Some characters have multiple pronunciations (多音字), but often some pronunciations are much more common. For example, 吗 is almost always used as a question particle pronounced ma, but occasionally it is pronounced mǎ (as in 吗啡 [morphine]) or má (in the phrase 干吗).

Most dictionaries will show the different pronunciations and their corresponding definitions, but there is no way to tell which ones are the most frequent. Are there any sources that show the relative frequency of 多音字?

  • @FarnzSeager 恩,这两个写法我都见过。我是用这个字典的。 Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 4:48
  • Differnt kinds of Chinese characters may have different pronunciations, and maybe we don't do calculations to get the frequency of their usages. You can refer your "汉典" to know how many pronunciations for each Chinese character and their usages.
    – xqMogvKW
    Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 5:40
  • I don't think there are any. Because the frequency doesn't help you decide which one to pronounce when you see a 多音字. Instead, when encountered with a new usage of one char, I think it is always better to look it up like a new word. Then eventually you will link meanings with different pronunciations. When the meaning is known, it's easy to pinpoint its pronunciation. see [meanings of 多音字 from 新华词典].
    – Chiron
    Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 10:49
  • As far as 吗 is concerned does the question not simply ask for frequency of the 3 different meanings? One pronunciation may be much more common because the particular meaning is.
    – user6065
    Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 13:11
  • @user6065 Yes, that's correct. Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 18:24

4 Answers 4


As far as I know, there is one dictionary for this: 《现代汉语频率词典》,1986,北京语言学院出版社.

However, this dictionary is a little old and difficult to find. What's more, some of the readings are outdated, because 《普通话异读词审音表》 was published after the dictionary gathered the data.

The Unihan database contains the kHanyuPinlu field which is from 《现代汉语频率词典》. For example:


kHanyuPinlu     hé(9513) huo(38) he(24) hè(9)

kHanyuPinlu     lè(283) yuè(54)

There are 600 多音字 in total according to 《新华字典》, but the amount of them be used in daily Chinese conversation is very limited, even native Chinese people also can't know all of them. I think it's enough for you to know the 多音字 if you can learn the 106 popular Chinese characters (listed as below) well.

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There are too many pics, if you are interested in these, I can send the rest to you by email.

  • Do not include your email or solicit services on this site. It's against the site's TOS.
    – user12885
    Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 4:46



Paste your word to search.

Bu the way, in Chinese, if a Tone #3 is followed by a Tong #3, you should pronounce the Tone #3 as Tone #2.

For example:

洗脸(xi3 lian3) actually sounds like (xi2 lian3)

我想 (wo3 xiang3) sounds like (wo2 xiang3)

走马上任 (zou3 ma3 shang4 ren4) sounds like (zou2 ma3 shang4 ren4)

I said "sounds like", which means you still have to write the tone in it's original way during the test.

  • 1
    This doesn't really answer the question. I can already find the different pronunciations of each character, but I want to know which one is most common. The page you show doesn't show the correct frequency order. For example, for 的 it shows "dí、dì、de", but "de" is by far the most common. Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 16:40
  • @PeterOlson github.com/jifei/Pinyin/blob/master/Pinyin.php
    – Shiji.J
    Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 10:49

enter image description here I use this dictionary when I was in my primary school. Nearly all Chinese people use this dictionary to learn Chinese. In this dictionary, if characters have multiple pronunciations, the dictionary would tell you what it is and where you could find other pronunciations.

  • 1
    But for frequency, if the word could use in oral Chinese, it may more frequent. Like 吗啡,medicine,even some Chinese people do not know this word I think. It depends on individual.
    – Ting张
    Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 18:14

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