The study of the origin of words and the historical development of their meanings.

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Where does だらけ come from?

Where does the phrase だらけ come from? I only know だ as a copula and ら as a conditional marker or pluralizing suffix, are either of these at use in this phrase? My dictionary lists it as "implying ...
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1answer
204 views

Where does のみ come from?

I have recently heard that the phrase のみ means "only". Does it come from another compound, like の実 or something? I don't think that's necessarily where it came from, but I would be surprised if that の ...
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1answer
94 views

How did 参った come to mean 'defeated' from 参る?

I've heard the phrase 参った and understood it to mean something like 'I/we lost' or 'knocked out'. How did this come from 参る, to visit or go by? I read in a dictionary that it's some phrase said by a ...
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_っ_り form adverbs

I keep seeing these onomatopoeic adverbs popping up with the form: _っ_り. Some examples include ぐっすり、ぴったり、すっきり、etc…. Is there a name for these adverbs, and why are they in this specific form?
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285 views

Nouns exhibiting vowel fronting

As touched upon in another thread, there are several nouns that exhibit a kind of vowel shift in older forms, where the ending vowel is fronted when the noun is used on its own to become /i/ or /e/, ...
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5answers
602 views

Are there any common Japanese words which were borrowed from Ainu or other indigenous languages?

I know plenty of Japanese words that came from English and a few from other European languages (obviously tons from Chinese), but what about words from Japan's indigenous languages such as Ainu? Also ...
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2answers
83 views

Etymological origin of -n in 洗 (セン)

I've always wondered why the 音読み of the kanji 洗 is セン when, in all Chinese topolects I'm aware of, the reading ends in a vowel. I always chalked this up to Japanese having borrowed a Middle Chinese ...
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357 views

Where does「えっと」come from?

I wanted to describe that 「えっと」 was similar to "Ummm" in English when someone is trying to think about what they are going to say, but I wasn't even sure if that was correct. Is that just a ...
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383 views

Is “フリーマーケット” sometimes assumed to be derived from “Free”?

Is the term "フリーマーケット" sometimes assumed to be derived from, or meaning, "Free market", as opposed to "Flea market"? (That is, having a false etymology) There is a phrase "Free market" in English, ...
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2answers
276 views

Why is the kanji for luck the same as to carry?

Why is the kanji for うん(運) the same as the kanji for 運ぶ? Did the kanji just somehow end up being the same, or were the two meanings related somehow? All I can think of is some kind of "carrying luck", ...
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95 views

The origins of なんだ as in 飲まなんだ or せなんだ

Even here in Osaka I don't hear it very often among anyone even remotely young, but where does this come from originally? Does anyone have a reference on hand? If I myself had to guess from what I ...
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448 views

Imperative used instead of conditional form

This quesion: と言っても vs とは言え . reminded me of a similar case: どっちにしても vs どっちにしろ which are also synonymous as far as I can tell. That got me thinking: Is this coincidental? Are there ...
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2answers
221 views

Why does 目 have a counting sense to it?

Why does 目 get used in situations like 二個目? How did it come about getting the meaning of eye as well as some counting meaning?
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2answers
1k views

Etymology of 出来る dekiru

An entry of Tae Kim's blog suggested that 出来る came from Chinese word 出来 that does have the nuance of potentiality, but the most recent visitor's comment claimed that the usage of 出来 in Chinese to show ...
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94 views

Etymology and meaning of ukemi (受け身?) as part of 合気道

I practice 合気道. We do a lot of break falling that we call ukemi. I was led to believe that it meant safe escape from a technique. However, I started looking at the Japanese and found I only had part ...
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157 views

What is the etymology behind る in 日{ひ}/昼{ひる} and 夜{よ}/夜{よる}?

I noticed that there is this る coming up in 日{ひ}->昼{ひる} and 夜{よ}->夜{よる}. In addition, I haven't seen the forms with る used a lot in Classical Japanese, so the ones without る probably came first. What ...
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109 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 ...
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209 views

What's the analysis for たりとも?

