Take the 2-minute tour ×
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.

Where does the kanji for 凄い come from? I don't know what any of the component strokes mean, and it just looks really strange to me. Can I get an etymology of the word? In Chinese I think it means something completely different...

share|improve this question
    
It has an 音読み of セイ which is a 漢読み. In words using that reading, the meaning seems to be cold or harsh. That may have a meaning similar to the meaning in Chinese (I cannot speak to that point). The two components are ni-sui (related to 水 but often meaning cold) and tsuma (妻). –  virmaior Dec 14 '13 at 2:28
    
What is tsuma? And also what is kanyomi? –  Anthony Dec 14 '13 at 3:58
    
Japanese sound readings fall into several categories. One of them is the 漢. These refer to different waves of pronunciation take from China (ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E9%9F%B3%E8%AA%AD%E3%81%BF) つま means wife. It's an element in the Japanese system for writing characters... –  virmaior Dec 14 '13 at 10:55

1 Answer 1

up vote 6 down vote accepted

凄 = 冫 + 妻 

The radical 冫 is named にすい and it means "ice".

妻 means "wife".

凄 means "ice-cold", "bleak", "mournful", "frigid", etc., so it is a kanji with highly negative meanings.

You stated that the kanji meant something completely different in Chinese but it DOES NOT. Your statement appears to be based on a comparison between the positive modern colloquial meaning of 「[凄]{すご}い」 in Japanese and the negative original Chinese meaning of 「凄」, does it not? If so, it is not a fair comparison.

凄い in Japanese was originally a very negative word, too. It meant "dreadful", "unearthly", "grim", etc. You probably had the modern meaning "fantastic" in mind, did you not?

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.