I understand that a kanji can have several possible readings and several (typically related) meanings. Furthermore, I've noticed that a single reading typically corresponds to some subset of the meanings. To give a brief example:

生 can mean "birth", "genuine", or "life" (according to Kanjidic)

  • Pronounced せい it means "life", "living"
  • Pronounced なま it means "raw", "natural", etc.
  • Pronounced いき it means "lively"
  • Pronounced うむ (生む) it means "to give birth", "to produce"
  • Pronounced なる (生る) it means "to bear fruit"
  • etc.

Is there any resource (book/website/database/etc.) which matches readings to meanings? Bonus points if the resource is easily machine-readable - I'm building some software for which the data would be valuable.

  • なま doesn't have the connotation of raw, it means raw. And I don't think いき is a reading of 生. I'd like to see more examples to prove your point. Yes, most often one or more of the words a kanji is used in relates to the meaning of the kanji itself. This seem rather logical to me and while I don't know a whole lot of kanjis yet myself, I think it would be easier to find kanjis where none of the words it's used in relates to the meaning of the kanji itself.
    – gibbon
    Jul 27 '12 at 6:41
  • 3
    Please have a look at our resources listed on the meta site! Link: meta.japanese.stackexchange.com/q/756/1328
    – Chris
    Jul 27 '12 at 6:59
  • @gibbon Thanks for your comment: (1) What I meant to say is that なま has multiple meanings, of which "raw" is the representative one (see: jisho.org/words?jap=%E3%81%AA%E3%81%BE) (2) いき is a reading according to jisho.org/words?jap=生き (although perhaps it is not common?) (3) Added more examples. (4) Thanks for mentioning that not all the readings do not relate to the meaning of the kanji itself. That slipped my mind. For the purposes of this question I am only interested in those that do relate. I am writing a dictionary program and I feel that this information would be useful.
    – aoeuueoa
    Jul 27 '12 at 7:02
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    @aoeuueoa I'm not sure if you say いき is a reading of 生 when it's written 生き though, I think(!) you say い is a reading of 生 in a case like this. And I was hoping for more examples of other kanjis, but maybe you got the answer you were looking for from Chris.
    – gibbon
    Jul 27 '12 at 7:34
  • 4
    I think the reason the data you are looking at is not offering what you are looking for, is that you are looking at the wrong data: the examples above are (mostly) not kanji, they are words (that are sometimes made up of one kanji, often with some okurigana). If you simply use wwwjdic and look up words that contain your kanji (and possible okurigana ending, and nothing else), you'll get exactly what you are looking for.
    – Dave
    Jul 27 '12 at 8:47

In 大辞泉 there are entries labelled 漢字項目 which sometimes give this information for on-readings (where there is separation, and it's usually not particularly clear-cut).

For example, . Under ニチ they give five meanings with example compounds, and under ジツ they give two (out of the five given for ニチ already). So from that you can see that the meaning 日本のこと is only given to the reading ニチ, for example.

Now for . You'll see that there are a number of readings given for セイ and ショウ and that both can take the meaning of うむ and いきる in compounds, whereas セイ can also take the meaning of なま. Overall, セイ has more possible meanings (I think this is probably just a function of it being a more common reading).

If a kun-reading is given with okurigana (e.g. う・む) you can probably assume that the most common meaning for that reading = the meaning of the verb/adjective.

However, all of these will come with some level of vagueness factor, the more so the more you try to boil the meaning down to something simple. "nama = raw/natural" works in many cases but doesn't explain 生意気{なまいき} or 生返事{なまへんじ}. Include more information and you end up basically replicating a kanji dictionary.


Yes there is.

This is probably what you want: Romaji Desu

Here is an example:

Definition of 生

生: いく /iku/ (pref) (arch) vital/virile/lively

生: うぶ /ubu/ (adj-na, n, adj-no) (1) innocent/naive/unsophisticated/inexperienced/green/wet behind the ears/(n-pref) (2) birth-

生: き /ki/ (n, pref) pure/undiluted/raw/crude

生: しょう /shou/ (n) (1) life/living

生: せい /sei/ (n) (1) life/living/(n,n-suf) (2) (male) (hum) I/me/myself

生: なま /nama/ (adj-no, adj-na, n, n-pref) (1) raw/uncooked/fresh/(2) natural/unedited/unprocessed/crude/(3) (col) unprotected (i.e. not wearing a condom)/(4) live (i.e. not recorded)/(5) inexperienced/unpolished/green/(6) (abbr) impudence/sauciness/(7) (abbr) unpasteurize

生: なまり /namari/ (io) (n) (uk) (abbr) boiled and half-dried bonito

生: ふ /fu/ (n, n-suf) area of thick growth (of trees, grass, etc.)

  • This is a good start. It appears as if they are taking Jim Breen's Edict, finding all single-kanji words containing the desired kanji, and equating the reading of the kanji in that word with the meaning of the word. Failing the appearance of a more comprehensive resource, this is probably the approach I'll take. Thanks :)
    – aoeuueoa
    Jul 27 '12 at 7:23

I thought I should note that Jim Breen's Kanjidic2 does this to some extent with the <rmgroup> tag. However the documentation mentions that:

One major change, which will only be implemented gradually as it will require a lot of manual work, is to group the readings and the matching meanings.

I'm not sure how much this has progressed, but I'm guessing it is probably the most comprehensive free resource out there.

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