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赤 is generally understood as meaning 'red' (which can explain combinations like 赤子 (red face of a crying baby)). However, I have seen some words with 赤 that have a negative meaning, 赤 possibly increasing this connotation. 赤裸裸 (blunt, frankness (赤裸 being nudity in Chinese)), 赤貧 meaning extreme poverty, 赤口 (赤日?) being one of the unlucky days in Rokuyo (lucky and unlucky weekdays in simple), meaning 'Evil day'. Why does 赤 appear in such morbid and negative words? Is 赤 simply 当て字 or does it have any meaning or semantic reason for being in words like these? Is it 虫 where the common understanding of the word (in the case of 虫 it would be 'bug') has a connection to the negative meaning, if this is the same for 赤 then how is it connected to the negative meaning?

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you also have 赤字 – oldergod Feb 14 '13 at 23:55
There's also 赤{あか}の他人{たにん} - "a complete stranger, 爪{つめ}のあか - "the dirt under one's fingernails", and you can say あかを落{お}とす to mean "to scrub oneself clean", which seems to me to mean that has more negative dimensions than just "bare" and "exposed" (as in Eric's helpful answer below). It seems to also imply "dirty" and "unfamiliar", at least as far as I understand it. – Questioner Feb 15 '13 at 4:41
Also, people might want to see this discussion of the negative implications of 虫{むし}, just since you mentioned it. – Questioner Feb 15 '13 at 4:43
@oldergod: 赤字{あかじ} is directly equivalent to in English when a company is "in the red" when they are in debt. Plus, when a company is "in the black", to be profitable, you can say 黒字{くろじ} in Japanese, exactly as in English. I don't know if this is a result of crossover from English or coincidence, but I think they are both drawn from how old fashioned account ledgers used to use red to denote negative balances. So I'm not sure 赤字{あかじ} has the same origins as the examples Koasamitsu offers in his question. – Questioner Feb 15 '13 at 4:52
The dirt meaning of "aka" is written as 垢 not 赤. – user18597 Feb 15 '13 at 8:55

I do not know that much about Japanese kanji, but in Chinese 赤 has the second meaning of "bare, exposed". 赤貧 thus probably means "with totally nothing".

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The 常用漢和辞典改訂第三版 from 学研 gives 赤裸々 and 赤貧 as examples for the meaning 「余分なものが何一つない。また、ありのままである。」 – snailplane Feb 14 '13 at 22:28
I suppose that does allude to the meaning of most of them, except for 赤口, I don't know how they got Day of Evil out of that. – yasmin-chanel Feb 15 '13 at 3:10
@Koasamitsu nice7fortune.wordpress.com/2008/04/17/… – snailplane Feb 15 '13 at 3:33

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