In the thread titled is "こっかい" a heteronym?, the accepted answer explains that there are some because of "pitch accent". However, in Japanese, there are more than one way to think about heteronyms.

Aren't there heteronyms with these specifications:

  1. one kanji compound (with possible okurigana).
  2. two possible ways to write it in hiragana (to eliminate the "pitch inflection" variable).
  3. two definitions, and the definitions depend on the hiragana writings.

新聞::あらたきき::something heard for the first time. <--- imaginary word

What are a few of such words?

EDIT: This question is answered in the "comment" section. So, mark this as answered.

  • 1
    Sure, there are a number of these. The most obvious one that comes to mind is 方, which can be かた (polite "person") or ほう ("alternative", perhaps). I think the list of words that meet your criteria is going to be rather long.
    – senshin
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 19:58
  • @senshin You are right. I need to clarify that I am interested in the 訓読み reading. same kanji compound、different 訓読み reading, different meaning. I am sure that there are many, but I'd like to know a few.
    – user312440
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 20:21
  • @senshin no. Your answer is fine. Please ignore my discussion of 訓読み。Make your comment an answer, and I can be done with this. thanks.
    – user312440
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 20:29

2 Answers 2


There are a number of words like this. The most obvious one that comes to mind is 方, which can be read かた (polite "person") or ほう ("alternative", perhaps). Another example is 青山, which can be read あおやま ("a lush mountain") or せいざん ("a lush mountain" OR [metaphorically] "where one dies"). Also 心中, which can be read しんちゅう ("one's heart" or something like that) or しんじゅう ("lover's suicide"). 側, which can be そば ("physical proximity" or something) or がわ (non-literally, "a side"). I think there are a lot of words like this.

If you restrict to just words with different 訓読み readings, 空く is one example: it can be read あく (which cannot mean "to be hungry") or すく (which can mean that, as in 腹が空いた [though I think you usually wouldn't use the kanji there]). You also have examples where one of the readings is "proper", like 行方, which can be read ゆくえ ("whereabouts") or なめがた (a proper noun: a particular city in Ibaraki).


Indeed there are very many words like this, but here is my favourite example. Consider the following statement about a choir:


It might mean that the men are more skilled than the ladies (reading the characters as [下手]{へた}・[上手]{じょうず}) but actually more likely tells them which side of the stage to come on from ([下手]{しもて}・[上手]{かみて}).

  • 3
    Another example: [人気]{ひとけ}のないレストラン "an empty restaurant" vs [人気]{にんき}のないレストラン "an unpopular restaurant" :-)
    – isayamag
    Commented Nov 22, 2014 at 5:55
  • 1
    – user1016
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 17:52

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .