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I'm curious how 冷やかし came to mean things such as 買わずに見る and からかう.

Here's what I can figure out:

  • hiya seems to be a root meaning "cold" (like in hiya-ya-ka)
  • hiya-k-u is an old verb based on this root ("to become cold")
  • hiya-k-as-u is the same verb plus a causative affix ("to make cold")
  • hiya-k-as-i is a noun derived from the 連用形 of this verb

So it seems that "to make cold" is the literal meaning of the verb, and it can still be written with the kanji . However, it doesn't appear that the noun 冷やかし retains this literal meaning--at least, I don't see it anywhere in 大辞林:

ひやかし0 【冷やかし・〈素見〉】


  1. 相手が困ったり恥ずかしがったりするような冗談を言うこと。からかうこと。

      ―半分に言っただけだ

  2. 買う気がないのに値段をきいたり品定めしたりすること。また、その人。素見(すけん)。

      ―客

  3. 遊里で、登楼せず張り見世の遊女をからかったり品定めしたりすること。また、その人。素見。

I suppose these three senses are probably related to the literal meaning, but I can't see the connection. How did the meaning go from "make cold" to "window shopping"?

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1 Answer

up vote 4 down vote accepted

According to 日本国語大辞典, 冷やかし comes from the verb 冷やかす, which in addition to the obvious ‘to cool’ has these meanings:

(2)遊郭で、登楼しないで張り見世の遊女を見て回る。

(3)用もないのに盛り場や場内などを歩きまわる。買う気もないのに、品物の値段を尋ねたり商品などを見て回ったりする。

(4)悪口など言って興をさます。嘲弄する。冷評する。また、からかう。

Obviously, sense (3) is the one that the ‘window-shopping’ meaning of 冷やかし is derived from, and I suppose sense (2) is a special case of sense (3). On the topic of etymology, the dictionary says:

((2)について) 浅草山谷の紙漉業者が、紙料を水に冷やかしている間、新吉原を見物して回ることをいったことから〔嬉遊笑覧・海録・三養雑記・大言海・話の大事典=日置昌一〕。

Apparently, sense (2) comes from stories of the paper-makers in Asakusa “window-shopping” in Shin-Yoshiwara while the water for their paper-making cooled.

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