Essentially the same as this question, but the solutions there don't seem applicable here. Both isolated and in compounds, I can only find 匙 as either shi⁰ or chi² “spoon”.

Can this character in this context have a specific tone, and if so in what resource can it be found? Or is looking at tone alone misleading; is/was it possible to read 钥匙 as yao⁴chi²? (Where?)

  • spoon: chi2, usually 儿化, chier; key: shi, neutral tone, though the dictionary form is shi4.
    – sfy
    Feb 23, 2020 at 16:02

3 Answers 3



[粵] ci4 | [國] chi2 : spoon

[粵] si4 | [國] shi5 : key

When '匙' means 'spoon', it is read as /chi2/ in Mandarin

When '匙' means 'key', it is read as /shi5/ in Mandarin

It doesn't matter it is by itself or in a compound word

There are other examples of single character that have more than one meaning and pronounced differently for each meaning. 樂 is one of them. When 樂 means 'joy' it is read as /le4/; When 樂 means 'music' it is read as /yue4/

  • Did you mean it is read as shi5 when it means key?
    – Kassem
    Feb 20, 2020 at 17:32

My digital copy of《汉语大词典》gives a first tone:


I'd like to check this against a paper copy though, just to be sure.

Grand Ricci gives:

shí (or chí)
1. Cuiller
2. N. f.

This seems to be the more likely of the two as it tonally fits the chí pronunciation.


In Mandarin Chinese, 钥匙 is yao4shi0. The 匙 here can only have the neutral tone.

《现代汉语词典》 has an entry for 匙(shi0), with a very brief explanation: 见1466页【钥匙】(see 钥匙 on page 1466). The word 钥匙 only has one pronunciation listed: yao5shi0. (I don't have digital version of this dictionary.)

Also you can see and 钥匙 on zdic.net, which also only lists only "shi5" for the 匙 in 钥匙.

匙 seems to be "shi5" only in 钥匙,and 钥匙 is always yao4shi5.

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