Shrimp(えび) is written several different ways in Japanese. For example, there are the words commonly used in Chinese: 蝦 and 鰕. There is also a compound specific to Japan, 海老, and a kokuji, 蛯. Both of the latter contain the character for old age, 老. Is there some reason why the Japanese associate shrimp with old age?
Japanese Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Japanese language. It's 100% free, no registration required.
Here's how it works:
- Anybody can ask a question
- Anybody can answer
- The best answers are voted up and rise to the top
The Japanese Wikipedia page for エビ says the following:
Apparently the use of 老 comes from the way shrimp bend forward, like an old person bending forward at the waist.