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Why is 近道 read/pronounced as ちかみち and not きんどう?

My first assumption is that the word originated before the kanji was introduced, but I don't have this sort of information on tap.

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  • Why do you think it should be read as きんどう when no such word exists?
    – aguijonazo
    Feb 23 at 16:25
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    きんどう would have been my first guess if I didn't know the word, but there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to choosing between onyomi and kunyomi. See this link: japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/43197/… Feb 23 at 19:40
  • @user3856370 - It’s totally understandable that your first guess is きんどう, but would you ask why it has to be ちかみち? A written form exists for an existing word, not the other way around.
    – aguijonazo
    Feb 24 at 1:23
  • @aguijonazo I would not ask that. I wasn't justifying the question, merely why the OP might have thought it was pronounced きんどう. I can only guess that the OP has been taught that two-kanji compounds are always pronounced with onyomi, and maybe thinks this is a rare and interesting exception. Feb 24 at 8:51

1 Answer 1

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Basic old words tend to be in kun-readings, while modern technical words tend to be in on-readings. Still, it's just a tendency. You ultimately have to remember the pronunciation of each word individually.

There are many words that end with 道 pronounced as みち:

You can see these concepts are generally older than on-reading words such as 国道 (こくどう), 隧道 (ずいどう), 自動車道 (じどうしゃどう), 水道 (すいどう), and 赤道 (せきどう). I don't know if 近道 really existed before the arrival of kanji, but it's hard to imagine the old people were unfamiliar with the concept of shortcut.

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