I do know that there are many questions like that all over the web and some on japanese.stackexchange as well. Nevertheless, as far as I can remember I could not find any that explained how to choose the right kanji when there are multiple choices (I mean: 飛ぶ "fly" vs. 跳ぶ "leap"; 分かる (the generic one) vs. 判る "distinguish" vs. 解る "understand", and countless others like 暖かい・温かい, 下ろす・降ろす, etc.).

The only place where I have found some explanation is in the MS IME for Japanese. But it is not very convenient because I am not always on Windows and when I do handwriting I do not have that aid.

So I am asking whether you know a book, a paper or whatever else that will describe the differences between those words.

  • ... dictionary...? Commented Apr 13, 2014 at 18:19
  • @EnnoShioji Indeed, a dictionary will be just fine, but, in the online dictionaries (yahoo/goo jiten) I have looked up the different alternatives are listed but there is no real explanation of their differences. If you know about a dictionary with those explanations I would be glad to know about it. Commented Apr 13, 2014 at 19:13
  • 1
    明鏡国語辞典 covers the examples in your question fairly well, I think.
    – user1478
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 0:51
  • @snailboat Thanks for your indication, I will try to get my hands on it. Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 8:15
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    @hippietrail I mean the words that share the same reading/kana/pronunciation whose meaning varies with the kanji used. Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 12:07

2 Answers 2


Here is a publication put out by the 文化審議会, which is a part of 文部科学省 in the Japanese government.


At a glance it has a lot of good stuff but as @snailboat mentions it is limited to the kanji and readings shown on the 常用漢字表, so you won't find things like 判る and 解る. For joyo kanji, though, this should be the government standard.

The term for this is 異字同訓{いじどうくん} (Different kanji, same reading) so you can search other places based on that and get plenty of help.

  • 1
    I believe it's limited to jōyō characters and readings, and the jōyō kanji chart only lists 分かる for わかる, not 解る or 判る (or 別る).
    – user1478
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 0:47
  • This was the first thing I thought of as well. It may not be complete, but it's definitely a great starting place.
    – Kaji
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 1:59
  • The limitation to jōyō is also an incomplete data source. The absence of 解る and 判るbasically means that these aren't the kanji you are looking for to express any sense of わかる in contemporary Japanese. (This is not of course universally true of every omission)
    – virmaior
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 2:46
  • @ssb Thanks for your answer, even if it covers only joyo kanji it will be of a great help to start; and, since you gave me the term 異字同訓 it will be easier for me to search. If there is no better answer by tomorrow I will accept yours. Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 8:10
  • @Lyle Try searching for 使い分け or 違い along with the set of terms you need help distinguishing.
    – user1478
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 13:27

There's 辞書{じしょ} (jisho). It's not always good about clearly identifying exactly what the difference is, but it usually gives you several examples that will at least give you an idea.

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