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I can't resist trying to find patterns in words. These three words, for example, seem to fit a similar pattern:

  • 頷{うなづ}く = [項]{うな} + 突{つ}く (source: community wiki)
  • 躓{つまづ}く = [爪]{つま} + 突{つ}く (source: community wiki)
  • 額{ぬか}づく = [額]{ぬか} + 突{つ}く (source: gogen-allguide)

However, I can't seem to find the etymology of 跪{ひざまづ}く anywhere. Since it appears to fit the pattern, I'd like to guess:

  • 跪{ひざまづ}く = [膝]{ひざ} + ま + 突{つ}く

But where does the ま come from? It doesn't seem to fit the pattern neatly like the others.

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@snailplane: The questions is interesting but I'd be really grateful if you added the English for these words (it would save others from looking it up) –  Tim Sep 24 '12 at 11:39
@snailplane: Good observation on the pattern of these verbs! –  istrasci Sep 24 '12 at 14:30
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1 Answer

up vote 3 down vote accepted

It would be nice to have some more authoritative sources on this topic (if there are any), but I'm not convinced there is. A lot of the pages I could find said they don't know where it comes from, and I'm not sure anybody really does...

But one theory may be, in the Wikipedia article for 膝{ひざ}, it says:


A rough translation of that might be:

"...the way of sitting that is falling on your knees and toes and sitting down is called '跪く'..."

So I think it may be a combination of 膝{ひざ}, 爪{つま} and 突{つ}く.

I'm a bit sceptical of the "best answer" at this link (other pages say "つ" in "つまづく" comes from "爪" rather than "蹴" for example), but this seems to be more-or-less what one of the non-accepted answers at this Chiebukuro question says, saying that "〜まずく" is "つまづく" and that "つまづく" comes from "爪{つま}" and "つく".

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Upvoting to counter the unexplained downvote. –  Ataraxia Sep 24 '12 at 13:57
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