I was reading a manga and a character said:


After they noticed that the person they were talking to didn't move, they said:


That's why I'm guessing 退がる reads and means the same as 下{さ}がる, but I don't understand how it came to be. It's hard to find something about it on the internet.

退{しさ}る comes up. It seems to have the same meaning as 下{さ}がる in this context, as well as the more modern word 退{しりぞ}く.


1 Answer 1


Reading / Spelling

As you noticed, 退がる is not a normal collocation of kanji and okurigana.

Referring to my copy of Shogakukan's Kokugo Dai Jiten (online version here), 退 has the following recognized kun'yomi:

  • 退る【しさる】
  • 退く【しぞく】
  • 退く【しりぞく】
  • 退ける【しりぞける】
  • 退る【すさる】
  • 退く【そく】
  • 退く【どく】
  • 退かす【どかす】
  • 退ける【どける】
  • 退く【のく】
  • 退かす【のかす】
  • 退ける【のける】
  • 退く【ひく】
  • 退ける【ひける】

Despite the impressive number of potential readings, none of them end in ~がる, nor even ~ぐ.


As you guessed from the context, this appears to be author's license in choosing a non-standard spelling for the verb 下【さ】がる ("to draw back, to leave"). A common synonym for this is indeed 退【しりぞ】く. This kind of cross-use, where the author uses a reading from one word and the spelling from another, is very common in manga. Usually, you'll get furigana to help with the reading, but sometimes those will be omitted.

  • "This kind of cross-use, where the author uses a reading from one word and the spelling from another is very common in manga" Indeed, I have seen that before, but never like this. Here, the author is simply substituting the kanji --- not even changing the okurigana --- and leaving the actual meaning and reading of the word the same. So it even seems hard for me to say that the spelling comes from a word and the reading comes from another, because 退がる isn't even really a word. I generally see that use like this. Commented Nov 30, 2019 at 1:48
  • 2
    It's not that it "isn't even really a word". The word isn't what's written, it's what's spoken, and the writing does represent an actual word; it's merely that it's a non-standard way of writing that word down.
    – user1478
    Commented Nov 30, 2019 at 2:08
  • How do I know it's okay to substitute kanjis while maintaining the reading, though? Like, could I write 工{つく}る, for example? I wonder, if さがる started to be written more frequently as 退がる, would that reading eventually be added to 退's kun'yomi list? Commented Nov 30, 2019 at 7:44
  • 2
    @E.Matsunaga In this case, I'm rather surprised that it's not listed on dictionaries considering its widespread use. If you search it on google.co.jp, you'll find tons of examples including novels. Commented Dec 1, 2019 at 9:31

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