it has entries for some kanji, marked [漢字項目] in the Yahoo!辞書 interface. For example, take a look at the entry for :

[音]セイ(漢) ショウ(シャウ)(呉) シン(唐) [訓]きよい きよまる きよめる すむ さやか すがやか

See 大辞泉の凡例 for more information.

Another online resource, as blutorange points out, is Wiktionary. I'll reproduce the example links here, in case the comment is ever deleted: and .

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