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I've seen the kanji appear in several different illnesses: 風邪 (a cold), 中風 (paralysis), and 痛風 (gout). Conceivably there may be others, but I haven't seen them.

What does the wind have to do with any of these (aside from possibly catching a cold by going out into the cold wind -- which I believe is a fallacy anyway)?

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up vote 16 down vote accepted

The concept is from Chinese. In Chinese, 風 was principally "wind", but wind (and by extension changes in temperature) was also believed to be the source of various aliments to the physical body.

The Japanese word kaze originally only meant "wind". The sense "(sickness) cold" was influenced by Chinese. Note though that it originally was not limited to the cold but also included other sicknesses as well. The word 風邪 was typically read as fūja and simply meant "bad wind". It was not until a little more than a hundred years ago that these kanji were used express kaze "cold". (It is ateji.)

中風 and 痛風 are medical aliments borrowed from Chinese. Note that 中風 is rather literal in meaning: 風に中る (kaze ni ataru), to meet with (be struck by) the (bad) wind.

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It's somewhat similar to influenza in English coming from "influence of the stars" –  小太郎 Sep 15 '12 at 2:21
    
@小太郎: I did not know that :) –  silvermaple Sep 15 '12 at 2:38
    
@istrasci, Dono's explanation for "wind" makes sense as a metaphor, in that people are more susceptible to illnesses when in windy or drafty environments. It's not too much odder than the English term "cold" used to mean "illness" -- why not call it a "hot" instead, given that the ill person often gets hotter as the result of a fever? :) –  Eiríkr Útlendi Jun 17 at 18:43
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