Quoth Edict, たりとも means "(not) even; (not) any", and is probably used as such: 一問たりとも答えられなかった。(even one question, cannot answer) Is たりとも made up of the individual portions たり ("such things as") ...
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1answer
103 views

Why is Typhoon Neoguri sometimes referred to as “ノグリー”?

Why is Typhoon Neoguri sometimes referred to in Japanese as "ノグリー", and not as "ネオグリー"? The English language Wikipedia's disambiguation page for Typhoon Neoguri mentions that it used to be referred ...
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1answer
749 views

Why do we say 頼もしい instead of 頼ましい?

In a previous question, I posted a list of adjectives produced from verbs using the しい suffix. In each example, it seems that しい attaches directly to the 未然形: 勇む  →  勇ま + しい    isam-a-sii 悩む  → ...
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2answers
196 views

「日焼{ひや}け」 is not representative of a means to nominalize verbs?

I was just thinking about the sunburn I will get during the upcoming 4th of July holiday. Then, I wondered if 「日焼{ひや}け」is a verb nominalization. If it is, I am not aware of such a pattern. Is it an ...
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4answers
914 views

What is the etymology of the word Katsu?

I heard from an English man that the katsu karē (カツカレー) dish was from English inspiration originally: he told me that the word 'katsu' is coming from cutlet and 'karē' would be curry. Please can ...
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4answers
727 views

Random meaning of 結ぶ

結ぶ means to connect, tie, or bind things together, either physically or metaphorically. And then it has the seemingly random phrase [実]{み}を結ぶ meaning "to bear fruit". How does this meaning derive ...
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201 views

Why does 生前 mean 死ぬ前?

The word 生後 means something like "after birth". 明鏡国語辞典 defines it this way: 生まれてから以後。 But 生前 doesn't mean "before birth". Instead, it means something like "before death; while [someone] was ...
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1answer
202 views

“Ungrammatical” 丁寧語 used by tour guides and museum narrators

I noticed on my trip to Japan that tour guides in museums etc use a very interesting type of language. It seems to be used almost exclusively by people in Osaka and Kyoto. There are two features that ...
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179 views

Etymology of “よう” in “豆腐{とうふ}よう”

I found out there is a special kind of Okinawan tofu called 豆腐よう. According to EDIC/WWWJDIC it can also be written as "豆腐餻" and "唐芙蓉". "餻" seems to mean "cakes, pastry", but considering that this is ...
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1answer
163 views

「春じゃもの」の「じゃもの」はどういう意味?

What does the じゃもの in 春じゃもの mean? The phrase is a koto song title, so I can't give much context. I think my teacher said it meant something like "clearly", or "the essence of". But I can't remember, ...
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111 views

Etymology of ギリシャ: what language does “girisha” come from?

I have trouble remembering that Greece is called ギリシャ. Understanding the etymology behind would probably help me? What is the etymology of the word ギリシャ? What language(s) was the name inspired by?
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160 views

What does 持った mean?

If context is needed, please consult this previous question. So, there's a bunch of verbs related to "持っ" but how can any of them evolve to 持った?
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2answers
273 views

Etymology of とんでもない

Where did とんでもない (meaning "not at all" or "outrageous!") come from? Could it be 飛んでもない? ("will not even jump/fly" in a similar way how "When pigs fly" is considered a remark for something ...
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354 views

Etymology of ひざまずく

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: ...
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1answer
147 views

What does 金 have in common with triggers/guns?

I read the word 「引き金」and the definition is: 1 小銃・ピストルなどの、指で引く発射装置の金具。 2 ある事態を引き起こす直接の原因。きっかけ。「授業料の値上げが―となって大学紛争が起こった」 起因(きいん)  ⇒類語辞書で詳しい使い方を調べる 誘因(ゆういん) 動機(どうき) モチーフ But why is 金 ...
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281 views

What is the meaning and etymology of the (slang?) word まめ?

私はあまりまめに書きませんが、ことばを学ぶのは大好きです。 I don't write that well, but I love learning the language. What is the etymology of the word まめ here and what specifically does it mean? My friend gave me this ...
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1answer
258 views

What is the origin of the word 無{な}し?

