Japanese homophones - Words with the same pronunciation

Japanese is full of words with the same pronunciation, and are known as Homophones (同音異義語 - Dōon igi-go), this is one of the great difficulties in learning Japanese. Fortunately, most words that have the same pronunciation have similar meanings.

All this due to words borrowed from Chinese and other languages, and since Japanese is composed of only 109 syllables, without accentuation or change in pronunciation, it results in thousands of identical words.

In this article, we will see some of those words with the same pronunciation. Unfortunately there are many, and in order not to make the article big, let’s see just a few.

Au - あう - 合う vs 会う vs 遭う

Both words above are pronounced “Au” but have their differences.

  • 会う - means “meeting someone in person or attending an event;
  • 合う -  it means “doing something together”, or “finding or encountering something”;
  • 遭う -  it means "to meet with unexpected misfortune."

These 3 words, in addition to having a similar pronunciation, also have a very similar meaning. The phrases below will help you understand the difference between these 3 words.

渋谷でぱったりと友達に会った Shibuya from pattari to tomodachi ni atta I met a friend in Shibuya
集まってそれを話し合いましょう。 Wakai futari wa sugu ni aishiau yō ni natta. Together we will discuss the matter.
帰りに、にわか雨に遭いました Kaeri ni, niwakaame ni aimashita On the way home, we ran into the rain.

Aka - あか - 赤 vs 紅 vs 朱 vs 緋

  • 赤 - Refers to all shades of red color;
  • 紅 - Used for deep red tones such as crimson;
  • 朱 - is used for orange reds, such as redness;
  • 緋 - Used for live reds, such as scarlet, cardinal, or fiery red;

Ashi - あし - 足 vs 脚 vs 葦

  • 足 - refers to the feet
  • 脚 - refers to the legs, from the waist down;
  • 葦 - phragmites, cane
  • アシ - short for assistant アシスタント
  • 悪し - bad

Asakiru - おさまる - 収まる vs 納まる vs 治まる vs 修まる

  • 収まる - means “to put in”, “to unite”, or “to obtain a good result.”
  • 納まる - means "to solve something in its place", "to end something", or "to finish."
  • 治まる - means "to be at peace," to suppress "or" to diminish ";
  • 修まる - means "to be of good character or to perform a splendid action" or "to acquire knowledge or skill."

Kawaru - かわる - 変わる vs 換わる vs 替わる vs 代わる

  • 変わる - means "change state or condition."
  • 換わ - means "Exchange or exchange."
  • 替わる - means "to change to something new."
  • 代わる means "to replace Someone, a role" or "to act in Someone's place."


There are thousands of kanji, or words that are pronounced “shi”, but in most cases, this pronunciation must be present with another kanji, and form more specific words. But it doesn't change the fact that “shi” and several other pronunciations are present in several different kanji.

from English “she”
market or city
使 use
獅子 shishi “lion”

Those were some words that have the same pronunciation, I hope it will be enough to instruct a little on this subject. You can find more on the tofugo website.

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