Supposed I know some kanjis and their reading, and come across a word I don't know yet that's made up from these kanjis, how do I determine the correct reading?


大好き - daisuki
大きい - ookii
社長 - shachou

大社長 - Is it daishachou? Or ooshachou? Or even taishachou?

In general, what are the rules for reading a word you don't know? If there is no exact rule, what would be the most likely reading?

  • Maybe not "the right answer", but I am (still) using furigana.sourceforge.net/cgi-bin/index.cgi
    – Tuomo
    Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 14:00
  • There's a joke in Dragon Ball where an announcer misread Son Goku's name as Mago Gokara or something. Basically it's difficult even for native speaker to read strange names correctly. Even English speakers can't say their own names "correctly" sometimes, like Steve Buscemi for example. Commented Jun 19, 2019 at 6:02

1 Answer 1


Compound kanji-only words are often read with on-yomi, but not always, and there are many irregular readings, too, e.g. 人 has quite enough different readings.

So basically, you'll have to check the dictionary if you want to be sure. Especially names are often impossible to know how to read even for natives; common kanji like 町 in a place name can be either まち or ちょう, and you'll just have to know case-by-case: 町 pronunciation distribution.

(大社長 is だいしゃちょう...)

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