1

I was reading a manga and a character said:

今宵はここまでだ
下がって良いぞ

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

おい
余は退がれと
言ったのだ

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.

2

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.

Origins

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. – E. Matsunaga Nov 30 '19 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. – snailcar Nov 30 '19 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? – E. Matsunaga Nov 30 '19 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. – broccoli forest Dec 1 '19 at 9:31

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