当て字. Kanji assigned to words based on their sound rather than their meaning.

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14
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2answers
481 views

What is the correct veritable meaning of 水無月 and 神無月?

This question is the result of a conversation with Chocolate in chat, and also this Japanese calendar I have that lists the months according to the traditional Japanese names. For some reason, there ...
13
votes
3answers
3k views

Why is 「昨夜」 pronounced as 「ゆうべ」 {yuube} and 「今日」 as 「きょう」 {kyou}?

「ゆう」 is neither the kun'yomi nor on'yomi of 「昨」 and 「べ」 is not a pronunciation of 「夜」 either. The same can be said about the pronunciation 「きょう」 for 「今日」. So how come the pronunciations of the two ...
11
votes
2answers
1k views

What is the etymology of [山葵]{わさび}?

I know that "わさび" 'wasabi' can also be written using kanji as "山葵" and that these two characters mean respectively "mountain" and "hollyhock", but hollyhock doesn't seem at first glance to be related. ...
11
votes
1answer
426 views

What does さようなら (左様なら) have to do with “left”?

What is the relationship between 左様なら and 左? I assume there's some idiomatic meaning for "left" but how does it fit?
8
votes
2answers
678 views

Significance of the kanji 茶 in the set phrase 滅茶滅茶{めちゃめちゃ} / 目茶目茶{めちゃめちゃ}

While having fun looking up random words in my dictionary software, I found out that the phrase "めちゃめちゃ", which is often used in colloquial sentences like "めちゃめちゃかわいい" has two kanji variants: 滅茶滅茶 ...
7
votes
3answers
846 views

うるさい written as 五月蝿い

This is a follow-up question to Does うるさい have a "negative" connotation. I've seen うるさい written as 五月蝿い. 現代では、is this form used often / at all? What does this have to do with flies (蝿【はえ】) in May? ...
7
votes
2answers
282 views

Reading 男 or 女 as ひと

Why is it that in Japanese sentence one sees 男 or 女 with furigana that says ひと? Furigana is supposed to help clarify the meaning of a kanji character, but using ひと doesn't seem to help clarify ...
7
votes
1answer
2k views

Common 四{よ}字{じ}熟{じゅく}語{ご} that use/are 当{あ}て字{じ}

Are there any commonly used known 四{よ}字{じ}熟{じゅく}語{ご} that use/are 当{あ}て字{じ} besides the following? Just crossed my mind, and now I'm curious. 滅{め}茶{ちゃ}苦{く}茶{ちゃ}, 夜{よ}露{ろ}死{し}苦{く}, 無{む}理{り}矢{や}理{り}
7
votes
1answer
323 views

Are both spellings for ふけ (fuke) “dandruff” ateji? If not what's actually going on?

The other day after washing my hair I decided to add the Japanese word for "dandruff" to my vocabulary. It turns out to be an interesting word. It has only one pronunciatation, ふけ (fuke), but two ...
6
votes
2answers
689 views

Why is the kanji of idiot written with the kanji for “horse” and “deer” together?

I'm learning Japanese, but I'm a beginner, and I need to understand why this kanji is a compound of the kanji for "horse" and "deer": 馬鹿 = idiot 馬 = horse 鹿 = deer Why?
6
votes
2answers
203 views

Does the use of 百足 as ateji for ムカデ come from calquing “centipede” (or a cognate)?

The English word "centipede" refers to basically the same type of disgusting creepy-crawly arthropod as the Japanese ムカデ. Sometimes, ムカデ is written in kanji as 百足. This is an obvious case of ateji (...
5
votes
1answer
274 views

無茶 - “bad tea” = absurd; unreasonable

I have the following in a Zelda guide book I am translating. It is talking about being faced with a problem and trying various ways to solve it (you know the Zelda games). I am interested in "むちゃな". ...
5
votes
2answers
991 views

Is “豪斯多拉利” an ateji way to write “Australia”?

Several years ago I invested some time and energy digging up more ways to write "Australia" in Japanese than I ever expected would exist: オーストラリア is the usual spelling these days 濠太剌利 is a rare old ...
4
votes
2answers
274 views

世話【せわ】: Do the kanji have meaning?

Are the kanji in 世話【せわ】 as in 世話になります used for their meaning, or are they ateji? If they aren't ateji, what exactly is the reasoning?
4
votes
1answer
302 views

Why would one use 当て字?

I came across 当て字 in my N1 vocabulary list, and while I think I understand what it is from the definition "kanji used as a phonetic symbol, rather than for its meaning", I'm not sure what the point of ...
3
votes
3answers
482 views

The logic behind kanji choice for country name ateji

亜米利加【アメリカ】 伊太利亜【イタリア】 独逸【ドイツ】 I know these spellings are rarely used... My question is: Why did they choose exactly these kanji characters for spelling these countries' names? Could they ...
3
votes
2answers
102 views

What are these types of 当て字?

I was trying to find ways to translate people's names into 当て字, and came across this website that seems to list 4 types of 当て字: 暴走族風【ぼうそうぞくふう】, 宝塚風【たからづかふう】, お子様風【おこさまふう】, 難読文字【なんどくもじ】 The best ...
3
votes
1answer
204 views

Etymology of 武蔵

What is the etymology of the old province and Japanese name 武蔵? Wikipedia claims that it is non-Yamato vocabulary from an Ainu language. Even if this is true, why were these characters (military/...
2
votes
1answer
917 views

Origin of 夜露死苦?

I've seen よろしく written out as 夜露死苦 on a couple of occasions where it's being used sardonically. At first I thought it was just authors having fun substituting characters that sound the same, but it ...
1
vote
1answer
104 views

Custom ateji (?) made by authors

I don't know if it's even called ateji in this case and maybe there's another name for this stylistic device? But I wonder how to translate (to English) custom ateji made by author. For example when ...
1
vote
1answer
104 views

Nuance of saying “同い年”? And, it is 当て字?

If saying 同{おな}い年{どし} in daily conversation is just something you'd say without thinking twice, then I have no further questions. But, doesn't saying 同い年 sound sort of stand-offish. Saying 同い年 is a ...