The word なし, of course, means ない, and it is defined as such in dictionaries. But why does this word exist? Are there even any situations where you can say なし but you can't say ない? Is it a remnant of ...
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2answers
266 views

Origin of 信じる, 感じる, etc?

Wikipedia claims that Japanese verbs are a closed class and that loanwords from Chinese always use する. 信じる, 感じる seems to be an exception. Why aren't they 信をする and 感をする? Maybe because one kanji is too ...
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2answers
166 views

トウモロコシ: Why kana? What is the etymology?

First came across this written in Kana Midori とうもろこし, トウモロコシ【玉蜀黍】 corn (US), maize (UK) (usually written in kana) Why Kana? Is トウモロコシ borrowed from another language? What is the ...
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2answers
377 views

Origin of -aru verbs: いらっしゃる、おっしゃる、くださる、なさる

I think all of the mentioned verbs are in the same class, because they all inflect irregularly in the same way: -aimasu for the polite form rather than -arimasu. My question is how these verbs were ...
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2answers
307 views

What does「英」really mean?

I know that the kanji 英 now really has the exclusive meaning of "English", such as in 英語, but I'm wondering what the original meaning was. It's used in words like 英雄, which obviously don't have ...
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193 views

Origin of katakana ン (カタカナの「ン」の字源)

Looking on various pages, the origin of ン seems to be very confused. Most lists either don't include ン, or list one theory. So far I've found the following options: 一 爾 无 尓 二 冫 Wikipedia also ...
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2answers
178 views

五年ぶり、ぶり返す、。。。What does ぶり mean?

Where does the ぶり in 五年ぶり (Five years ago?) and ぶり返す come from, does it have a kanji, and what does it mean?
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412 views

What is the etymology of お陰で/おかげで and how does the expression relate to the kanji?

If おかげで / "okagede" is an expression that means thanks to ...;  owing to ...;  because of ...; and the correct (?) kanji that this expression derived from is 陰 as in お陰で which by ...
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823 views

How did コンセント come to be used for “outlet”?

Saw this on a charger I bought online and was really perplexed. What foreign word does it represent? "concentric"? What does that have to do with outlet and where did it come from?
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1answer
370 views

Why did オレンジ replace 橙【だいだい】?

This question about colours got me thinking: Why, and how, did オレンジ come to replace 橙【だいだい】 to refer to the colour orange? It seems weird to me that a word taken from a foreign language became ...
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2answers
269 views

What are the origins of ド when used as emphasis, and is it always negative?

Sometimes I've seen ド as a prefix that adds emphasis to words. So saying someone is ドバカ is saying that they are much more stupid than just バカ. I'm wondering what the origin of ド in this context is. ...
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1answer
198 views

Etymology of 必ず

In a comment on the question Origin of あしからず, I wrote: What about 必ず? It's from 仮 + ならず. Does that fit the 形容動詞 + ならず pattern? I said this because 大辞泉's entry for 必ず says the following: ...
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2answers
79 views

Origins of -ちゃん

I'm wondering if anyone can provide the origins of the honorific "-ちゃん". It's a diminutive, and German has "-chen" as a diminutive suffix. Is that a coincidence? What is the first recorded use of ...
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1answer
185 views

Etymology of 宵【よい】

This is a loose follow-up of my first question here on JLSE. I tried to check gogen-allguide.com and 大辞林, but couldn't find anything definitive. Unfortunately I don't know any other resources for ...
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3answers
217 views

What is the か in「か弱い」?

I'm wondering what the か in か弱い, か細い and similar words is. It seems to act as an intensifier. The Daijisen tells me simply that this か is a 接頭語, and translates it as いかにも; it doesn't seem to have its ...
3
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2answers
131 views

What is the ど in やけど?

Given that やけど means "burn", it seems likely that the やけ part is 焼け. What about the ど, though? (The kanji for やけど - i.e. 火傷 - don't help, because those characters are obviously 当て字, and would ...
4
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1answer
177 views

Why are 来る and する irregular?

I know that there are more irregular verbs than just this, but their changes are mostly euphonic and not really of any interest to me. What I would like to know is why 来る and する have developed the way ...