The number of hiragana to write the pronunciation of kanji always seems to be longer than or equal to the number of kanji. I.e. each kanji corresponds to one or more hiragana.

Are there any words that take up more characters (or maybe more syllables) when written as kanji rather than hiragana/katakana? Where multiple kanji correspond to fewer hiragana or syllables?


1 Answer 1


Yes, 熟字訓 words have no direct connection between its kanji spelling and its reading, and a few of them are actually longer in kanji than in kana, but these kanji are rare and not actively used in modern Japanese exchanges.

  • 再従兄弟 はとこ (second cousin​; usually written in kana)
  • 百舌鳥 もず (bull-headed shrike; usually written in kana)
  • 香具師 やし (a type of old-time street performer; obsolete word)

Here are some more examples. I haven’t checked all of them, but most of them are very rare.

  • 2
    百舌鳥 you see around Osaka a lot as a place name (e.g., 中百舌鳥駅). And re: one of the examples in the link: when would you read 百合草 as ゆり, instead of ゆりくさ?
    – Kimball
    Commented Oct 6, 2018 at 17:54
  • I don't know when, I can only read it as ゆりくさ. 香具師, 再従兄弟 and 百舌鳥 are the only ones I can read without dictionaries.
    – naruto
    Commented Oct 6, 2018 at 23:42
  • 八重干瀬(やびし)is another example. Perhaps it's also common in words having their origin in Okinawa.
    – wireman
    Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 4:16

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